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Obermiller continues climb up the ladder with new state post

By DON HOHLER • Updated Sep 15, 2016 at 12:19 PM

COLUMBUS — Gary Obermiller has been elevated to the post of assistant director of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. He now serves at the pleasure of Gov. John Kasich.

“I am both humbled and honored by the appointment,” the 52-year-old Western Reserve graduate said. “It is unusual for a state employee who has moved through the agency ranks to move into a political position. Usually the director, which in this case is James Zehringer, and his assistant come up with the administration. It’s a bit different in my case.”

Obermiller was Zehringer’s choice when his assistant director took another assignment. Obermiller left his previous post as a deputy director one month ago. He held the title of “Chief” prior to his advancement to deputy director.

“My job is now about leadership, setting policy and making decisions for the agency,” Obermiller said. “Previously, as a deputy director I supervised the division of parks and division of watercraft with those two chiefs reporting to me. Now, I have those deputy directors reporting to me and I also have a number of other offices answering to me such as our human resources section and the recreation section and that includes wildlife.

“I got a call from Director Zehringer one evening last month asking if I would be interested and if I was, he would set up a meeting to further discuss the transition,” Obermiller said. “We met and I told him I was interested and a second meeting was set up with the governor’s staff. I had known members of Gov. Kasich’s team from being down at the statehouse on some high-level meetings so it was not like strangers were meeting. But, essentially, it was a job interview. The bottom line was I was approved as Director Zehringer’s choice.”

To say Obermiller has made the most from his degree from Hocking College would be an understatement.

He started his career with the state with shovel in hand but soon transitioned to law enforcement at a number of nature preserves in Huron, Erie, Ottawa and Media counties.

His first major appointment was to that of state director of natural area law Enforcement, a hefty undertaking considering that enforcement area covers 134 preserves. But  when that program suffered budget cuts, it would be moved under the umbrella of the Ohio state parks. Obermiller was quickly appointed to head that agency.

He was there one year before he was again tapped, this time to head all law enforcement for the Department of Natural Resources. He now, for the first time, held the title of “Chief” of five agencies — wildlife, forest, natural areas, parks and watercraft. He also represented the ODNR at meeting where Homeland Security was discussed.

But, when he was requested in 2012 to return to the parks agency, he took the demotion and moved back north as regional state parks manager overseeing the state’s 74 state parks. He held that post for one year and then applied for the governor-appointed chief of watercraft position, getting the appointment over a number of nationwide candidates.

Ten months later in July of 2013, Obermiller got still another call, this time asked to take the chief of state parks and deputy director of watercraft position, replacing a retiring Glenn Cobb. At that point he had 29 years of state service and was one year from possible retirement.

“A substantial raise,” was how Obermiller defined his new pay grade. “It puts me in a better position to provide for my family and aids my retirement package.”

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