Meet the Staff
Deanna West-Torrence, Founder and Executive Director
A longtime resident, Deanna West-Torrence found herself returning to the North End neighborhood throughout her life. Each time she returned, she found the same friendly people with lifelong relationships, but the appearance of the neighborhood had changed drastically. The schools were closed, the neighborhood businesses had decreased and the once well-kept houses were deteriorating. At the same time, she found her own family experiencing much of what so many others were facing. Following a divorce, she became a single mother, raising four young children on the North End.
Through the years, Deanna worked in many ways to better the community, from working with CHAP (Community Health Access Project), representing the 5th Ward on Mansfield City Council, serving on the Mansfield City School Board, and leading the Neighborhood Youth Corps, as well as serving on other boards, task forces, and advisory committees.
In 2007, Deanna and other residents and community leaders applied their collective experience and founded the North End Community Improvement Collaborative (NECIC). NECIC's mission is to improve the quality of life and economic landscape of the North End Community.
Deanna attended Rebecca Grubaugh, Creveling and Discovery Schools, Johnny Appleseed Middle School and graduated from Malabar High School in 1987. She then attended the University of Cincinnati and the Southern New Hampshire University’s School of Community Economic Development. Deanna is a graduate of the Center for Creative Leadership’s African American Leadership Program in 2005, and the Harvard Kennedy School for executive Education in 2011. She has managed local non-profits for many years.
Deanna is the proud mother of three adult sons and an adult daughter.
Beth Reitler, Director of Operations
Beth joined the NECIC staff in 2017. She is active in the community, having served on the boards of Discovery School, Mansfield Area Y, and NECIC.
Beth was an integral part of her family’s insurance business, serving in Operations as well as Health Insurance Broker. Her past work experience also includes Program Officer for Richland County Foundation and Operations/Membership Coordinator for Mansfield Art Center.
She is married with three children, who keep her busy with sports and family activities. She loves to read, hike, and travel.
Leona Smith, Executive Coordinator
Leona has been involved with NECIC since 2010 when she participated in our North End Talented Ten (NETT) internship program. As a youth intern, Leona learned the ins and outs of non-profit management by job shadowing the Executive Director for six months. Leona’s experience and familiarity with the work of NECIC made her a perfect candidate for the NECIC team and she was hired in 2013.
Before moving to the position of Workforce Development Manager, Leona as served as NECIC Operations Manager, providing support to the Executive Director on the day-to-day financial management of the organization, as well as supporting the elder and small grants programs, and coordinating NECIC volunteers. In June 2015, Leona received certification as a Housing Development Finance Professional (HDFP) from the National Development Council (NDC). HDFP Certification is a professional credential given to individuals who successfully complete NDC’s intensive housing development finance training series.
Tony Chinni, Community Development Manager
Tony is a 2007 graduate of the Ohio State University where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in European History. Tony joined the NECIC team as an intern during the summer of 2007 at which time he aided the executive director in establishing the nascent organization, and compiled an economic base assessment of Mansfield’s North End.
From 2008 to 2011, Tony worked with NECIC staff and consultants to compile The North End Community Economic Development Plan. This document, guided by input from more than three hundred North End residents and stakeholders, articulates NECIC’s vision for the redevelopment of the North End.
Tony is the editor of NECIC’s quarterly newsletter North End Matters, he maintains NECIC’s web site and internet presence and oversees the design of all NECIC marketing materials. Tony coordinates research and data collection for a variety of grant and program projects. He is also lead program staff responsible for the Youth Media and Oral History Projects.
In 2013, Tony was tapped to lead all of NECIC’s housing related work. He was born and raised in Mansfield and is a 1994 graduate of Mansfield Senior High.
Candace Harrell, Communications Coordinator
A former North End resident, Candace joined NECIC in 2015 as the Blust Avenue Teaching Garden Coordinator, moving to Communications Coordinator in 2017.
Prior to joining NECIC, Candace was a freelance writer as well as Reporter and Assistant Editor at Richland Source. She was also the author of a popular weekly gardening column, “Country Life with Candace”.
She enjoys hiking, the outdoors, and spending time with her family.
Angel Thornsberry, Administrative Assistant
Angel joined NECIC as a temp through the NECIC staffing division, Temp2Higher, and became a full-time part of the team in 2017.
