Jena Powell grew up on a family farm in rural Darke County, Ohio, bouncing around in the back of her father’s pickup truck with her six brothers and sisters as her mom hauled grain in from the fields.
In the late summer, she would show sheep at the Great Darke County Fair and then run off to drink fresh-shaken lemonade or play ski-ball.
While still a teenager she started her own business with her brother, selling billboard ad space along highways of her county. It now includes more than 450 billboards throughout Ohio and Indiana.
“When I was 18 years old, I made my first sales call, right here, in the district. I was so nervous to knock at my first prospect’s door, my palms were sweating and my knees were shaking,” she describes it on her website.
The 24-year-old businesswoman will take all those memories and experiences with her as she leaves for Columbus in a few weeks to represent Ohio’s 80th House District as the youngest member of the Ohio State House.
And she’s already turning heads. This week she was named one of Forbes magazine’s “30 Under 30” up and coming difference makers.
Jena Powell on the #ForbesUnder30 2019 30 Under 30 – Law & Policy list
On her Facebook page Tuesday, Powell responded to the recognition from Forbes.
“When I was young I would eagerly look through business magazines, checking out the under 30 lists. What an honor to be chosen for Forbes 30 under 30 list. This is not a solo accomplishment and I would never have even been considered without the hard work of my community,” she wrote.
For Powell, that community started by growing up in a Christian home that recognized the value of hard work. Her goal is to remove what she describes as the “strangling” burden of government overreach.
Powell defeated two other Republicans in the primary and then beat Democrat J.D. Byrnes in last week’s general election to represent District 80, which includes all of Miami County and part of Darke County.
She accomplished this by running as an outsider against her state’s political establishment.
In media interviews and on her campaign website, Powell repeatedly referred to the establishment in Columbus as the main hurdle that stands between many Ohioans and the realization of their dreams, whether it be in starting a small business or excelling in a trade, profession or family life.
She is unapologetically pro-life and pro-Second Amendment, is against Common Core, and believes the taxes are too high in Ohio. All these problems will only get worse if not confronted.
“I believe in the sanctity of human life,” she says. “Because without life, and the ability to protect it, there can be no opportunity.”
Watch her YouTube video below:
“I believe the future holds a lot of promise for the people and businesses of Ohio’s House District 80. In order to make that dream a reality, we have some work to do,” she says on her website. “The establishment in Columbus isn’t listening to what we need, and your voices aren’t being heard. That’s why I’m running…so that everyone in this district can go hard after their dreams and experience life to the fullest, right here at home.“
She not only ran. She won. And she did it by not shying away from conservative principles.
Powell told Forbes she grew frustrated with local zoning policies that repeatedly blocked her from doing business in certain counties, which ultimately inspired her to run for office.
She is currently renovating a home that has fallen into disrepair in her home district. She calls it “a diamond in the rough,” much like the district as a whole.
“I’ve seen dozens of my friends grow up and leave the district because they believed there was more opportunity elsewhere,” she writes on her website. “I have a seven-year-old sister who started selling fresh fruits and vegetables grown on the family farm this past year. I loved watching her eyes light up as she sold her first dozen ears of corn, realizing the return of all the time she had invested in caring for and growing the produce throughout the summer. It is my hope that, like me, she chooses to remain in the district when she grows up. Like you, I have a desire to see more young people choosing to build their lives and pursue opportunities right here at home.”
Anthony Accardi is a writer and reporter for The Ohio Star.