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Executive MPA candidate named lieutenant colonel of Ohio State Highway Patrol

Marilyn Icsman
April 2, 2019

Marla Gaskill Executive MPAMarla Gaskill recently became the first woman to be promoted to lieutenant colonel of the Ohio State Highway Patrol, while also pursuing a Master of Public Administration in Ohio University’s Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs Executive MPA program.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and Ohio Department of Public Safety Director, Tom Stickrath appointed Gaskill in early 2019, along with naming Lt. Col. Richard Fambro the new patrol superintendent.

Lt. Col. Gaskill, who was formerly a major within the patrol, officially began her new duties on March 18. In her new position, she acts as assistant superintendent, overseeing four primary offices: the Offices of Planning and Research and Development, Finance and Logistics, Personnel, Training, Recruitment and Diversity.

Currently in her third semester of the Executive MPA program, Gaskill said she has learned valuable skills through her coursework, including the use of analytical tools to evaluate the effectiveness of programs and organizations.

“Overall, I continue to develop a greater understanding/perspective of public administration on a local and state level, and also nonprofit organizations,” Gaskill said. “In the future I would like to become involved with a nonprofit.”

Gaskill’s perspective and experience also bring value to others in the OEMPA program. Marsha Lewis, an associate professor and senior associate dean, said she is excited for Gaskill to join the Voinovich School’s network of leaders throughout the state.

“Marla brings tremendous leadership skills and experience into the classroom, which is a great asset to the Executive MPA program,” Lewis said. “She is relentlessly dedicated to creating public value in her role at OSHP, and often focuses her research assignments on issues important to the agency.”

Gaskill will have the chance to implement what she has learned in the MPA program at her elevated level within the state patrol. One of her biggest goals as lieutenant colonel is to evaluate and enhance the recruitment and training program in order to make sure the patrol hires qualified employees, including women and minorities.

“It is important that we retain a diverse work force,” Gaskill said.

She also wants to work on future planning to keep the patrol on top of emerging technology, and to continue building partnerships with community leaders.

Although she’s risen to the highest levels of the Ohio State Highway Patrol, Gaskill didn’t always see herself in her current position.

Gaskill said she “never imagined” the career she’s had in the Ohio State Highway Patrol. She began her career working as a licensed practical nurse and considered getting a degree in nursing, but she also had an interest in law enforcement.

“I decided to leave a job I liked and leap into law enforcement,” she said. “I chose the highway patrol because I knew there were many opportunities available.”

During her time as a state trooper, Gaskill said she investigated traffic crashes, enforced traffic laws, interacted with community leaders and promoted traffic safety.

After finishing her patrol training, Gaskill took another leap: taking flying lessons. She went on to serve as the first female pilot in the patrol’s aviation department.

“I wanted to be a state trooper and never imagined the opportunities I would have throughout the years,” she said.

After her transfer to aviation, Gaskill eventually accepted a promotion as a sergeant on patrol, and said she was transferred or promoted to a variety of sections within the patrol.

She noted that she has always believed in the importance of education to further her career.  Gaskill holds a bachelor of arts degree from Capital University and a master’s in business administration from Franklin University, in addition to pursuing her MPA.

“With each of my assignments I had new opportunities and always learned so much,” she said. “Throughout my career, I believed it was important to pursue a formal education to make me a better leader and open my mind to a vast variety of perspectives, beliefs, and ideas.”

Beyond her goals within the Ohio State Highway Patrol, Gaskill wants to encourage others with her story.

“I hope that I can inspire others to accept challenges and take risks, to continue their formal education, regardless of how long it may take, and to reach back and bring someone else along with them.”

Lewis emphasized advantage of having state leaders like Gaskill who can represent the school.

“Alumni from the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs are in leadership roles throughout the state,” Lewis said. “We are fortunate that Marla will be one of those alums and a part of our public affairs alumni network.”