By any measure, Ohio Board of Re- gents Chancellor Jim Petro has been an outstanding public servant. Petro’s 28 years in government have been marked by a record of honesty and hard work, and a commitment to doing good for the people of Ohio.
He has served as a city councilman and law director for Rocky River, a suburb of Cleveland, a state legislator, state auditor for two terms, attorney general and chancellor since March 2011. He will step down on Feb. 1.
Gov. John Kasich, who appointed his Republican colleague to be the state’s top higher education official, offered this assessment of Petro’s tenure that defines his performance in other positions in government:
“I appreciate Jim’s work to help our administration bring valuable improvements to the way Ohioans prepare for careers after they leave high school. He’s helped change a system that needed changing and has been a committed advocate for Ohioans of all ages who want to learn, upgrade their skills and make their futures brighter.”
Even though Petro is a Republican his ability to attract Democratic votes in hard-core regions like the Mahoning Valley is a testament to his skill as a politician and his commitment to service as an officeholder.
The residents of the Mahoning Valley got to know Petro not only through his work as the state auditor, during which he launched several important performance audits of local governments, but also through his determination to help cities like Youngstown deal with seemingly intractable crime problems when he was attorney general.
In 2006, Petro sought the Republican nomination for governor against then Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell.
We endorsed Petro and said this:
“After carefully analyzing each candidate’s economic plan, we believe Petro has developed a strategy that is not only realistic, but will achieve its goals without major disruption.
“That, along with his wide-ranging experience in government and his willingness to rock the boat, if necessary, makes Petro the preferred choice for the Republican nomination.”
We noted at the time that Ohio was at a crossroad and whoever took over as governor Jan. 1, 2007, would have to deal with the very real problems of a significant loss in high-paying manufacturing jobs, the uncertain future of the automotive industry, an unconstitutional funding system for public schools, decreasing state support for higher education and the state’s late entry in the high-technology sweepstakes.
The outgoing governor was Republican Bob Taft.
A rare failure
Petro was unsuccessful in his bid for the GOP nomination. Blackwell ultimately lost to Democrat Ted Strickland, who served one four-year term before losing to Kasich.
As chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents, Petro has left his mark, including designating the Center of Excellence in International Business at Youngstown State University’s Williamson College of Business Administration as Ohio Center of Excellence in Cultural and Societal Transformation.
According to the Columbus Dispatch, Petro and his wife, Nancy, who have written a book, “False Justice,” plan to focus on issues relating to the wrongful conviction of individuals.
That’s not surprising, given that Petro has spent his career in politics working to right the many wrongs in government.