One of Our Own! – Joni Blackman

Joni Blackman, Executive Director for the Fenton History Center.
Joni Blackman, Executive Director for the Fenton History Center.
Joni Blackman, Executive Director for the Fenton History Center.

Article Submitted by
Melinda Centi

“I wouldn’t call myself a workaholic, but I’m just short of that. Anything that doesn’t get done, I’m the one to take care of it,” explained Joni Blackman, Executive Director for the Fenton History Center.

Blackman has been a part of the Fenton staff for over 14 years, beginning her career as a part time bookkeeper that would later evolve into an appointment for Executive Director in 2004. Blackman is a 1977 graduate of Jamestown High School and has attended Allegheny College and most recently, Jamestown Community College in 2002 with a degree in Computer Information Systems.

What Blackman loves most about working in Jamestown is the close-knit feel of friends and neighbors. “The size of Jamestown is nice. You don’t feel like you’re a stranger anywhere. If I broke down on the side of the road, someone would help me, and chances are I’d know them. It’s such a great community to be in,” stated Blackman.

Blackman has two daughters, Caitlin, 29, and Christine, 26 who reside in Buffalo. “They grew up with the Fenton, which was great” stated Blackman.

In her free time, Blackman enjoys time with her partner, Dennis Wright who works for BOCES in adult education and is Coordinator for the Family Learning Zone at the Gateway Center. They have been together for over five years and share a passion for horses. Wright owns six horses, two of which, Luke and Lady, are Haflinger Arabs and a special part of Magic Moments Carriages which Wright has run for the past 30 years. They can be seen at events all over the county. Blackman and Wright enjoy going to festivals that Magic Moments Carriages are involved in and being a special part of the community.

As Executive Director at Fenton, Blackman oversees a staff of six individuals, many with over 20 years of experience in special collections and archives at the Fenton History Center.

“Every day is different and there have been some challenges to overcome, but we have a great staff here. They know their stuff. ” Blackman boasted about her team.

“Most executive directors enjoy making sure the board of directors have direction and follow their lead. You have to be open to everything and make your own decisions to back them up. There’s a fine line to balance managing the board while they’re your bosses. They do a lot of work and my board is great,” Blackman said.

Some of her duties involve development work including fundraising, overseeing and assisting with exhibits, research of history, managing the Fenton History Center website, and marketing most of the events for the center. One of her latest projects has been putting the Hall House Research Center together with the help of dedicated volunteers and researchers.

Blackman is also Vice President of the Board for the Prendergast Library, along with Vice President for the Chautauqua County Visitors Bureau, where she has been a member for the past three years. She works closely with the Renaissance Center involving the Branding Initiative and Jamestown Up Close in the planning department. Her latest project with them involves the history of the Jamestown Riverwalk.

“Jamestown has everything you need. From the friendly people to the changing seasons, it’s just a great place to be.”