Owensby Recognized for Leadership in Cornelia

Jessie Owensby is a busy woman and her hope for the next year is that her schedule gets even busier. As the Community Development Manager for Cornelia, Owensby has been instrumental in the revitalization efforts of the city over the last several years.

Due in large part to those efforts, Owensby has been selected by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) to participate in the Appalachian Leadership Institute, an extensive nine-month series of online skill-building seminars featuring regional experts, peer-to-peer learning, and case study analysis beginning in mid-October through July, 2021.


Although she’s excited about the individual recognition, she admits that it would have been nearly impossible without support from her superiors.

“Our city commissioners have been progressive and they’ve been on board with most of the crazy ideas that I’ve had,” Owensby says.


Owensby began working for the city five years ago and had no experience in local government or Community Development. As one of only three Georgians selected for the Leadership Institute class out of over one hundred regional applications, it hasn’t taken her long to make her mark. 


“Being the quick learner that she is and her Appalachian Regional Commission networking capabilities has helped her to make contacts around the state that have enabled us to transform our downtown back into a vibrant, charming destination for visitors,” says City Manager Dee Anderson.


The opening of an entertainment district in downtown Cornelia is just the most recent example of the city’s efforts to increase its visibility to residents and tourists alike. Owensby says she has many more ideas for the future but has found it a challenge to sell a vision.

“That’s actually more work than anything,” Owensby says, “is trying to sell what you see in your head but isn’t there yet.”


It’s a challenge for which the Leadership Institute is specifically designed. As part of the program, Owensby will learn how to integrate community assets into long-lasting economic development strategies, according to ARC officials.

“The skills development and network-building opportunities offered by this program have proven to be valuable, and this past year has shown that effective local leadership is essential,” said ARC Federal Co-Chairman Tim Thomas.

Upon completion of the program, Owensby will automatically become part of the Appalachian Leadership Institute Network, a peer-to-peer working group committed to Appalachia’s future.

The Appalachian Regional Commission is an economic development agency of the federal government and 13 state governments focusing on 420 counties across the Appalachian Region. ARC’s mission is to innovate, partner, and invest to build community capacity and strengthen economic growth in Appalachia to help the Region achieve socioeconomic parity with the nation.

The Appalachian Leadership Institute is a comprehensive regional leadership training program developed by the Appalachian Regional Commission in partnership with the University of Tennessee, Knoxville; The Howard H. Baker Center for Public Policy; Tuskegee University; and Collective Impact. This is the second year of the program.

More information, including a complete list of current Fellows, is available at www.arc.gov/leadershipinstitute.