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Integrity • Value • Family

Meet the team at COG

Matt Tharp

President – Agency Development

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Matt began his insurance career in 1990 with the goal to grow the Central Ohio Group (COG). In 2001, he purchased the agency and has diversified the product selection to focus on senior products, group, and ancillary coverage. Matt concentrates on agency development and senior products. He is here to help you grow and earn your business. Matt currently resides in Medina with his wife, Beth.

Gina Ashley

Executive Vice President

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Gina joined COG in 1993 and hails from the greater Cleveland area. She began her insurance career as a Medical Underwriter with Central Reserve and enjoyed that role for 10 years before becoming a part of our team. She is involved in new sales and renewals for all products sold at the agency (group, ancillary, individual, and her favorite, Medicare.) Agent support is also an important role, ranging from training new agents to the final presentation for a potential client.  Gina and her family call Ashland home.

Connor Tharp

Vice President

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Connor joined COG in the fall of 2018. He is an Ashland High School graduate and received his bachelor’s degree from Ohio Northern University in 2014. After graduation, he moved to Chicago to begin his sales career. In 2018, he moved back to Ohio after accepting a position at COG in sales as an insurance agent. In the fall of 2020, he was promoted to the role of Vice President. He enjoys being a resource to his clients and agents to provide the best solution specific to them. His focus is on all lines of health & life Insurance, including group & individual plans and Medicare policies. He currently resides in Medina with his wife Jenna.

Brian Vess

Sales – Broker’s Broker

Brian joined COG in 2014 to expand our ever-growing brokers’ broker sales program.  Brian began his insurance career in 1993, and he is a top-producing agent focusing on group and individual health, Medicare supplements, life, and ancillary products.  He believes that each broker and client should be treated as a friend and their best interest always comes first above all else.  Brian and his wife Neilee reside in Holmes County and have 3 wonderful children.

Jennifer Smith-Sharick

Office Manager – Group Service & Marketing

Jennifer joined COG in 1995 after graduation from Bowling Green State University. She handles group administration, claims, and quoting. She is married with two sons and one daughter.

Laura Furness

Individual New Business Submission & Service Coordinator

Laura joined COG in 2015. She assists with submission of all individual and Medicare applications, follow-up, and problem resolution. She has lived in Ashland for 16 years with her husband Patrick and two children, Hannah and Andrew.

Lisa Strickling

Customer Service – Group Service

Lisa joined COG in 2017.  She handles group customer service.  Lisa is a graduate of Kent State University and lives in Ashland with her husband Marc and two daughters.

Karen Gilkison

Sales – Medicare & Small Group

Karen joined COG in the fall of 2018 but began her insurance career at the age of 19. Although she has experience in all lines of insurance benefits, she has concentrated on health insurance and related products since 2004 and has developed a specialty in Medicare plans.

Medicare doesn’t seem so complicated with someone guiding you through the maze, and Karen enjoys helping people through these difficult decisions. Karen has a satellite office located on the Route 30 corridor in Riceland, just south of Orrville, and is looking forward to bringing Central Ohio Group and their suite of Medicare and Group insurance products to Wayne County.

Rhett Harris


Rhett joined COG in the Spring of 2020. He graduated from the University of Mount Union in 2013 and began his sales and management career. As an agent, Rhett handles all lines of health and life insurance, including Medicare and annuities. He is a graduate of Danville High School class of 2009 and enjoys traveling the world and learning about other cultures.

Beth Tharp

Individual & Medicare Submission and Customer Service

Beth joined the COG team in February of 2021, after spending 20 years working in the insurance industry. Beth works primarily with individual health and Medicare clients doing submissions and follow up. Beth resides in Medina with her husband, Matt.

Spencer Daniels


Spencer joined COG in the Spring of 2023. With a focus in Finance and Insurance, he received his Business Degree from Bluffton University in 2022. He enjoys playing golf and meeting new people from all walks of life. As an agent, Spencer will be handling all lines of Health and Life Insurance including Group & Individual plans along with Medicare policies.

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