On Saturday night, Democrats and progressives from across Ohio will gather at The Renaissance in downtown Columbus to pay tribute to former governor and congressman Ted Strickland.
The event, “A Tribute to Ted Strickland,” is being presented by Buckeye State policy think tank Innovation Ohio Saturday, Oct. 21 at 7 p.m.
A reception prior to the dinner will be hosted by Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish. The dinner will include special guest Governor Jay Inslee of Washington.
“We will look back on the life and career of Governor Ted Strickland, acknowledging the man behind the public service,” an announcement from Innovation Ohio said Friday.
In these trying times in America, few things in our great state could be more of a salve to our collective psyche than a tribute to Ted, a man whose compassion, thoughtfulness, and generosity of spirit should be an example to public servants for generations to come.
Ohio’s 68th governor was born in Lucasville, Ohio, the son of Carrie (Carver) and Charles Orville Strickland. He was one of nine children. A 1959 graduate of Northwest High School, Strickland went on to be the first member of his family to attend college.
He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in history with a minor in psychology from Asbury College in 1963. In 1966, he received a Master of Arts degree in guidance counseling from the University of Kentucky and a Master of Divinity from the Asbury Theological Seminary in 1967. Strickland then returned to the University of Kentucky to earn his Ph.D in counseling psychology in 1980.
At the University of Kentucky, the day after Christmas in 1973, Ted met Francis Smith, a fellow psychologist and fierce advocate for public education. They married in 1987.
Strickland worked as a counseling psychologist at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville. He was an administrator at a Methodist children’s home and was a professor of psychology at Shawnee State University. Strickland is an ordained minister in the United Methodist Church, and he served as a minister at a Methodist church in Portsmouth, Ohio.
He would go on to represent Ohio’s 6th U.S. Congressional District for six terms, winning election in 1992, 1996, 1998, 2000, 2002, and 2004.
In 2006, Ted won election as Ohio’s governor, winning 72 counties and over 60 percent of the vote – the fifth highest winning margin in Ohio gubernatorial history.
Throughout his career, Ted has been a fierce advocate for his constituents, starting with his time in Congress representing southeast Ohio. He fought to protect every job in the district and was able to secure funding for significant infrastructure projects, including the Portsmouth and Nelsonville bypasses.
Ted was instrumental in the passage of legislation establishing mental health courts that diverted those with mental illness from prison to treatment. He has described his vote against the Iraq War as the most important vote he has cast in his career. Ted also co-authored the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) in 1997. The program now provides health insurance for 9 million children.
Strickland’s first state budget as governor was passed with near-unanimous support (96-1) in 2007. Recognizing the unique value that the Third-Frontier Program provided to support innovative small businesses and Ohio’s economy, Ted not only kept his Republican predecessor’s marquee program, but championed it, gave Bob Taft credit for it, and vigorously fought for its renewal.
Putting the state on the path of combating climate change as well as positioning the state to transition to a clean energy economy, Ted championed and signed legislation with Republican support mandating that the state make renewable energy a major part of its energy portfolio.
In a crowning achievement, Ted was Ohio’s education governor. He prioritized public education and addressed Ohio’s school funding crisis head on.
Even as the global economic downturn impacted states across the country and especially Ohio, Ted enacted a plan aimed at solving Ohio’s unconstitutional school funding system. Under Gov. Strickland, and for the first time in state history, more state money funded Ohio’s public education system than local money.
Ohio’s public schools climbed to the 5th best in the country during Gov. Strickland’s tenure, according to Education Week. Sadly, Ohio’s ranking has now dropped back down to 23rd overall. But in office, Ted created the University System of Ohio and dramatically slowed the rising cost of college tuition, with Ohio having had the lowest percentage growth rate in college tuition and fees in the nation in academic year 2007-08.
During the Great Recession, Strickland protected Ohio as best he could. Job losses, sharp reductions in revenue, and a Republican-controlled Senate leading up to the 2010 gubernatorial election created serious challenges for Ohio. But Ted led the state through this crisis by advocating for federal state-stabilization funding, along with a balance of difficult funding cuts and a freeze on the final phase of the 2005 income tax cut that largely benefited the state’s highest income earners.
Before his term ended, the state unemployment rate had been dropping dramatically and Ohio was recovering from the recession faster than many other states. In fact, in 2010, Ohio had the 5th fastest growing economy. Had Ted not pursued a balanced approach and only made deep budget cuts, Ohio would still be digging itself out of the Great Recession.
Ted had a variety of other notable accomplishments in office. He created the Department of Veterans Services to better support Ohio’s returning military men and women. He established Connect Ohio to bring broadband internet to under-served rural Ohio. He created the Governor’s Achievement Gap Initiative, which focused on improving the education performance of ninth and tenth grade African Americans. The program increased the percentage of students that advanced to the next grade by 18 percent and dramatically improved OGT test scores.
Strickland also appointed a diverse group of cabinet directors. Half of Ted’s cabinet directors were women and 12 percent of his cabinet directors were people of color. In 2007, Strickland appointed Mary Jo Hudson as the director of the Ohio Department of Insurance, Ohio’s first director of a state agency from the LGBT community.
This is merely a broad overview of the impressive legacy Ted Strickland has in Ohio, and no summary can do justice to the compassion, humanity and caring that he brought to his time in public service. We offer him a hearty salute as he is honored this weekend and thank him for his many years of outstanding service.