Monday, September 12, 2011

Scott Zody: All the work as ODNR interim director but only half the glory

Scott Zody’s executive bicycle has its training wheels in place as he assumes the duties of interim director of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

Zody took over from David Mustine a short while back. That change of command came when Mustine switched gears to focus his energies on implementing exploration of oil and gas development in the state as a means of job creation.

Yet even as the Natural Resources Department’s interim director Zody says he can affect change, noting that the Department has a “lot of issues.”

“That includes getting staff in place for the permitting and inspection of oil and gas drilling as a result of the passage of Senate Bill 165,” Zody said.

The bill Zody is referring to up-dates several key areas of the state’s oil and gas drilling regulations. Among the rules being looked at are the ones that apply to the siting and placement of oil/natural gas wells and related production pipelines, Zody says.

“We’re also going to be aggressive with what’s happening at Grand Lakes St. Marys and Lake Erie’s Western Basin as it relates to nitrogen loading that has caused large algae blooms,” Zody said.

Of concern also is the need to have a staff large enough and capable enough to get the job done. That might prove somewhat tricky as both the state legislature and the public are using electronic microscopes whenever an agency hires someone.

In fact, state Rep. Ron Young, R-Leroy Township, is in the process of introducing legislation that will implement a temporary hiring freeze until the state government workforce is reduced by 10 percent.

“We are adding folks to the oil and gas side because we are expecting additional work there but in most cases we’re doing some hiring but we’re not expanding,” Zody said.

Zody said as well that the Natural Resources Department has a task force in place with the state-mandated goal of examining efficiencies related to the state’s county soil and water conservation districts.

“That was created by the legislature as part of the budget bill,” he said.

When it comes to the Wildlife Division, Zody says one major goal is a continuing look at the now operational electronic hunting/fishing license issuing system. The effort, says Zody, is to ensure the smooth issuance of licenses and permits and the working out of “bugs.”

And Ohio Division of Wildlife chief David Lane is in the process of getting his new assistant chiefs in place, Zody said as well.

“He also is tasked with internal issues; refocusing the agency’s mission and looking at the way things have been done and then come up with new ways of doing things; different things,” Zody said.

For the Division of Parks and Recreation, the Natural Resources Department wants to see if there are any partnerships out there that can be tapped in order to aid the cash-strapped parks division, Zody said.

“We’re open to anything that people are willing to explore; whether that means a county park district taking over a park either temporarily or even permanently,” Zody said. “In looking at the condition that the state budget and the ODNR both are in we must be opened to new and different ideas.”

Thus, says Zody, the Natural Resources Department must become “pro-active” by working with such local groups as Lake Metroparks and the Western Reserve Land Conservancy.

As for his own future, Zody said whether he keeps the director’s chair warm for only a short while or settles in for the long haul is largely out of his hands.

“I am here to serve but I think anyone would be honored to be the director of the ODNR, and I appreciate the governor asking me to do it, even on an interim basis,” Zody said. “It certainly would be something I’d be interested in but we’ll see what develops from there

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn”

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