The Finalists

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

Seven honorees who bring quality to their organizations through their commitment to HR excellence:

Executive of the Year (Large Organization)

Johnni Beckel

Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer


Johnni Beckel learned her customer-service training at Disney World, and her efforts ever since to make her work environments among the happiest places on Earth have made her the finalist for Executive of the Year of a large company.

Beckel started at Disney after graduating from Penn State University, and moved up to become a senior manager of organizational leadership development and training.

She then took her skills to Cardinal Health and KeyCorp, where her passion, abilities and experience helped her lead changes at every stop.

Since joining OhioHealth, Beckel has helped make the area's largest healthcare system a Columbus CEO Top Workplace in 2013 and 2014, and one of Fortune's "100 Best Places to Work" for eight consecutive years.

Her OhioHealth initiatives include the creation of a Culture Blueprint, a one-page description of the behaviors that best describe the OhioHealth culture.

Nominators describe her as a valuable business partner and member of the executive team, with strong values and the ability to make transformative changes.

Executive of the Year (Midsize Organization)

Grace Easley Schmitt

Vice president of human resources

Glimcher Realty Trust

When a company earns Columbus CEO Superstars and Top Workplaces awards, and is named to the American Heart Association Fit-Friendly Workplace and Best Places to Work lists, it is little wonder its vice president for HR would be a finalist as Midsize Executive of the Year.

Grace Easley Schmitt, a licensed attorney, has taken Glimcher's HR department to new heights by focusing on wellness and work-life balance. To that end she has led fitness challenges, Know Your Numbers events and salad potlucks, while at the same time instituting a policy of healthy snacks and calorie-free beverages in the corporate offices.

Glimcher's Walktober event inspired 31 walkers to take 10,000 steps daily for a month. The event also included weekly company walks; fitness equipment and gym membership reimbursements led 62 participant to lose nearly 612 pounds.

She also rolled out the Every Day Thinking campaign, which inspires and guides Glimcher employees to articulate the culture and vision of the company.

That culture transcends the office walls, as Schmitt also oversees such community outreach programs through LifeCare Alliance's Meals on Wheels, Pelotonia, United Way, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Association's Light the Night Walk, St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital and the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure.

Company CEO Michael Glimcher praises Schmitt for helping "to establish a thriving and award-winning culture."

Executive of the Year (Small Organization)

Chris Rutter

Vice president of human resources


Nine years ago, Chris Rutter was an HR intern at OCLC. He has since risen to become Uptivity's vice president of human resources, thanks to his drive, passion and dedication to the employees he serves, and to LGBT rights.

Rutter's nomination for Executive of the Year (Small Organization), cites his progressive thinking and style, as he asks constantly, "Why are we still doing this the same way?"

His initiatives have included improving management processes and procedures; the introduction of normalized salary structures; implementation of an applicant tracking system; launching payroll and human resources information systems; and the streamlining of internal and outside processes.

Rutter's desire to "push the envelope" led the Human Resources Association of Central Ohio board to select him as the chairperson for its Programming & Professional Development Committee in 2014-15. He was also selected by Mayor Michael Coleman to serve on the Create Columbus Commission, where he works to find ways to attract and retain young professionals to the city.

In 2013, Rutter was selected by United Way of Central Ohio to participate in the Pride Leadership Program, an eight-month program that teaches and prepares LGBT professionals to serve on not-for-profit committees and boards throughout central Ohio.

He is also a founding board member for the Ohio Affiliate of Out & Equal Workplace Advocates to help organizations create nondiscriminatory environments for LGBT professionals.


Debbie Palmer

Talent Development and Resources Director

Fairfield Medical Center

Debbie Palmer has more than 35 years of experience with human resources, but her enthusiasm and inventiveness at Fairfield Medical Center has helped her lead the way to become the finalist for the HR Innovation Award.

Palmer's leadership with the medical center's Recruitment and Onboarding Team resulted in a new onboarding process and reduced turnover by 50 percent for those with less than one year of service.

She also led the Total Rewards team to revitalize the employee recognition program, implementing a performance bonus for employees based on achieving established goals in patient satisfaction and financial performance. Her analysis and implementation of a more competitive employee wage structure led to improved retention, and increased employee engagement and satisfaction.

That engagement is further reflected in Fairfield's Employee Opinion Survey, which is used to focus on specific department developmental areas.

Palmer's commitment to education transcends the hospital walls, as she teaches healthcare and human resources courses at Ohio University-Lancaster.

Future Leader

Waylon Binkley

Organizational Development Specialist

American Electric Power

Since good communication can lead to good internal and external customer relations, it is no wonder Waylon Binkley was the finalist as a Future Leader in human resources.

Binkley is using new media like a semi-monthly leadership blog to spread good practice ideas and keep AEP leadership connected with employees. He plans and coordinates the creation of video vignettes with senior leaders to highlight important aspects of AEP's performance and management philosophies.

Binkley's work includes supporting AEP's president through the planning and facilitation of a leadership team meeting, reviewing and developing team norms to improve the company's effectiveness.

He is currently training to serve as a facilitator of AEP's Power Up and Lead culture workshop.

Good Works (Organization)

Memorial Hospital of Union County

Memorial Hospital of Union County focuses on building strong relationships with employees through training, health and wellness programs. These initiatives helped make the hospital the finalist in the Good Works category.

Among the hospital's largest programs is its Working On Wellness employee-wellness incentive. The hospital also offers a Partners in Progress Program, in which employees can donate to fellow hospital employees to assist with financial hardship or personal loss.

Memorial's focus on human resources has earned it the Advisory Board Company's Excellence in Engagement Award (2013), and it was recognized as one of the top 100 Best Places to Work in Healthcare by Modern Healthcare magazine (2013) and voted Best Place to Work in Union County by Marysville Journal-Tribune readers.

In an effort to give back to its community, Memorial directors, vice presidents and the CEO volunteer with 33 local businesses, schools, not-for-profits, and other organizations.

Lifetime Achievement

Larry Schleeter

Chief human resources officer

Memorial Hospital of Union County

Six years after being honored by Columbus CEO as a human resources "Super Star," Larry Schleeter has earned the finalist honors for a lifetime of service and achievement within the industry.

Schleeter has long been respected for his progressive views on how human resources can be used to enhance long-term competitive growth in business.

He has truly spanned the globe to work with the people who make businesses successful, having served in Europe and Asia. His specialization has come in organizational design and development, strategic human resource planning, and excellent customer service.

Schleeter's accomplishments include centralizing HR areas for 10 OhioHealth hospitals, resulting in a $10 million savings, while reducing turnover at Grant Medical Center from 22.5 percent to just 8.5 percent.

During his time at SARCOM, he helped the company grow from 800 associates to more than 3,200. During his career he was responsible for starting four human resource departments from scratch.

At each of his posts, Schleeter reduced employee turnover; developed competitive and cost-efficient compensation programs and benefit packages; and created training, mentoring and recognition programs resulting in improved morale and cost savings.

Organizations for which Schleeter has served have earned numerous recognitions.

HR Excellence Awards 2014

Executive of the Year (Large Organization): A Christine Browning

Executive of the Year (Midsize Organization): Doreen DeLaney Crawley

Executive of the Year (Small Organization): Katie McGrath

Future Leader: Alison Marker

Future Leader: Nicole Mauri

Good Works: Julie Young

Innovation (Organization): Battelle For Kids

Lifetime Achievement: Chester Christie

The finalists