Ohio governor names first minority to previous all-White Cabinet

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by Ann Sanner
Associated Press Writer

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP)—Ohio Gov. John Kasich on Feb. 2 added the first minority to his previous all-White Cabinet, a move that followed mounting criticism that he was not doing enough to diversify the group of people who supply him with key policy advice.

“As I’ve said all along, diversity is a journey—not a destination,” Kasich said a news conference where he announced Michael Colbert as director of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

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WELCOME TO OHIO—Ohio Department of Transportation crews add the names of new Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor to the welcome sign above the William Harsha Bridge near Aberdeen, Ohio on Jan. 14. (AP Photo/The Ledger Independent, Terry Prather.)

Colbert, who is Black, is the new Republican governor’s 22nd Cabinet appointment. Kasich’s other nominees are all White, which had been a first for the state since 1962. Colbert had previously served as the social welfare agency’s interim director; his appointment, and the others that Kasich has made, requires confirmation by the state Senate.

Former Job and Family Services director Douglas Lumpkin, who is also Black, was hired earlier this week by Secretary of State Jon Husted.

Black lawmakers last week demanded that the governor name minorities to his top posts. They set up an e-mail address for qualified candidates to submit resumes for the jobs.

The Ohio Legislative Black Caucus and other Democratic lawmakers had taken issue with comments Kasich had made to a newspaper that he had wanted to put together “the best possible team” and doesn’t focus on such “metrics” as race or age. They called for the Senate to reject the appointments.

When asked whether he was responding to pressure, Kasich said, “Michael earned this job. Michael didn’t get this job because of his race. I’m excited that he happens to be an African-American. But he didn’t get it because of that; he got it because of his experience.”

Kasich said diversity offers a different point of view, and he expects more people with diverse backgrounds to join his administration.

“But I’m always going to search for the best and the brightest, and those that share my philosophy,” Kasich said. “We haven’t seen the end of efforts inside of our administration to find quality people who share my philosophy, who bring more diversity.”

A spokesman for Kasich has said the governor offered two separate Cabinet posts to two African-Americans, who declined the jobs. Spokesman Rob Nichols has declined to give their names.

The president of the Black caucus praised the appointment, but said the group still wants to meet with Kasich to discuss issues which are important to the state’s minorities.

“While this is a first step toward creating an environment in state government that embraces inclusion and diversity, it certainly does not resolve concerns by the OLBC that the governor’s top advisers still do not reflect the diversity of Ohio,” said Rep. Sandra Williams, a Cleveland Democrat, in a written statement.

Colbert’s appointment also comes a day after Kasich announced Lynn Stevens would serve as his director of minority affairs. The administration announced her appointment at the start of Black History Month, though she had been in the role for about three weeks.

Kasich still has several Cabinet posts to fill. He has not yet named a lottery director or head of the Emergency Medicaid Management Administration, an agency the previous Gov. Ted Strickland created by executive order whose fate under Kasich is not known. He will also eventually be able to replace Chancellor Eric Fingerhut.

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