COLUMBUS - When asked what she considers her biggest accomplishment, Jennette Bradley pauses.
“People talk about what they did in their lives, but I think it's more important how you make a difference in other people's lives.” she said. “My mother-in-law, up until she died, still tried to be there every Tuesday night to make sandwiches with her church group. Like her, I want to be a happy, productive citizen.”
Republican Gov. Bob Taft's choice for his running mate has served for 11 years as the only Republican on the seven-member Columbus city council.
She was born at Fort Campbell, Ky., as her father, Ernest, served in the military.
An aunt lived in Columbus, and the Bradley family settled there when Ernest Bradley retired from the Army. She graduated from East High School, where she was a majorette.
Jack Gibbs was the principal and he had a positive influence on Ms. Bradley, bringing back graduates to show high school students what they could achieve.
“What I remember is he always taught us so much pride in ourselves and in our school.,” she recalled. “He always encouraged all students to excel. All of the assemblies were, `If you want to go to college, I'll help you go to college.'“
Ms. Bradley said she “fell in love” with Wittenberg College in Springfield after visiting the campus and went there also because it was “close enough, yet far away from home.”
She said she majored in psychology because she wanted to be a school guidance counselor, but she changed her mind because she wanted to pursue “public service.”
After graduating in 1974, she was out of school for only one month when she was hired as an accounting clerk at the Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority.
“I didn't know anything about the agency until I applied,” she said.
She worked her way up the ranks. In 1981, at the age of 28, she became the housing authority's youngest executive director.
She met her future husband, Michael Taylor, in high school when one of her friends had a locker near his. He also worked at the grocery store near the house where she grew up on the near-east side of Columbus.
“He makes me laugh,” she said with a laugh. “I can't think of someone who has been more supportive of me. He has proven over the years to give good advice. If he didn't complain about my cooking, he'd be perfect.”
She said she first met Mr. Taft when he was a Hamilton County commissioner in the 1980s and got to know him better when he ran for secretary of state in 1990.
“I had just come back to Columbus and he called me and asked me to do something on the campaign. It always stuck with me that he called personally. I asked him, `How did you know that I was back in Columbus?' “ she said.
In 1991, she ran for a Columbus city council seat for the first time and won.
When Mr. Taft chose Ms. Bradley as his running mate last February, right-wing groups attacked her position in support of abortion rights and health benefits for domestic partners, including gay couples.
But conservative activists have not confronted her on the campaign trail.
“I want to represent all Ohioans,” said Ms. Bradley. “I recognize that Ohioans aren't always going to agree with my positions or the governor's positions. That may be one issue, but there are many other issues we can agree on and work on. That is what I would ask - for people to look at the big picture.”
COLUMBUS - A month ago, Republican Gov. Bob Taft stood on a former polluted site near downtown Columbus and outlined what Jennette Bradley would do as lieutenant governor.
The list includes liaison to local governments, chair of the council that awards funds to clean up polluted lands, liaision to small business, and chief adviser on housing and community development.
In 1981, Ms. Bradley was 28 when she became the youngest executive director of the Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority.
Five years later, the federal government put the housing authority on its “operationally troubled” list because it had a vacancy rate of 16 percent.
The move came after the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development released a report - requested by U.S. Sens. John Glenn and Howard Metzenbaum, both Democrats - criticizing the housing authority's track record on collecting rent, filling vacancies, and maintaining units.
In a recent interview, Ms. Bradley said the problems overshadowed what she considers her accomplishments as head of the housing authority. She resigned in July 1986 to take a job with an investment banking firm in Washington, D.C.
A Columbus city council member since 1991, she said many of her “ideas and theories” about public housing have proved correct over the past two decades.
She said her work at the housing authority, combined with her private sector experience and 11 years on city council, qualifies her to serve as lieutenant governor and governor, if Mr. Taft dies or is incapacitated.
She is a senior vice president at Huntington National Bank in Columbus.
“I'm a little older; I'm not 28,” she said, with a laugh. “I don't flinch at the thought of being governor.”