There is going to be a party when Ohio turns 200 in 2003. Beth Hansen is making sure of it.
Ms. Hansen is one of four regional coordinators for the Ohio Bicentennial Commission, formed in 1997 to plan festivities for the state's 200th birthday.
"We're trying to raise awareness of Ohio's history, and celebrate it across the state. We want every community to crow about its achievements, to celebrate them," she said.
Though only 26 years old, negotiating the tricky tides of public affairs is nothing new to Ms. Hansen, who has been at it since she was a freshman at Ohio State University.
That's when fate found her one night in the laundry room.
"During my first quarter there, I was washing my clothes and saw a flyer advertising internships in Governor Voinovich's office," said Ms. Hansen. "I was a political science major, and I decided to apply."
She got the job, and was offered a full-time position before she graduated.
"So I took it," Ms. Hansen said. "I finished my last year of college at night and on the weekends."
Ms. Hansen interned with the Ohio Historical Society, where she gave museum tours, coordinated special events, and ingested a plethora of Ohio-centric facts and figures.
"Giving so many tours, I was always talking through the phases of Ohio history, so I really learned it," Ms. Hansen said. "And in the governor's office I had to research the 88 counties, so now I know a little something about each of them, which has really helped me to maneuver the landscape of this job."
Ms. Hansen found her current position through Steve George, who was her boss while she worked with the governor's office and is now the executive director of the bicentennial commission.
"I had to find someone who was going to get the job done, who could be a self-starter and get out there every day and sell the idea," said Mr. George. "I knew I could count on Beth; she's that kind of person. I knew that every day she'd go beyond the call of duty."
She credits her father for her work ethic. "He was up at the crack of dawn every day, always working," said Ms. Hansen.
Ms. Hansen is in charge of planning the bicentennial celebrations in the 26 counties of northwest Ohio.
"It's a huge area. I log over 4,000 miles on my car in the average month," said Ms. Hansen.
It was rough going at the start.
"There was a lot of knocking on doors and cold-calling mayors," Ms. Hansen said. "We had a master plan that Steve [George] came up with. But we had to spread the word that the bicentennial was coming, which was tough because of the millenium. In 1997, people didn't want to plan celebrations for 2003. They were focused on 2000."
After the millenium, things started rolling along.
"She's single-handedly gotten the whole northwest Ohio community interested in the bicentennial," said Jennifer Bahney, who worked with Ms. Hansen on the bicentennial commission. "Even though she is really motivated and smart, she's warm enough to appeal to a vast array of people, from the governor to church groups."
Ms. Hansen's plans are in full swing.
"My workload has doubled since January," she said.
She has played a part in initiating a number of programs, including helping to find funding for Ohio historical markers at important sites, and starting a campaign to promote the bicentennial by painting its logo on barns across the state.
"We want people to create permanent reminders of their history," Ms. Hansen said.
The bicentennial commission isn't the only way Ms. Hansen is taking an active role in shaping Ohio. Each summer, she spends a week at Ashland University working with the Buckeye Girls' State program.
With the bicentennial drawing closer, Ms. Hansen's workload does not look as though it will lighten anytime soon, which doesn't bother her.
"I think that, despite countless hours of hard work, she's just as excited about Toledo and Ohio as she ever was," said Mr. George.