By David Eggert
A young Joyce Beatty needed a job in 1971 when she was referred to the old Dayton Workhouse, a city jail looking for someone to handle inmates social and psychological services.
The interviewers tested her by having her walk through the bullpen where inmates were housed in the all-male facility.
While I may have been scared, I knew to get the job I had to act like this is what I did, said Beatty, who told the prisoners shed be in her office shortly.
Still in college at the time, she was hired on the spot.
It was the start of a wide-ranging career that culminated with Beatty becoming the first female Democratic minority leader in Ohio House history and the first black woman to serve as a senior vice president at Ohio State University.
Shes hoping her next stop is Congress.
We were always told we could do anything, said Beatty. We were always told that we had to work harder, do more and be more creative.
Growing up in Dayton, she was the daughter of a brick mason who later had his own construction company. Her father lived during the Great Depression and insisted that his four children always have extra shoes and food.
The basement was lined with canned goods. In the summers, she helped pick vegetables and sold them to independent grocers.
By age 20, Beatty had taken an interest in politics. It helped that she lived across the street from C.J. McLin, the states longest-serving black lawmaker when he died.
She regularly attended her first political mentors briefings on Saturday mornings. After being a professor at Sinclair Community College in the 1970s and 80s, she was appointed to the countys mental-health board by then-Gov. Richard Celeste. She worked as human-services director for Montgomery County for 10 years.
There, she helped push for a change in state law allowing the county to have a single tax levy to fund multiple services such as public health and aid to those with developmental disabilities.
Beatty moved to Columbus in the early 1990s to start a consulting business that helps companies and governments with strategic planning and employee training. A big job was helping the city on public-housing relocation projects.
She married then-state Rep. Otto Beatty, a Columbus lawyer, and succeeded him in office after he resigned in 1999.
Beatty says she has always enjoyed policymaking.
I like strategizing and I like reading the complex issues, she said. I can remember the first day they handed me the budget bill and I spread it all over the floor. My husband came home and said, What are you doing? I said, Somebody told me the devil was in the details. And if Im going to find it, I have to read it. So Im not afraid of hard work, and I have a track record of that.
A stroke survivor, Beatty was elected to lead the House Democratic caucus in 2006, replacing Chris Redfern, who became chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party.
In addition to fighting for funding for women with breast or cervical cancer and no health insurance, she helped deliver key Democratic votes for bipartisan passage of legislation creating schools focused on science, technology, engineering and math.
Because of term limits, Beatty couldnt run again in 2008. OSU President E. Gordon Gee hired her to oversee outreach and engagement, a new executive-level position designed to centralize the schools outreach programs. She focused on community and economic development, international affairs, grants and research, and health care.
I was responsible for developing collaborations that were beneficial internally to the university but also externally bringing people inside to the university, Beatty said.
An example: OSU worked with the Central Ohio Transit Authority to bring 1,000 elementary students to campus to learn about civil-rights icon Rosa Parks. Beatty had championed a bill making Ohio the first state to designate Dec. 1 as Rosa Parks Day.
When it became clear that the General Assembly was creating a new Democratic-leaning congressional district last fall, Beatty said she was encouraged to run by Gee and Columbus Mayor Michael B. Coleman. She won backing from a group of African-American community leaders and ministers who vetted interested black candidates.
Beatty, who also owns a Downtown clothing shop, has built strong alliances with the business community, which could prove crucial in her congressional bid, particularly with fundraising.
Given her experience in both business and government, she says she values the importance of all constituencies in Franklin County.
Its such a mess right now, she said of Congress. And thats on both sides. I thought there was so much at stake. And this is what I do best. Going in at a time when you can effect a change. I thought it was important to have a new voice.