Monday, January 10, 2011

First woman Wildlife Division chief reacts to appointment

It took less than one day for the new Ohio Department of Natural Resources director and his assistant director to make history for the agency.

ODNR head David Mustine and his second-in-command Scott Zody today appointed Vicki Mountz as the acting chief of the beleaguered Ohio Division of Wildlife.

A 25-year ODNR veteran, Mountz has an associate degree in law enforcement from Akron University. She began her ODNR tour in that department’s Division of Watercraft.

Most recently Mountz has served as the Wildlife Division’s executive administrator for information and education.

Now Mountz is atop the Wildlife Division’s food chain, a position the public relations-savvy official says “I am pretty darn excited about.”

Even in a temporary status the 59-year-old Mountz becomes the first woman to hold the Wildlife Division’s top spot; and ultimate hot seat.

“The only thing I can say is that we we’ve had a rough year and we want to see our people back on the right track,” Mountz said. “We’ve been on hold for a year now and it’s time to move forward.”

On that mater the Wildlife Division has been beset by challenges as five former or current top officials remain under felony indictment. Their cases are pending before the state’s 12th District Court of Appeals with the matter first surfacing last spring.

Among those indicted - and fired by the in-coming John Kasich administration - is David Graham whom Mountz replaces on at least a temporary basis.

Mountz said she is working well with the Wildlife Division’s two acting assistant chiefs, positions that likewise lack permanent administrative fixtures. Those attending to the acting chief duties include Wildlife Division administrators Susan Howard and Ray Petering, each bringing to the table their respective talents, Mountz says.

“We’re a great team and we work very well together,” Mountz said.

Mountz said as well that her initial meeting with Mustine went well, too, she being impressed with her new boss, though Mountz did say she’s worked with Zody during previous Republican administrations.

Asked if she would like the “acting” part of the title to go away, Mountz said that caveat is allowing her the opportunity to “get my feet wet” and determine if permanency would make an even better fit.

“Gosh, they haven’t even named a deputy director yet,” Mountz said.

A second question was whether Mountz will see a heftier paycheck - even if only for a short time - or keep the one due a long-time Wildlife Division administrator.

“You know, I didn’t even ask when Scott asked me if I wanted the job,” Mountz said reflectively. “I just thought the decision was the right thing to do.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

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