By Joshua Benton
Blade Columbus Bureau
COLUMBUS — One of Governor Voinovich’s longtime aides won’t be following him to Washington after all.
James Conrad, who heads the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, was named chief of staff for Senator-elect Voinovich more than two weeks ago. But he declined the post yesterday to remain in state government.
“I’ve dedicated my career to public service, and what I enjoy most about it is working at a level where I am close to the public,” Mr. Conrad said in a statement. He would not consent to an interview.
The change of heart came to light when Governor-elect Bob Taft announced he would reappoint Mr. Conrad as chief executive officer and administrator of BWC.
“I am confident that under his guidance the agency will continue to build upon the successes it as enjoyed during the past three years,” Mr. Taft said.
Mr. Voinovich immediately named Ted Hollingsworth as his new Senate chief of staff. Mr. Hollingsworth has headed Ohio’s Washington office since 1993.
In a prepared statement, Mr. Voinovich said Mr. Conrad came to the realization “that management responsibilities in the Senate were not what he anticipated. After careful review, Jim felt more comfortable remaining in Ohio.”
Mr. Conrad has been a key adviser to Mr. Voinovich, from his years as mayor of Cleveland through his two terms as governor. In the 1990s, he has led four cabinet-level state offices: the Ohio Department of Administrative Services, the Ohio Bureau of Employment Services, the Ohio Department of Human Services, and BWC.
Mr. Hollingsworth, 36, has represented Ohio offices in Washington since 1987, when he went to work in the office of then-U.S. Rep. Mike DeWine. In 1991, he moved to the Ohio Washington office, which lobbies for the state’s interests in federal government.
He is a 1984 graduate of Haverford College and received a master’s degree from Columbia University in 1986.
Taft spokesman Brett Buerck said most Voinovich cabinet members will not be rehired, and that the governor-elect “would prefer to start with a new team” when he takes office.
He said that during the weekend Mr. Taft began calling Voinovich cabinet members, telling some they will not be reappointed and asking others to reapply.
He said Mr. Taft has not decided whether Commerce Director Donna Owens, a former Toledo mayor, will be retained.
Mr. Conrad is the first cabinet appointment Mr. Taft has made, Mr. Buerck said.
During the fall campaign, Mr. Taft said he would ask for the resignations of Voinovich cabinet members so he could to start with a new team. But the transition team has since learned that cabinet members’ terms end when Mr. Voinovich leaves office, so resignations are unnecessary, Mr. Buerck said.