Ohio Citizen Action organizes and mobilizes people to advocate for public interests. In person, by phone, and online, we engage people in actions that protect public health, improve environmental quality, and benefit consumers. Our campaigns connect Ohioans and build a movement to protect democracy and create a sustainable future.
Since beginning door-to-door field canvassing in 1979, Ohio Citizen Action has made more than 11 million front porch visits in Ohio.
Sending enthusiastic, professional organizers into neighborhoods makes it easy for busy people to protect their own health, rights and interests by preventing abuses of government and corporate power.
We use a strength-in-numbers strategy, focusing the political and consumer power of Ohio families on the problems they care about. We boil down complex issues into everyday language, put them into context, answer people’s questions and motivate people to help.
In addition to the field canvassers, phone canvassers follow up on our door visits, spending more time with people and giving them new opportunities to make a difference. We also update our website daily, providing information, resources and opportunities for digital activism.
Simply put, we win our campaigns because people care enough to get involved and the personal, immediate nature of field and phone canvassing makes it easy for them. Working together, we amplify individual actions to have greater impact on decision makers.
Ohio Citizen Action Board of Directors
Dick Wittberg President (Marietta)
Dick Wittberg experienced a profound professional shift when he left behind a career in the lumber industry to pursue a position in public health. It was a decision largely influenced by his experiences with and concern over the consequences of manganese exposure due to the emissions of Elkem Metals (now Eramet). Eramet, Washington County's second largest employer, refined manganese for use in the steel industry and was the source of odors that had plagued the community for decades. Dick wanted answers to questions about how manganese in his community's air might be affecting people, especially children, and he wasn't finding any. In 1999 with the help of the USEPA and the University of Quebec, he designed and conducted a rudimentary study comparing school children in Marietta with matched counterparts in nearby Athens, in terms of their cognition, balance and other indicators of possible exposure to manganese. His study showed Marietta students had significantly worse balance, visual contrast sensitivity, memory and academic performance. The study was always intended to be a pilot and was too small to stand on its own, but suggested that further scrutiny was desperately needed.
Dr. Anne Wise believes that Ohio Citizen Action is so effective, “because they do the canvass right. Ohio Citizen Action is founded on the notion that community organizing begins with people talking to people and the canvass is first and foremost that kind of tool.”
Anne’s own involvement with Ohio Citizen Action came about due to her knowledge of the work that a colleague, Dr. Kathleen Fagan, was doing with Ohio Citizen Action as President of the Board of Trustees. Anne worked with Kathy in two different hospital-based occupational and environmental medicine programs from 1995-2006. Their programs evaluated people with medical problems potentially caused by workplace or other environmental exposures, helped coordinate company wellness and health risk management programs, and supported staff nurses working offsite at several local industrial sites. Anne and Kathy also served as medical directors for an employee health clinic based in a steel mill, as well as for two local correctional facilities. After completing nine years on the board of Ohio Citizen Action, Kathy Fagan moved to Washington, D.C. to work for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Anne joined the Ohio Citizen Action Education Fund board in 2008. She comments, “I think that the Ohio Citizen staff is phenomenal and the board meetings are always fun and interesting. I’ve learned a lot from them. I’m kind of a neophyte when it comes to politics and the breadth of experience the staff and board members bring to the table is really phenomenal.”
Anne received her medical degree from Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and completed her residency at St. Francis Hospital in Connecticut. She also completed a fellowship in Occupational and Environmental Medicine at the University of Connecticut Health Center. She began working as a family doctor at Neighborhood Family Practice in Cleveland in 1995, and now works there full-time. Anne’s son, Trent, has also volunteered at Ohio Citizen Action.
Thomas Gregory Ferguson (Columbus)
Thomas (Tommy) Ferguson has thirty-five years of social service experience and is currently the education coordinator at one of Columbus’s settlement houses. Tommy has a background in journalism and considers himself an “accidental activist” – he grew up with mentors who were social workers and also activists. He says that they helped him to form an appreciation and love of nature.
Preventing pollution is extremely important to Tommy and his family. “My mother died from lung cancer. She never smoked a day in her life. There was a factory behind our house. My mother lived there for 40 years.” Tommy is married to educator Brenda Nieves and they have two daughters. His wife’s family is from Vieques, Puerto Rico, where there have been claims linking Vieques’ higher cancer rate to the long history of US weapons testing on the island, especially after the US Navy admitted using depleted uranium.
Tommy has spent his career focused on social and economic justice. He was inspired as a child in the 60’s by The Delano Grape Strike and boycott, led by the United Farm Workers against growers of table grapes in California. He says “it stuck with me that people can really make a change if they come together.”
He has spent many years teaching outdoor education, nature and environmental studies and he has directed a residential summer camp in his previous job. He was the local project coordinator for Bringing Learning to Life in conjunction with the National Education Association, Columbus Education Association, and the Ohio State University. This project brought together students, teachers, educators, researchers, school and university administrators, and community members to explore intersections of service-learning initiatives and community engagements across K-16 settings.
Tommy loves door to door canvassers. He likes that they take direction from the people in communities and neighborhoods to make change. “That’s the real strength of the organization.”
Tommy is also passionate about urban farming, aquaponics and food insecurity. He is interested in teaching people how to become more self-sufficient.
Ann Knotek Secretary/Treasurer (Cleveland)
In 2011, Ann Knotek attended a community meeting concerning the city of Cleveland's proposal to build a garbage incinerator at the Ridge Road Transfer Station. Ann became active in the campaign to stop the incinerator after learning that such a project would run the risk of becoming a new major source of pollution for Cuyahoga County.
In working with Ohio Citizen Action on the Cleveland Incinerator campaign, she was impressed by the organization's knowledge, thoroughness, and concrete approach. Her experiences with the Cleveland Incinerator campaign demonstrated how important an organization like Ohio Citizen Action is to the individual who wants to get involved but doesn’t know how to channel that energy; as well as how important they are to the community as a whole — helping to organize that “collective voice” that is out there but not necessarily being heard. After the community forced the incinerator proposal to be scrapped, Ann was invited to join Ohio Citizen Action's board of directors.
Ann believes in the “Seventh Generation” principle, attributed to the Native Americans, that says: in every decision, be it personal, governmental, or corporate, we must consider how it will affect our descendants seven generations into the future.
She is also passionate about food issues — food security; GMOs; pesticide and antibiotic use; soil quality/organic composting; eating real food; and improving health by changing eating habits.
Ann says, "For the individual and for the community, Ohio Citizen Action offers something unique and important. An individual has access to a group of knowledgeable people who offer concrete approaches to getting involved."
Joshua Sands (Cincinnati)
Joshua Sands has been an Ohio Citizen Action member since 1990 and is a current member of the Metzenbaum Society giving circle.
Carla Walker (Cincinnati)
“It always seems impossible, until it’s done” – Nelson Mandela
Born and raised in Cincinnati, Carla Walker’s journey has taken her all over the world. From the halls of Harvard to Johannesburg South Africa, she has acquired the information, skills and network to truly be the change she wants to see in the world.
She served as Chief of Staff to Cincinnati mayor Mark Mallory and maintains an interest in the role mayors can play in global governance, recently guiding Cincinnati’s current mayor to commit to taking the city to 100% renewable energy use by 2035. It’s her long history with environmental issues and field campaigns that brings her to the Ohio Citizen Action board. “There are a number of environmental challenges at the state level and I’m excited to be a part of the leadership of an organization that works from the ground up to effect change.”
Carla’s experience in strategy, communications and government & public relations prompted her to found her own consulting business, Think Big Strategies, which keeps her plugged in to policy currents and innovations around the globe.