The scene in the Rotunda of the Ohio Statehouse Tuesday morning looked like it could have been transplanted straight from the wedding of two large families. In some ways the reality of that analogy isn’t that far off.
Surrounded by his cabinet, Governor Mike DeWine, with his wife Fran by his side, smiled broadly as photographers snapped several pictures of the group.
It took several minutes to get to that point as the photographers and staffers put people into their places for the photo, switching one cabinet member several times before finding the perfect spot for her to stand.
DeWine joked later, the number of people in the picture rivaled that of his own family pictures, with all of the grandchildren.
Following the group photo was a series of individual photos with DeWine and the cabinet members posing for a ceremonial swearing-in, with their families present.
Well organized each cabinet member’s department was called up in alphabetical order.
After all the photo opportunities were finished the real work began and DeWine held his first cabinet meeting.
For weeks, those in political circles have marveled at DeWine’s choices for his cabinet; calling them diverse and strong.
Some have even go so far as to say that the choices represent a change in tone in contrast to the previous administration.
Diversity is something State Representative Niraj Antani can appreciate. He proudly points out that he is the only minority Republican elected official at the state or federal level in Ohio.
“I certainly appreciate this governor’s commitment to diversity, to gender diversity, to racial diversity, but also to thought diversity,” said Antani.
All of those things are present in DeWine’s cabinet. It is made up of men and women with various backgrounds many of which overlap into multiple areas DeWine wants to address.
DeWine has expressed his desire to glean their experiential knowledge when he needs to make important decisions that may not be directly related to their department.
Prior to starting his first cabinet meeting, DeWine told reporters what he expects from his cabinet.
“Cabinet members should have the attitude that we’re the servant of the people. We need to understand that they are constituents,” said DeWine. “We’re gonna talk about, you know, being responsive to the public.”
None of that will be news to the cabinet members as DeWine says he made sure they were aware of that when he interviewed them.
He also says he plans to challenge them to find ways to innovate in their departments. If that means listening to the everyday workers ideas, which he says many times are great ideas, then so be it.
The end result for Ohio could be fascinating to watch unfold.
Some may find DeWine’s decisions to be incongruent with how they view partisan politics operating, especially given the time we find ourselves in now, however those that have worked for DeWine in the past are not surprised which how he has built his cabinet.
“He really is focused primarily on assembling the best team possible to deliver for the state of Ohio,” said Kimberly Hall, the new Director of the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services.
Hall worked for DeWine at the Ohio Attorney General’s Office previously.
Someone who has never worked for DeWine directly is the new Ohio Adjutant General John Harris.
Harris is a career military man, serving in the Ohio Army National Guard since he enlisted in 1981.
In his view the cabinet DeWine has built is strong.
“It’s a strong cabinet because those people on that cabinet were given the opportunity to be their best, to do their best to represent the people of Ohio and as a result you get the cabinet that we have here today,” said Harris.
It would be easy to repay political favors and generous donors with key positions of influence and it appears right now as if that is not the route DeWine has charted.
“Governor DeWine has a history of searching, and searching, for the very best people to serve him; and serve the state of Ohio,” said Dorothy Pelanda, the new Director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture.
As a result, there is optimism that Ohioans regardless of party affiliation, economic status, gender, age, and creed will benefit from these decisions.