Westerville Keeps Close Watch On New Ohio Governor.

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For the first time in a generation the top elected official in state government has strong ties to Central Ohio. Governor John Kasich is a longtime resident of Westerville and the northeast suburban community is keeping close watch as the new governor starts his his term. WOSU’s Tom Borgerding reports.

“I think its real nice to have someone from like a really small, kind of close to home, to me, be the governor.”

17 year old Sheila Hundley says she’s too busy to pay much attention to politics but she’s glad Westerville will get a bit more attention as the home of the new governor. Kasich cut his political teeth in Westerville when he won election to the state senate at age 26. Four years later, at age 30 he won election to the first of nine terms in the U-S House of Representatives. Now, the ‘Kasich Collection’ of congressional papers and memorabilia is housed in two rooms on the second floor of the Westerville Public Library. Beth Weinhardt oversees the Kasich Collection.

“We’ve had political science classes at Otterbein use it. So its a wealth of information, hopefully for young people to use as they study political science.”

Weinhardt says the memorabilia in the collection includes items used or given to the former congressman during the budget battles of the 1990s when he served as House Budget Committee chairman.

“There’s also something down here, the Kasich gavel, and its actually an axe.”

Across state street from the library, small business owner, Tam Vo, a Vietnamese immigrant, is watching Governor Kasich’s inauguration on a small television set inside her Sewing Shoppe.

“I think that he’s a very good man and he is a nice gentleman. I really do like him very much.”

Vo says she’s never met Kasich but would welcome such a meeting. The owner of the Westerville Grille, Rick Stevens, though, says Kasich’s inauguration day is a “sad day” for Westerville. Stevens says he anticipates huge cuts in some programs and services during the coming four years. “Hopefully he can figure out how to turn the economy of Ohio around and bring jobs back to us. But, so far, all his plans, all I hear is cut, cut, cut, cut, cut. I haven’t heard anything about lets move forward, let’s be progressive.”

Michael LeHew was exiting a shoe repair shop when he stopped to talk about Ohio’s new governor. Lehew says Kasich is taking on a big responsibility in the state budget deficit.

“Sometimes we inherit things we don’t like but we have to deal with them. I’m hoping he can do the job without hurting or effecting services to the people.”

Lehew says he was encouraged by Kasich’s change of mind when he moved the official inauguration from a private setting to the state senate chambers.

Westerville North high school students Alexis Mastrandreou and Haley Gorsuch also took note of Kasich’s Westerville ties.

Gorsuch:”I think it will help the city alot knowing that he knows Westerville and he knows the things that’s been going on in Westerville so he’ll help those things like right away. It’ll be on the top, well it won’t be on the top of his list but it will be close up there. Mastrandreou: Because he has family, friends and they can give him great input what they feel and what they concern about and so he can try, at least, his best to make changes.”

Hanby elementary school teacher Miriam Herrick though is taking a more wait and see stance as to whether Westerville’s new status as hometown to the governor will help the city’s reputation.

“It depends on what this Governor does for the state of Ohio as to how it is going to reflect on Westerville. If he does a good job and people are happy with it then its going to bode well for Westerville, if not, then I think it will have a detrimental effect.”

Tom Borgerding WOSU News