BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — As a member of the Whitehouse Police Department, Ashley Kunesh has met local parents and students while working at home football games – where the energy and excitement are palpable.
Now, as the newly hired school resource officer, Kunesh said she’s looking forward to connecting with students at Anthony Wayne Junior High and Fallen Timbers Middle School.
“I’ll be engaging with the kids and building relationships at a big time in their lives. I want to create a positive trajectory,” she said.
The Anthony Wayne Board of Education voted last month to approve the addition of a second school resource officer (SRO) in the district. Cpl. Charles Kessinger continues to serve as the SRO for Anthony Wayne High School while Lucas County Sheriff’s deputy Larry Albring provides security in the buildings as well.
“We’re excited about having another SRO,” said Superintendent Dr. Jim Fritz. “She will be stationed at the junior high and provide assistance at Fallen Timbers Middle School and Whitehouse Primary.”
Kunesh will attend the Lucas County Crisis Intervention Team training later this month, and virtually, the Ohio School Resource Officer Association’s SRO Basic Training course in October, said Whitehouse Police Chief Mark McDonough, who interviewed internal candidates for the position.
A Fayette native, Kunesh played softball and was involved in theater during high school but primarily worked at an ice cream shop and tool and die shop after school. Policing was not on her radar, she admits. It was her experience of leaving an abusive relationship that prompted her to consider it as a possibility.
“I believe God wants us to use those bad experiences to make something good,” she said. “I want to help the next person out. I can be the first point of contact for victims who feel voiceless.”
A Wauseon police officer encouraged her to go on an eight-hour ride-along with Alexa Miller, a Fulton County Sheriff’s Office deputy who now also works part time for Whitehouse, to learn more. She was hooked but knew she needed to wait a few years until she had time to commit to the police academy, as she had young children and co-ownership in Root Salon and Spa in Wauseon.
In July 2020, she graduated from the academy and was working part time for the West Unity Police Department for six months when her husband, Kelly, told her about an opening in Whitehouse. His friend and fellow Delta police officer, Ken Scheuerman, thought she should apply.
“I literally had fun on the interview,” she said. “When I left, I said, ‘These are my people.’ I knew that I wanted to make my career here.”
She joined the Whitehouse Police Department in January 2021 as a part-time officer and moved to a full-time position in August 2021.
“I like how community-oriented the department is,” she said. “We can take time to get to the root of the problem. It makes me feel like we’re serving people and giving people a voice who might feel like they don’t have any. It gives my life meaning to know I’m making a difference.”
As an SRO, Kunesh will apply her experience as an officer, a mother of four children ages 3 to 12 and her “obsessively optimistic” personality to the job.
“The No. 1 priority is the safety of the kids, but I also hope to build relationships with the students and parents,” she said.
As she’s getting to know the students and staff, they’ll find out that Kunesh is one of those people who never slows down, and she makes time for fun. She likes to listen to music and true crime podcasts, watch movies, read books, draw and craft as well as try new things.
“Last week, I started knife throwing,” she said, showing a photo of a wooden target that she and Kelly placed in their backyard for target practice.
Whitehouse police are interviewing candidates for a full-time officer position to replace Kunesh this week.