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Hancock County/GRADD Partnership – How it serves the Hancock communities

Executive Director of GRADD Joanna Shake

The Green River Area Development District (GRADD), is a regional planning agency serving Hancock, Daviess, Henderson, McLean, Ohio, Union and Webster counties.

“We are a council of governments,” Joanna Shake, Executive Director of GRADD said. “So, our memberships are the 27 cities in the 7 counties in the GRADD region. We have 34 members, and we like to think that we’re the extended staff to our cities and counties. We work for them.”
GRADD offers a huge array of services, and through the Hancock County/GRADD partnership, $9.1K was issued to 40 people from CDBG-CV (Community Development Block Grant-Corona Virus) funds to assist residents impacted by the pandemic with paying utility bills, as well as $200K from the LWCF (Land & Water Conservation Fund) to construct a Spray Park at Vastwood, and a $750K CDBG to construct a new Dukes Fire Station, just to name a few.
In the workforce, this partnership has matched 14 job seekers in the county with employment through assistance from the Kentucky Career Center, and has offered aid through Rapid Response to 261 laid-off Century Aluminum workers.
These are only some of the many ways this partnership has enriched the county. For the full list, go to the Partnership Impact Reports Page on the website:
“The hotel in Lewisport, that was one of the very first projects that I did with 504 Loan Program,” Joanna said. “McElroy Metal and Bluegrass Silica (now Bluegrass Industrial Minerals) – we extended gas lines and sewer lines. There are so many projects.”
Joanna has worked at GRADD for 29 years altogether, and has been Executive Director for almost 3 years now. Prior to that, she was Associate Director for 26 years.
She created the Waiver Department last year, an accomplishment she said she’s really proud of, that has helped with streamlining services more productively and efficiently.
“Essentially, my role is to serve the 75 members of or team,” she said. “When I became Executive Director, I pretty much inverted. It had always been the traditional pyramid hierarchy. But, I’ve inverted that pyramid and I serve the team.
It’s been different for me because I went from working on projects in our counties and cities. I do miss that aspect of the job. Now, instead of serving the communities, which I do indirectly, I serve our team here.
I’m a huge proponent of servant-leadership. My role is to provide the trainings, the resources – everything that the team here needs to equip them to go out into our communities and serve clients and just improve the quality of life for our region.
I read all of my 7 county’s newspapers. I attend the city council meetings – I try to make it to all 27 of my cities once a year. I go out to our cities because I want them to know how important they are to us. That’s why I visit.”
Out of those 27 cities, there are currently 15 new mayors, including Hawesville City Mayor, Robert McCormick.
Joanna attended the State of the County/Cities Chamber of Commerce Breakfast in January this year, along with Representative Suzanne Miles. “That was me just coming down to ask him (McCormick) what his top-10 priorities are,” she said, “and telling him about what GRADD can do. Representative Miles and I met with him just to say, ‘Hey, how can we help?’”
She said her favorite project here was helping with funding for the new library in Lewisport, which she wrote the grant for. Director of Hancock County Libraries, Tina Snyder, had contacted Joanna about grants available for a community garden she was planning, to go behind the new library after it was built.
Joanna explained how it unfolded from there, adding that this a perfect illustration of how GRADD serves communities: “I said, ‘You’re building a new library? Oh my goodness! We can get CDBG. We can get Block Grants through HUD. We could probably secure about a half a million dollars for that project.’
The City of Lewisport was the applicant (of the grant) and Mayor Gregory was instrumental. Tina and Mayor Gregory were just awesome.”
Those two traveled to Frankfort a couple of times to make the project happen, due to a challenge by the KY Historical Society not wanting the old Lewisport School to be removed, in order for the library to be built.
“It’s a very fulfilling job,” Joanna said. “I just knew from day-one that their mission mirrored my own personal mission, and that’s why I’ve stayed this whole time, because I think I’m the luckiest person in the world. I don’t think there’s a better job than the job I have.”
If you have inquiries, you can contact her and she will help get you connected with the right department. “We are here to serve,” she said. “If anybody has any questions, they are welcome to reach out to me.” Her email is:
Joanna was born in Everett, Washington and her family moved to the area when she was in middle school. She graduated from Apollo High School and was awarded a full academic scholarship to attend Kentucky Wesleyan College, where she earned her degree in political science.
She said she is very proud of her grown children, and wishes they lived closer. Ryleigh lives in Denver and Connor lives in Los Angeles. Joanna’s husband, Steve Shake, is an Optometrist at Owensboro Family Eye Care, and is the previous owner of the practice.

Hancock GRADD Members 

Lewisport Mayor Chad Gregory, Judge/Executive Johnny Roberts and Franklin Powers all serve on the GRADD Board of Directors.

Hancock County locals/natives who are current GRADD staff members are: Brad Alley, Director of GRADD’s AmeriCorps Program, and Jeannie Quattrochi, of Lewisport, Public Administration Specialist for GRADD’s Community & Economic Development Department.

There are current job openings. Check the website:

By Jennifer Wimmer

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