Gov. John Kasich filled the leadership void at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources by changing the job title of Jim Zehringer, director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture. Zehringer was named the new director of ODNR last month replacing Scott Zody, the interim director. Zody took over last year when Dave Mustine was moved to energy manager of Jobs-Ohio Sept. 7.
Zehringer explained the switch like this, "When Dave Mustine was moved to shale energy development, there was some suggestion that I would move to ODNR. It makes perfect sense to have Dave Mustine oversee the development of that industry. He is one of the most knowledgeable experts in oil shale anywhere," says Zehringer. "A lot of the duties of agriculture and natural resources are shared," he adds.
Fred Shimp, former assistant director at ODA, now holds that title at ODNR and Andy Ware, deputy director and communications officer for ODA, now assumes the title of deputy director at ODNR. Ware will oversee ODNR's divisions of Coastal Management, Forestry, Geological Survey, Mineral Resources Management, Soil and Water Resources, and Recycling. Zody has been named the chief of wildlife. Veterinarian Tony Forshey has been named interim director of ODA and Howard Wise has been appointed assistant director of the agency.
Zehringer says this does not mean that a merger of ODNR and ODA is in the works. "I'm not saying that down the road something like that could be considered, but we're not looking at it now." However, the two entities are likely to share some resources now, he says. "Services like IT and human resources (might be shared). Or for example ODNR has a great Web master and ODA needs one. We may look at situations like that."
ODA is in very good hands, he says. "Food safety is the key focus and Tony Forshey and the employees at ODA have that aspect under control." Plans for a new director of ODA are moving fast, Zehringer says. "Whether that means Thanksgiving or Christmas, I can't say."
ODNR's immediate priorities are watershed management, shale development and wild animal control, according to Zehringer. "Various cabinet directors have been meeting about the Lake Erie Basin for several months now. Water quality is a key concern. We've had a better year with Grand Lake St. Marys but we are no where near claiming a victory on that front. And we have to make sure we do an environmentally responsible job of developing the oil shale in eastern Ohio and making sure there is no contamination from those wells."