Thursday, November 17, 2011

UPDATE 2: Kasich Plays Musical Chairs With ODNR

Ohio Gov. John Kasich has undertaken a seismic shift in power within the Natural Resources Department, playing either a great game of political musical chairs or else Russian Roulette with the agency.

He has brought in as the agency's new director the former director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture, Jim Zehringer.

In turn, Zehringer towed along two of his underling associates with him: Andy Ware and Frederick Shrimp.

Zehringer replaces Scott Zody who served as interim Natural Resources Director when former ODNR director David Mustine left to take a position with a quasi-governmental group that is promoting energy development in Ohio.

Now Zody has become the latest chief of the Ohio Division of Wildlife, replacing David Lane who has been demoted to assistant chief of that agency and in charge of Wildlife's five district offices.

Zody said the moves were natural fits, even though he becomes the first non-Wildlife Division official to ascend to the chief's post.

Importantly too, Zody says, the repositioning of Lane has nothing to do with his short tenure as the Wildlife Division's chief.

"There's been a little bit of a shake-up here but things are going well," Zody said. "Really, both the Governor and the new Director thought the best role for me would be in Wildlife. I'm looking forward to a more narrowed area of responsibilty and the new challenges."

Tom Rowan - former state wildlife officer assigned to Lake County - remains as the Wildlife Division's assistant chief in charge of law enforcement, fisheries and wildlife.

And Sue Howard - who had been the Wildlife Division's other assistant chief -now becomes the agency's business operations manager, responsible for human affairs, fiscal responsibilities as well as marketing the Wildlife Division. She relinquishes the role of managing the five district offices to Lane.

"We still have a mission to do; support the director and chief and make them proud," Rowan said also.

As for Ware this is not his first stint within the Natural Resources Department. He was once an agency spokesman, became the assistant chief for the Division of Forestry and eventually transferred to the Agricultural Department.

Now he is back in the Natural Resources Department where he will oversee not only Forestry but also the Division of Geological Survey and several other agencies.

Meanwhile, Shrimp will concern himself with the "day-to-day" operations of the Natural Resources Department.

In terms of Zehringer, the sum of his Natural Resources Department's experience includes a stint as a state representative, a livestock raiser and commercial fish hatchery owner.

Also, this change will do nothing to quiet the rumors that the Natural Resources Department will be enrolled within the Agricultural Department along with the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

If anything the changes only heighten this possibility, though Zody says that Kasich is now on the hunt to appoint a new Agriculture Department director.

This Blog will be updated as additional information is obtained.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
Twitter: @Fieldkorn

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