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Published: Thursday, 7/17/2003

Governor picks new chief of staff

COLUMBUS - Gov. Bob Taft yesterday announced that his new chief of staff is Jon Allison, who began to work for Mr. Taft seven years ago when he was secretary of state.

“Jon and I have worked together for many years; he has performed exceptionally in a number of capacities,” Mr. Taft said. The governor made the announcement a day after chief of staff Brian Hicks said he is resigning to form his own public affairs firm. Mr. Hicks has worked for Mr. Taft since 1991.

Mr. Allison, who as deputy chief of staff has been in charge of lobbying the legislature, starts his new job Aug. 1. His annual salary was $104,000 a year.

His new salary has not been set yet, said Orest Holubec, Mr. Taft's press secretary.

Mr. Allison was legislative and communications director from 1996 to 1998, when Mr. Taft was the state's chief elections officer. After serving as director and legal counsel for Mr. Taft's transition team in late 1998 and early 1999, Mr. Allison was assistant director of the state Department of Commerce from 1999 to June, 2000.

After 15 months in the private sector, Mr. Allison returned to the Taft administration as deputy chief of staff for intergovernmental affairs.

Other candidates to succeed Mr. Hicks, 38, were Beverly Martin, also a deputy chief of staff; Sam Speck, director of the state Department of Natural Resources, and Bruce Johnson, director of the state Department of Development.

Toledo Mayor Jack Ford, a former House Democratic Leader, said he didn't know much about Mr. Allison. “You almost had a sense when you were talking to [Mr. Hicks] that you were talking to Taft. He had a very keen political sense and he ran some interference. I don't know the relationship between the governor and this guy,” Mr. Ford said.

Scott Borgemenke, a Columbus consultant and lobbyist who worked for Mr. Taft in 1999 as chief policy adviser and director of cabinet affairs, said “replacing Brian Hicks is a difficult thing to do,” but Mr. Allison can pull it off.

Curt Steiner, who was Gov. George Voinovich's chief of staff from September, 1996, through 1998, said Mr. Allison's biggest challenges are helping Mr. Taft identify initiatives that can be “started and finished in the next three and a half years” and retain and recruit cabinet members. “He is no-nonsense, friendly, and unafraid,” Mr. Steiner said.

-JAMES DREW



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