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Published: Wednesday, 11/29/2006

Fisher tapped for dual state roles

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU
Strickland, left, and Fisher Strickland, left, and Fisher
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COLUMBUS - Governor-Elect Ted Strickland's first cabinet nomination yesterday came as no surprise as he followed through with his promise to make his second-in-command, Lee Fisher, Ohio's next development director.

And while Mr. Strickland frequently stressed during his campaign the number of manufacturing jobs lost in Ohio, more than 200,000 over the last five years, Mr. Fisher wasn't ready yesterday to spell out specifics for what would be considered a successful Strickland administration in terms of the economy.

"While we're not committing to any specific set of benchmarks, some of the areas that we will certainly look at where we might want to measure is per capita income because making sure that Ohio's families are doing better is important, and looking at the number of people who have second and four-year degrees," Mr. Fisher said.

"The number of jobs is certainly one of those, but that's only one of many indicators of economic performance," said the former attorney general, state representative, and state senator.

Mr. Fisher's confirmation by the Ohio Senate is expected to be routine.

Using lieutenant governors in dual roles is nothing new. Ohio. Gov. Bob Taft's first lieutenant governor, Maureen O'Connor, headed the Department of Public Safety. Her replacement, Jennette Bradley, was commerce director, and her replacement, Bruce Johnson, is the current development director.

Like Mr. Johnson, Mr. Fisher, 55, would draw the higher cabinet level salary rather than that of lieutenant governor, but exactly what that would be has not been decided. The salary for the cabinet post ranges from roughly $55,000 to $143,000, but Mr. Strickland would only estimate that he does not expect it to be on the low end of that scale.

Mr. Johnson currently is paid $133,931 a year as development director compared to the $68,295 he would have received if he accepted the lieutenant governor's salary instead.

In his first press conference in his temporary offices a few floor below Gov. Bob Taft's offices in the Riffe Tower, Mr. Strickland said he was not willing to completely close the door to the concept of privatizing operation of the Ohio Turnpike as an economic development tool.

That idea was floated by his Republican opponent during the campaign. Secretary of State Ken Blackwell had predicted a one-time cash infusion of $4 billion to $6 billion to the state as part of a 99-year lease to a private entity.

"I have said that I don't think that privatizing that vital infrastructure in Ohio is a good idea," Mr. Strickland said. "If someone wants to continue to try to convince me, I'll have an open ear and an open mind."

Despite Mr. Blackwell's defeat on Nov. 7, a nonprofit organization has been created to continue lobbying for privatization as a means of raising capital for other transportation improvements in the state.

Mr. Strickland will take office shortly after midnight on Jan. 8.

Contact Jim Provance at:

jprovance@theblade.com

or 614-221-0496.



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