COLUMBUS, OH (FOX19) - Our partners at the Cincinnati Enquirer reported that Incoming Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has assembled one of – if not the most – diverse cabinets in Ohio history.
DeWine has nominated women to a majority of state agency director positions in recent weeks. A handful of the top jobs will be held by African-Americans.
DeWine allies say that's a reflection of how he operates and he's proud of the people he's chosen to carry out his policy proposals over the next four years.
Cabinet agency leaders are in charge of multi-million or multi-billion-dollar budgets and thousands of state workers. They carry out the governor's priorities but also have wide-ranging authority over their respective offices.
DeWine's cabinet nominations will need approval from the Senate; other high-level jobs announced in recent weeks will not.
DeWine officially takes office at 12:01 a.m. Monday. Here are five takeaways from DeWine’s picks.
More women, more African-American leaders
Kasich took flak for appointing too few women or non-white leaders to cabinet posts when he took office in 2011. He ended his second term with six women and one African-American in top posts.
Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland ended his four-year term with 12 women, three African-Americans, one Iranian-American and one openly lesbian woman in his cabinet.
DeWine, while campaigning, told voters they could expect a diverse cabinet.
Of the 24 cabinet offices Kasich staffed, DeWine has appointed 22, including 13 women and five African-Americans. Two new cabinet-level positions will be staffed by women: LeeAnne Cornyn as director of children's initiatives and Alisha Nelson as director of RecoveryOhio, DeWine's effort to combat the state's opioid abuse crisis.
"The governor-elect has made these appointments based on who he believes are the best people for the jobs," spokesman Josh Eck said.
Ohio Legislative Black Caucus President Rep. Stephanie Howse is encouraged by the makeup of DeWine's cabinet. Howse, D-Cleveland, said diversity is not just about a person's face, but his or her heart, mind and life experience.
"Having a cabinet that is as reflective of Ohio as possible is always a step in the right direction," Howse said. "We go into this administration with eyes and ears open to having partnership with the governor and look forward to getting to know him and his cabinet members and working with them to make all of Ohio better."
DeWine still needs to appoint a health department director and state lottery commission chief, and also could recommend appointees for superintendent of education, chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio and president of JobsOhio, the state’s private economic development organization.
There are three big issues he wants to focus on.
Every governor has his or her policy priorities and often dedicates a staff member and, in some cases, creates an office around it. Kasich had his offices of health transformation to reform Medicaid, the state- and federal-funded health insurance program for poor and disabled Ohioans.
DeWine has created three new positions in this vein:
- RecoveryOhio director, to coordinate the state's response to the opioid epidemic across law enforcement, mental health providers and other entities.
- Children's initiatives director to lead DeWine's efforts to boost access to preschool and mental health services for youth, as well as other policy proposals for education and children.
- A senior policy advisor in criminal justice policy. DeWine staunchly opposed a criminal justice reform ballot measure last year, but has since said he wants to work on the issue going forward. State lawmakers plan to find ways to keep more nonviolent offenders out of Ohio’s crowded prisons.
DeWine avoided hyper-partisan picks.
DeWine,a Republican, told reporters last year he would hire the best people for top jobs, whether they be Democrats or Republicans.
DeWine chose a well-known lobbyist – and registered Democrat – to direct his legislative affairs. Several agency director nominees have worked under Democratic and Republican governors, including nominees to lead some of the larger agencies such as Medicaid and public safety.
John Corlett, president and executive director of the nonprofit think tank Center for Community Solutions, said DeWine's pick to lead Medicaid, Maureen Corcoran, is someone he and other advocates of Medicaid expansion can work with. Corlett worked with Corcoran when he led the department under Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland.
"I feel very confident she believes in the program – wants to protect the program – and I believe we can make progress on some of these issues related to kids," Corlett said during a Friday event at the City Club in Cleveland.
The appointment of Findlay Mayor Lydia Mihalik to the state's economic development department caught the eye of many Democrats. Mihalik, a Republican, is known for working alongside the state's Democratic mayors on issues such as home rule governance and state local government funding.
“Cities need more champions in Columbus than they’ve had and hopefully she brings that,” Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper said.
Familiar faces get top posts.
DeWine brings several individuals he’s employed in his 42 years of politics to the governor’s office.One of his first hires was Laurel Dawson as chief of staff; she served in the same role when DeWine was a congressman and, later, U.S. Senator. The new budget director, Kim Murnieks, has been the chief operating officer in the attorney general’s office; DeWine’s deputy attorney general and former chief of staff, Mary Mertz, will head the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
Stephanie McCloud, DeWine's pick to lead the Bureau of Workers Compensation, was part of DeWine's 2010 transition team and later did debt collection work for the attorney general. McCloud has contributed more than $84,000 to the Ohio Republican Party since 2014.
A few posts were a nod to incoming lieutenant governor Jon Husted. Matthew Damschroder. nominee to lead the department of administrative services, served as assistant secretary of state under Husted. McCarthy, the new governor's top legislative liaison., is also a friend of Husted's.
DeWine didn’t clean house.
Seven picks are either holdovers from the Kasich administration or being promoted to lead agencies in which they've worked for years.
Jillian Froment took the helm at the Ohio Department of Insurance in 2017 after Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor left the position to run for governor. She'll remain in that post.
Kevin Miller will continue to be executive director of Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities, a job he's had since January 2011.
Retired Major Gen. Deborah Ashenhurst led the Ohio National Guard as adjutant general for four years under Kasich. DeWine chose her to head the veterans services department.