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The 40s: The Time in Your Life to Take the Lead

February 22, 2012
By JOSELYN KING - Staff Writer , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

Those past the age of 40 now find themselves sitting at the head of the board of directors, in key positions in local government or private business, and often taking the lead to raise funds for local organizations.

It's the age range when many people emerge as leaders in the community, and an educator and business leader were asked, "What is it about your 40s that leads to this happening?"

"They're taking the gauntlet from their elders while still presiding over the next generation," said Michael McTeague, associate dean and professor emeritus at Ohio University Eastern.

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"People have a tendency to pursue their education in their 20s, and it puts them close to age 30 of 35 before they have the time to start serving their communities. Their 40s is a good time to start exercising their full potential for projects."

By the time they've reached their 40s, these same people have joined professional and community organizations, and this is particularly true of bankers, lawyers and educators.

Many of these community members have developed their analytical and writing skills - attributes often needed when raising funds for charitable causes.

Fact Box

Q: The 40s is the age range when many people emerge as leaders in our community. What is it about the 40s that leads to this happening?

A: By the time they've reached their 40s, many people have joined professional and community organizations while also developing their analytical and writing skills. They've also had time to mature in their workplace and understand the needs not only of their particular field of endeavor, but also of the community.

"By this time, they've also developed their leadership skills - and a willingness to sift through material and come up with the answer when the answer is not clear," McTeague commented. "They are trained in analysis, and have had some opportunity to use it. They also are trained in speaking, and are able to say things succinctly."

In total, the community leader is able to use these developed skills to "culminate a plan for action," he continued.

Terry Sterling, president of the Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce, isn't so certain a person needs to be in their 40s to take leadership roles in their community. Young people have a great deal to offer, he noted.

He said they are getting involved in community activities and serving the public in a variety of different areas, he noted.

"Age is really not relevant when it comes to being a good community leader," Sterling commented.

"I encounter many people on a daily basis who are young, but have proven themselves to be effective.

"They are involved, they have ideas, and they want to make a difference. That's not always true for people over 40."

He believes people over 40 have work histories, and more time invested in their profession.

"That doesn't mean they any more or less effective," Sterling said.

"A person who is a good leader is willing to devote time to a cause, and is a good listener. He or she understands the problems we face, and is able to inspire people," Sterling said.

Three local 40-somethings are among those that have emerged in recent years as community leaders.

She also serves the public as a member of Rotary, the Women's Giving Circle, the Wheeling Landscape Commission, Junior League Sustainers, the Wheeling Arts Commission and the West Virginia State Arts Advocacy Board.

McDermott noted that by the time one reaches age 40, that person has gained the experience that aids them in leading their communities.

"Having worked in Wheeling since 1994, I've met a lot of people," she said. "And I've been afforded a lot of opportunities to volunteer. The more you get involved, the more you give a voice back to the community."

McDermott is married to attorney P.J. McDermott, and is the mother of two children, ages 9 and 11. She noted she has come to know many people in the community through her children's activities.

"The more you get involved with your children's activities ... the more you get to know other parents," she said. "And often it's a different demographic than who you might get to know in business. You engage in conversations with them about common interests, and you start to learn things you might not already know."

McDermott is a Wheeling native who graduated from Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa., and received a master's degree from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. After graduating from Carnegie Mellon in 1994, she returned to Wheeling to take a job at Oglebay Institute. She has worked there since that time, and she calls her job a "very diverse" position that centers around education, the arts and children.

"It's nice to be involved in a job where the public gets something out of what you're doing," she said. "It's very rewarding.

"When I was in college, I never thought about making my life here. Now that I am, I couldn't imagine it any other way. We have Oglebay Institute, Wheeling Park, the Wheeling Symphony and outstanding sports. It's an awesome place to raise children. A lot of big cities don't have it as good as we do here."

He also is the fifth generation to manage his family's business, Wilson Furniture, in Bridgeport, and he has a funeral director's license that allows him to work at Wilson Funeral Homes.

After serving five years in the Ohio Senate, Wilson now co-chairs the Connect Appalachia Broadband Initiative and is a member of the governor's Shale Working Group.

He holds a bachelor's degree from Ohio State University, and a master's degree from Wheeling Jesuit University.

He is active in the Easter Seals Rehabilitation Center foundation, and will be chairing the regional fundraising challenge for the Boy Scouts of America, Buckeye Council.

Wilson is married to wife Leah, and they have three children under 10.

"I couldn't do these things without he support of my wife and family," he said. "I certainly try to have a balance."

Wilson is a licensed airplane pilot who often flies himself around the state in his job so he doesn't miss one of his children's recitals or baseball games.

"By the time you are in your 40s, you've got the experience and you've learned a lot," he said. "You've had both the hard knocks and the victories. It's my 20th year in business, and I was in the political process nearly that long. I have learned a lot."

He serves on the board for The Linsly School, and also is involved in local development matters, the YMCA and programs at St. Michael's Church. He has been involved with Easter Seals since his college days, and he said he tries to do "whatever I can for Oglebay Park."

Paull is a past chairman of the Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce, and a past chairman of the Wheeling Board of Realtors.

He noted he also enjoyed working with the Salvation Army in the past.

"In your 20s and 30s, you do get a grasp of the community - and of what the needs are in your community," Paull said. "And you need that experience you get in you 20s and 30s to get a better grasp in your 40s.

"A lot of times in your 20s and 30s you are busy building relationships, and building assets in the community." Paull said he works with investors to help them find locations to start businesses. In recent years, Paull worked with the Sheetz company to bring one of the gas station and convenience store franchises to Follansbee. "We still need to work on bringing in jobs, and the natural gas business is a start," he said. "It continues to boom."

"And we need to continue to get more housing locally - especially new construction and rentals. I probably get a dozen calls a day from people looking to rent. Many of the calls are from gas people who are looking for a place to live in the area, but even before that we had people wanting to rent."

Paull is a graduate of West Virginia University. He and his wife, Jennifer, have two sons, 10 and 7.

"We enjoy living in the valley," he said. "We want to continue to help bring jobs. Hopefully, the economy will continue to get better."

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