Thursday, July 17, 2003

Taft picks Jonathan Allison to serve as his chief of staff

By Jordan Gentile
Enquirer Columbus Bureau

COLUMBUS - Gov. Bob Taft on Wednesday named longtime aide Jonathan Allison his new chief of staff, making him perhaps Ohio's most powerful unelected official.

The promotion came as no surprise. Allison, 36, is Taft's deputy chief of staff and was his communications director when the governor served as Ohio's secretary of state. He will replace Taft's Brian Hicks.

"Jon's wealth of experience in administrative, legal, public affairs and communications makes him the ideal candidate," Taft said.

Hicks enjoyed influence over the governor's political and legislative decisions that some political observers say is rare at the state level.

Taft's office announced Tuesday that Hicks planned to form his own government consulting company and that he would retire by the end of the month.

Asked whether he would interpret his role as broadly as Hicks had, Allison said "in time, I hope to have that kind of influence." He said he has made no plans to make changes as chief of staff.

Taft said Allison's experiences in both public service and private enterprise make him especially qualified in an era when government increasingly relies on the private sector.

Previously, Allison was in charge of two government-consulting firms, including eGovNet, a Columbus-based company that helps state organizations communicate and provide services through the Internet.

Allison began his career as an assistant Columbus city prosecutor and later served as director of labor relations for the Ohio Chamber of Commerce in 1994 and 1995. He received his law degree from Ohio State University.

"I'm truly humbled by this experience I'm about to undertake," Allison said.

He lives with his wife and two children in Hilliard, just east of Columbus.

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