CLARKSBURG, W.Va. – Jo Anne McNemar is one of the four finalists for the Remarkable Women contest.
What made Jo Anne stand out is her dedication to honor her family legacy, along with her community impact and development. She emphasized that because of her experience living in a healthy environment, she said it’s important to “pay it forward.”
She has dealt with tragedy throughout her life, which turned into making positive impacts in her community by focusing on substance misuse and domestic violence prevention.
Jo Anne works on purpose with a purpose to help build the capacity and skills of others through prevention strategies. She’s provided these strategies on a local, state and national level.
Remarkable Women is part of a nationwide Nexstar Media initiative to honor the influence that women have had on public policy, social progress and the quality of life.
In February and March, we’ll highlight four local women who will be considered for Nexstar’s nationwide 2020 Woman of the Year Award. One local winner will be selected to earn a once-in-a-lifetime trip to New York City to attend a taping of The Mel Robbins Show. The national winner will be named in mid-March.
Who is Jo Anne and why is she so remarkable?
When Jo Anne heard that she was a finalist for the Remarkable Women contest, she said that she immediately thought of her mother.
“She is a remarkable woman, who instilled in her five daughters the values of faith, friendship and family. To continue on with that legacy, I believed I instilled those in my daughter.”Jo Anne McNemar
The heart of Jo Anne’s journey began with her grandparents, Sam and Rose Scott Lopez. Years ago after leaving mass, they were crossing the street and were struck and killed by a drunk driver. She emphasized that there was an overwhelming feeling of grief throughout her entire family.
She said, “When dealing with my own grief, my prayer was that God put me somewhere that I can make a difference in other people’s lives to help prevent this tragedy from happening to anybody else because it is preventable.”
From there, Jo Anne went back to West Virginia University to get her masters in Community Health Education. Through that, she began working with substance abuse prevention.
She said, “I have provided prevention education and different information to dissemination pertaining to substance and misuse on a local, state, and national level. What I have learned and try to instill with everyone that I meet, prevention works, treatment is available and recovery happens.”
She knew in order to work with social policy and environmental strategies, that she needed to be politically involved to help her achieve those goals. So she ran and was elected for Clarksburg City Council.
During her time serving in the city council, along with Mayor Sam Lopez, she started the first Mayor’s Youth Council in Clarksburg. She mentioned that seeing it continue after so many years makes her proud.
Her family encountered another tragedy after her sister, Teresa, was murdered. This led her to advocate for victims of murder, domestic violence and help them find their voice.
She began working with different groups, such as “victims of murdered children” and “parents of murdered children.” That also led her to work with “mothers against drunk driving” and “students against drunk driving.”
“In part of my healing from the trauma, was to be able to not only heal myself but to be motivated to bring others with me on that life’s journey,” said Jo Anne.
Jo Anne has filled many roles working with prevention throughout her career. It all started with working as a prevention specialist, which became her passion and purpose. She emphasized that it’s important to stop the stigma that’s connected with addiction.
She said, “We’ve learned through prevention that it’s no longer “just say no” it’s very much data-driven, it’s evidence-based, it’s scientific background. So there’s a lot of effort that goes into our prevention activities.”
One of the things she mentioned about working with the youth through prevention strategies, is that it’s important to teach them that if they do begin experimenting with different substances, there are people and agencies that want to help them.
“To me, being able to work with the youth, is a joy beyond words.”Jo Anne McNemar
Jo Anne reiterated that she was honored and excited to be a Remarkable Women finalist. She said, “When I heard I was nominated to be a Remarkable Women it’s because I was raised by one, so it affirmed where I came from and where I’m going with my daughter.”