Rochester-Area Native Finds Opportunity in Chautauqua County

Julia Ciesla-Hanley has lived in Chautauqua County most of her life, but that wasn’t always the case.

A native of the Rochester, NY area, Julia first moved to Jamestown a month after graduating from college in 1999 to take a position as a radio news reporter at WJTN/WWSE. Since then, she worked in both county and city government before finding her way back in radio as the Public Affairs Director for WRFA-LP, Jamestown’s local, non-commercial radio station licensed to the Reg Lenna Center for the Arts.

Looking back at her initial arrival in Chautauqua County, Julia admits it was certainly a change of pace, compared to the more urban Rochester metro area where she grew up and also went to college.

“My first impressions of the county is that it was beautiful, but the ruralness was a shock after being raised and going to college in more metro areas,” she explains, adding that it did take time to adjust to her new surroundings. “I grew up in Rochester and enjoyed a variety of museums, restaurants, shopping opportunities, and entertainment that, while available in Chautauqua County, were not as numerous in quantity or availability. I had to adjust to a slower pace of living, which, as I lived here longer, became less slow as I became involved with area activities and groups.”

For Julia, those activities included performing in the Jamestown Area Community Orchestra, Warren Symphony Orchestra (in nearby Warren, Pennsylvania), and Jamestown First Covenant Church’s “The Living Christmas Tree.” She also participated in Chautauqua Leadership Network, Jamestown Pride, and volunteering at WRFA, first delivering a morning newscast, then also serving as an advisory board member.

Today, Julia still lives in Jamestown with her husband for nearly 20 years, Matt, who is a native of Buffalo, NY, who had close family in Chautauqua County while growing up. He is the marketing director for a local healthcare center. Together, they have two cats, a dog, and a turtle.

When not working or being involved in the community, Julia and Matt find there are several attractions and destinations to choose from in Jamestown, including the Jamestown Riverwalk (especially the bike trail section), James Prendergast Library, Reg Lenna Center for The Arts, and Labyrinth Press Company/Brazil Lounge – a local coffee shop and craft beer & wine restaurant, specializing in vegan and vegetarian fare. She finds there’s also plenty to see and do outside of her home community.

“Some of our favorite destinations outside of Jamestown, but still in Chautauqua County, include visits to Panama Rocks, Bemus Point, Southern Tier Brewing Co., and the Audubon Community Nature Center,” she says.

Now, 25 years later, Julia finds she’s lived longer in Chautauqua County than anywhere else, and that seems to suit her just fine.

“While we might not have everything that more urban areas offer, I enjoy the richness of life that is possible here,” she said.

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