“I’d never in a million years thought I’d be elected to the house, let alone elected Speaker,” Speaker of the Ohio House Cliff Rosenberger told the Campaign Battlegrounds class.
At 35-years-old, Speaker Rosenberger is the third-youngest Speaker in the history of the Ohio House and is currently the youngest Speaker in the country. Having just returned from a trip to China with other Speakers from around the country, Ohio House Speaker Rosenberger put his career trajectory into context describing his humble political beginnings in Clarksville, Ohio, a town with a population of 450.
“My grandfather always told me, it’s important to give back to the community. He made me run a town parade in Clarksville, and I thought ‘How could anyone be against anything you do in a parade?” he told the class. Speaker Rosenberger learned quickly that even innocent exercises in civic engagement like parades become a discussion of resource allocation.
Speaker Rosenberger spent 12 years in the Air National Guard, interned with Karl Rove in the Bush White House and graduated from Wright State University. He was elected to the Ohio House of Representatives in 2010, representing Wilmington, Hillsboro and Waverly in southern Ohio. He assumed the office of Speaker in 2015 having been unanimously elected.
“You, as Speaker, are not only the head of the party for the House, but you also become a father, a wedding counselor and a lot of other things. You don’t choose who you serve within the Legislature,” he told the class. “However, 65 to 70 percent of my time is spent doing things administratively.”
Speaker Rosenberger suggested consensus and coalition building were of particular importance to his governing style. “You can go out and fight like heck with somebody, but it’s important to sit down with people too,” he said.
On the question of legislative redistricting reform, the Speaker said, “I think [Issue 1] makes the districts fairer. You’ve got an angry electorate – part of the reason is people don’t see their representatives enough.”
On the eve of Gov. Kasich’s State of the State address, where he called for redistricting reform for congressional districts, Speaker Rosenberger told the class, “We are looking at congressional redistricting now. We were waiting for the Supreme Court to make a decision in the Arizona case, and they did. However, comparing state redistricting to federal redistricting is like comparing apples to oranges.”
Ohio House Speaker Rosenberger also noted the similarities and differences of Ohio’s regions.
“In Southeast Ohio, there is a lot of rural poverty. They have a lot of food deserts. For instance, there is no grocery store in Vinton County. In Southwest Ohio, there are infrastructure concerns. Upwards of 150,000 vehicles a day travel across the bridge between Ohio and Kentucky – so there are infrastructure concerns and national security concerns as well. Northeast Ohio has a strong labor tradition with both Democratic leaning and Republican leaning unions. In Northwest Ohio, you have a similar dynamic with labor, but there are also questions on renewable energy out there with the wind farms. Central Ohio, the Columbus area, is a growing and modernizing town. LGBT issues and acceptance are important to the citizens there,” Speaker Rosenberger said.