Calling Dayton his “home,” newly elected Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine on Wednesday came back to the Miami Valley to tell leaders about his priorities in office — and to appoint an ex-colonel from Centerville to his new military cabinet position.
DeWine, who also has deep connections to the Dayton region, reaffirmed his broader goals as governor in front of the Miami Valley’s top leaders. He said his office owes Ohio citizens “honesty and candor.” After announcing the appointment of retired Air Force colonel Joseph Zeis Jr. to a new military cabinet position, he spoke about key issues his administration plans to tackle:
• Budgetary shortfalls with the Ohio Department of Transportation could cause enduring problems for Ohio roadways, DeWine said. There is a $1 billion gap in the ODOT budget, DeWine said in his speech, making it impossible for the department to maintain infrastructure and conduct new projects.
• DeWine’s administration plans on investing more funds into early childhood development. Ohio’s programs for home visiting services — targeting at-risk and first-time mothers — are underfunded, reaching less than 4 percent of eligible families, he said in his speech. “We owe it these kids,” he said. “… It’s the right thing to do.”
• He lauded the Dayton community for its work to address the opioid epidemic, but he said there is still work to do across the state. He introduced a 12-point action plan to help the state overcome the drug epidemic last year. He said drug trends are always morphing, and that it will continue to be an issue in the coming years. “I can’t tell you what the opioid problem looks like in four or five years.”
• The military cabinet position — a role that will be “vitally important” to the defense community and economy in Ohio.
Zeis will take a newly created post in the DeWine administration to protect and position Ohio’s military installations and assets, DeWine said at the Dayton Development Coalition’s annual meeting.
Currently an attorney with Sebaly Shillito + Dyer, Zeis has a deep resume in aviation and aerospace law, including drones and unmanned aeronautical vehicles, connections to the Dayton Development Coalition, and a 26-year career in the Air Force as a pilot and acquisitions program manager. He has more than 1,800 flight hours in more than 26 different aircraft, according to his biography on the law firm site.
In front of Dayton’s top leaders and officials from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, DeWine said Zeis was the best person to do the job — a role that will require a deep understanding of military installations in Ohio and the local communities they impact. Zeis and DeWine were set to visit Lima after the DDC meeting, where the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center — known also as the Lima Army Tank Plant — manufactures and works on combat vehicles and weapons systems.
“I promised when I became governor, I would create a cabinet level military liaison who would report directly to me on our vitally important military bases across the state,” DeWine said in a statement. “Colonel Zeis has a tremendous level of expertise, and I am very pleased he is serving in our administration.
After retiring from the Air Force, Zeis worked at the Dayton Development Coalition from 2007 to 2013 where he was responsible for the identification, facilitation, and implementation of aerospace and technology-related opportunities to support business development and expansion in the Dayton Region. He lives in Centerville.
Jeff Hoagland, president and CEO of the DDC, said DeWine and Husted are intimately aware of Dayton and its history, an asset for the region moving forward. He said the coalition is focused this year on attracting and keeping businesses in sectors including aerospace and defense industries as well as advanced manufacturing.
“Payroll is also going to be important,” he said. “We want more high-paying jobs,” pointing to the new F-35 mission poised to bring 400 jobs to Wright-Patterson in the next few years.
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