She has served in the U. S. Army as an Automated Logistical Specialist, and worked with MTD Products for over a decade.
She enjoys sewing, reading, and spending time with her family.
Mona Kneuss, Teaching Garden Coordinator
Former NECIC Board Chair, Mona Kneuss joined the NECIC team in 2017 as Blust Avenue Teaching Garden Coordinator.
Mona has a strong background in gardening, coming to us from over a decade with Kingwood Center Gardens. She also owns her own landscaping business, and has been a Richland County Master Gardener Volunteer since 2010, serving more than once as president.
She enjoys working with children, having raised a large family, as well as hiking and other outdoor activities.
Rochelle Jones, Community Garden Organizer
Rochelle joined NECIC in 2014 as a part-time Community Garden Organizer.
Rochelle coordinates the Community Garden Grant program, helps with garden education programs, and supports the organizing efforts of community garden leaders.
She is a North End resident and an active community volunteer, as well as an accomplished student of social science. Rochelle is very passionate about uplifting her community and helping others in any way possible. But most of all, Rochelle is a friendly person who wants to help people grow!
Nyasha Oden, Community Organizer
A graduate of Wright State University and current student at Case Western Reserve, Mandel School of Applied Social Science with a plan of obtaining her license in social work after graduation. Her career goal is to become a juvenile probation officer and minority educator.
As a Youth Mentoring Associate, she reaches out to youth to discover their talents. She creates mini modules that are based on what students want to enhance their skills and discover new talents that can generate income in the future. Some popular mini modules are: TaeKwondo, Cooking, Baking, Art, and West African Drumming. She also matches students to adults within the community through one on one mentoring which allows everyone to build relationships and support one another.
As a girl born and raised in the North End, she is thankful for the opportunity to build relationships with the North End community. When Nyasha is not working, she enjoys spending time with her children, shopping during good sales, reading a good book, and traveling to different places.
Kay Smith, Community Organizer
A Mansfield native, Kay is a graduate of Mansfield Senior High and a 2013 graduate of Mount Vernon Nazarene University where she earned a Bachelor of Social Work. She is the founder of Mothers United to S.A.V.E. and held the Standing Against Violence Everywhere rally in the spring of 2016.
Welcomed to the NECIC team in January, 2017, Kay works with the ROAR Program and My Brother's Keeper initiative. She also serves as the community representative for the Mansfield Community Against Violence (M-CAV) Focused Deterrence Program with the Mansfield Police Department.
Tobey Roberts, Lead Staffing Specialist, Temp2Higher Division
A Lexington high school graduate, Tobey has worked in the staffing business for over fifteen years. She joined the NECIC team February of 2016.
Tobey said she loves the work that NECIC is doing with the North End Community, "As I continue working in the staffing component of NECIC I look forward to learning more ways that Temp2Higher can contribute to the community."
Matthew Ayers, Staffing Specialist, Temp2Higher Division
Matthew was a part of NECIC’s North End Talented Ten (NETT) internship program in 2010, and served as a volunteer long after.
A Mansfield native, Matthew is a 2004 Mansfield Senior graduate, and a 2010 graduate of The Ohio State University. His career has been in the banking industry, most recently with Mechanics Bank.
Matthew joined the NECIC team as a Temp2Higher Staffing Specialist in 2017.
Tionna M. Perdue, Staffing Specialist, Temp2Higher Division
Tionna joined the NECIC team as a Temp2Higher Staffing Specialist in 2017 after ten years with Third Street Family Health Services.
A Mansfield native, Tionna said she is “the number one Tyger football fan.” She is a mother of three, one of which is a Tyger football player, and she can be found working the concession stand with Tyger Boosters at most games.
Edward Akinyemi, AmeriCorps VISTA
Edward joined the NECIC team in November, 2017 as an AmeriCorps VISTA with a focus on Workforce Development.
He is well-traveled, speaks three languages fluently, and is an avid reader. He attended the University of Southern Denmark and holds a master's degree in Sports and Event Management.
Edward has a passion for community economic development, which makes him an excellent fit here at NECIC. We are very pleased to have him on board and look forward to introducing him to the North End.