Monday, January 11, 1999

First Guy's reign short but historic

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The First Guy of Ohio won't miss the perks that go along with his position.

        That's because there are no perks to miss.

        Even though he made history as Ohio's very first First Guy, as the husband of Nancy Hollister — the state's very first female governor — Jeff Hollister has never been asked to give a speech or hold the scissors at a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

        He has no reserved parking space at the Statehouse, no office and nary a duty to perform. He doesn't even have an official title.

        “I've tried to get people to call me "Sir,' ”' the First Guy told me. “But nobody will. Not the people I work with. Not even my 20-month-old granddaughter. I guess this is a job that gets all the respect it's due.”

        The First Guy might be getting the Rodney Dangerfield treatment because he's a short-timer. Nancy Hollister's term as governor ended today. She spent 11 days in office, keeping it warm for Bob Taft.

        As the state's lieutenant governor, Nancy Hollister succeeded Gov. George Voinovich on New Year's Eve. He resigned to go to his new job in the U.S. Senate. By the close of business today, she, too, will have a new job, completing an unexpired term in the Ohio House.

        The First Guy stood by his wife's side when she took the oath of office to become Ohio's 66th governor. The occasion was the only official function he attended during his wife's term.

        “I had to act more dignified at the ceremony than I normally do,” he said. “I was sitting next to Gov. Voinovich. So, I had to sit up a little straighter, smile and make sure my socks weren't drooping.

        “And, I couldn't make any snide remarks, as I am wont to do at those things.”

        The First Guy missed his wife's lone bill-signing ceremony. He had to get back to work at the family business, a paint-making plant in Marietta.

        So, he didn't see her autograph a piece of legislation preserving farmland and then hand out all the pens she used for the history-making moment when the state's first female governor signed a bill.

        A state's chief executive usually keeps one pen. Members of the U.S. Senate pocketed the pens they used last week when they signed up to be the jurors for Bill Clinton's impeachment trial. Gov. Hollister should have held onto at least one ballpoint.

        The First Guy excused his wife's mistake with two words: “rookie's error.”

        Jeff Hollister tried to stay on his best behavior throughout his wife's term. As the husband of the state's first female governor, if only for 11 days, the First Guy knew his every move and deed would be scrutinized. This is history. He didn't want to mess up.

        “So, I didn't do a thing.”

        He played it safe because no one gave him any pointers on how to act in his new role. There wasn't enough time to take a crash course from a finishing school for governors' spouses.

        “I was kinda hoping Denis Thatcher would call,” the First Guy said. He admires how Denis Thatcher stood in the shadows while his wife, Margaret Thatcher, occupied the spotlight as Great Britain's gutsy prime minister.

        Denis Thatcher never called. Matter of fact, the First Guy's phone was pretty quiet.

        “You're the only reporter who has contacted me in years,” he said, laughing at his lack of fame.

        The First Guy has a good sense of humor. So does his wife. She told me her sense of humor helped her keep the importance of her term in perspective. She knows it's been historic, but brief.

        “It's not a chapter in Ohio history,” the governor joked. “It's a page.”

        The First Guy also knows his place in history.

        “I learned it a long time ago,” he told me.

        “It's one step behind and two

        Enquirer columnist Cliff Radel can be reached at 768-8379; fax 768-8340.

        Columnist Cliff Radel can be reached at 768-8379; fax 768-8340.