City Magazine’s Ones to Watch recognizes up-and-coming leaders who enhance local business and the community as a whole through their work and volunteerism. This year, ten people were chosen by a panel of past winners after being nominated by their peers and employers. Congratulations to these outstanding leaders.

Ashley Varner

CRMC, healthy communities coordinator and wellness navigator

What is your community involvement? 

I lead the Healthy Schools, Healthy Communities initiative in Jefferson City and Holts Summit. Specifically, I work to implement environmental and policy changes in our community to ensure the healthy choice is the easy choice for everyone. I also provide health coaching for CRMC employees. I implemented the “Fresh Fruit 4 Kids” baskets at seven local grocery stores and healthy concessions at both JCPS and Helias Catholic, along with many other physical activity and nutrition initiatives in our community.

What is the single biggest lesson you’ve learned in business? 

To be patient with the process. Collaborating with community members to create positive change brings a beautiful set of personalities and skill sets from all sorts of individuals.  Change doesn’t happen overnight; it has a process. Being respectful of that unique process is empowering.

Why is it important to you to be involved in the community? 

I am a “people person” and thrive on relationships with others. I love hearing different opinions, creative ideas, and outside-the-box thinking. Committing and contributing to my community brings a sense of home and belonging to my daily life. 

What are some words you live by? 

“The scars you acquire by exercising courage will never make you feel inferior.” Speaking up for what is right, taking chances, and being vulnerable leads to exciting growth. Also, Proverbs 3:5, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.”

If you weren’t in your profession, what profession would you get into?

I have celiac disease, so I’m unable to eat any foods with wheat gluten, rye, or barley —which is in everything! I also love to bake. So I would open my own gluten-free bakery and café or “rice crispery” to serve others that pay attention to their gluten intake. Of course, all items would be made with only the highest quality locally grown, organic ingredients. Support local farmers and businesses.

Outside of your family, who is your role model and why? 

I absolutely love Ellen DeGeneres. She is a beam of light in this world. She isn’t afraid to be herself, even when others may not agree with her lifestyle. She consistently finds humor in everyday life, and strives to help others. She is genuine and spreads the message of love. 

Community Involvement:

  • Dreams to Reality
  • Working Wheels for Working Families
  • Jefferson City’s Environmental Quality Commission
  • Downtown Association
  • East Side Business Association
  • Capital City Christian Church
  • JC Chamber Young Professionals
  • Capital City Connections