Is Gov. Strickland eyeing U.S. auto czar post?


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by Bertram de Souza   | 306 entries"> Untitled document

While Youngstown Mayor Jay Williams continues his quest for the high profile U.S. auto czar position, another name has surfaced — albeit unofficially — that could make for an interesting contest: Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland.

The governor lost his bid for a second four-year term in the November general election and since then speculation has been rampant about his future. A person who had been involved in the campaign called to say that word in Columbus has Strickland going to Washington as the auto czar. When it was pointed out that Mayor Williams has met with officials of the Obama administration about the job and that FBI background checks have reportedly begun, the political insider suggested Strickland may have an inside track.

“I know you had originally blogged about the mayor being interested and I thought you’d like to know there could be someone else eyeing the position,” the insider said.

It’s possible the information about Strickland is being shared to gauge public reaction to the governor going to Washington after he leaves office in January.

Details about Williams being approached by Obama administration officials to fill the position of director of recovery for auto communities and workers was revealed in this space several weeks ago.

The position was created by President Barack Obama, who appointed Ed Montgomery in March 2009 to guide the recovery of the auto industry. Montgomery has left to become dean of public policy at Georgetown University.

Auto czar is a high profile position designed to ensure that displaced employees and struggling communities have access to federal stimulus money and assistance for job re-training and other such initiatives. Williams would be in a position to advocate for the Mahoning Valley and to ensure that the General Motors Corp.’s Lordstown assembly plant is on the White House’s radar.

A presidential appointment would be a big deal — for Williams and for the Mahoning Valley. If an offer is made, he will accept because the positives outweigh the negatives. However, if Strickland is a serious contender, then all bets may be off.

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