People to watch in the New Year

Jan 1, 2013

There are people who bear watching in 2013, because of their influence and the impact they will have on the region – whether in politics, government, education, entertainment or the arts. Here are some of them:

Otto Budig:

Otto Budig
Credit University of Cincinnati

The long-time Cincinnati business leader has taken on an enormous project as the head of the Music Hall Revitalization Company, which has signed a 75-year lease with the city of Cincinnati to restore and maintain the landmark building. There are no details on what the company plans to do, but Budig said recently the renovation will give Music Hall “the wow factor” – with more comfortable seating, greater accessibility and expanded restroom capacity. The renovation has been scaled back to $70 million and Budig said all the money will have to be raised before the project can begin. Once the money is in place, Music Hall will be closed for 17 months. Budig is a member of Cincinnati Public Radio’s board of directors.

Sherry Carran:

Sherry Carran
Credit City of Covington

The 67-year-old Cincinnati native – a resident of northern Kentucky for more than 40 years – will be Covington’s first female mayor after winning the November election in northern Kentucky’s largest city. A professional architect, Carran was elected to city commission in 2006 and has been serving as mayor pro tem. Carran told the online magazine Soapbox recently that she wants to come into office and set a collaborative tone at City Hall and to work on getting the city’s zoning code in order to make it easier for people and companies who want to invest in and develop their properties in Covington. She is a supporter of the Gateway Community and Technical College Urban Campus master plan, which she says will bring vitality to the heart of the city.

Shin-Soo Choo:

Shin-Soo Choo
Credit Keith Allison / flickr

The 2012 Cincinnati Reds were the National League Central Division champions in 2012, but they were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the San Francisco Giants, who went on to win the World Series. The Reds went into the off-season looking for a lead-off hitter who could get them over the hump in 2013 until super-prospect Billy Hamilton is ready for the major leagues; and they found one in Choo. Choo, a South Korean-born player, spent most of his eight year major league career in Cleveland, where he mostly played the corner outfield positions and had a more-than-respectable .381 on-base percentage. The Reds sent struggling center fielder Drew Stubbs and shortstop prospect Didi Gregorius to the Indians, who promptly traded Gregorius to Arizona.  Choo will be the starting center fielder for the Reds come Opening Day; and the team is hoping he can help carry them even deeper into the play-offs in 2013 – hopefully, to the World Series.

John Cranley:

John Cranley
Credit Provided

The 38-year-old former Cincinnati City Council member is one of two announced candidates for Cincinnati mayor in 2013 – the other being Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls. Cranley, who grew up in Price Hill and lives now in Hyde Park, was on council from 2001 to 2007, where he chaired council’s finance committee. In 2000 and 2006, the Democrat ran unsuccessful campaigns to unseat Rep. Steve Chabot in the 1st Congressional District. He is a vocal opponent of the city’s streetcar project and criticized council for taking millions in Tax Increment Financing money that was to go toward completion of the riverfront park at The Banks and shifting it to the streetcar project for the purpose of moving utility lines.

Kevin Kline:

Kevin Kline
Credit Rock Ohio Caesars LLL

 No, not the Hollywood actor. This Kevin Kline is the 42-year-old senior vice president and general manager of the Horseshoe Casino in Cincinnati, which is set to open March 4 with 1,700 employees – 90 percent of whom the casino’s owner, Rock Ohio Caesars LLL, has committed to hiring from the Cincinnati metropolitan area. Kline will oversee an operation long anticipated and for which the city and the region has high hopes – it is projected to generate $300 million in revenue a year, with one third of that going toward tax revenue for state and local governments, including the Cincinnati school district. Kline has experience in the gaming industry – his last job was vice president and assistant general manager at the Horseshoe Casino Hammond, near Chicago.

Mark Mallory:

Mark Mallory
Credit Michael Keating

2013 is Mallory’s eighth and final year as mayor of Cincinnati, a period where he has consistently kept together a council majority for his agenda – particularly the construction of a streetcar linking downtown, Over-the-Rhine and the Uptown area. What is next for Mallory? Will he step aside early and allow Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, who is an announced candidate to replace him, run as an incumbent. Is there a position for Mallory in the Obama administration? Or does his future include a run for statewide office in 2014? Regardless, it is likely we have not heard the last of Mark Mallory.

Thomas Massie:

Thomas Massie
Credit Provided

 The 41-year-old from Garrison, Ky., was the judge-executive of Lewis County when he seemingly came out of nowhere last spring to win a crowded GOP primary for Kentucky’s 4th Congressional District seat, which was up for grabs after Rep. Geoff Davis suddenly announced he would retire from Congress.  Massie won with considerable tea party support;  and money that poured into the district from  national conservative groups like the Club for Growth, Young Americans for Liberty and former GOP House leader Dick Armey’s FreedomWorks. He easily won the GOP primary with a double-digit lead over State Rep. Alecia Webb-Edgington and Boone County Judge-Executive Gary Moore. The general election was a breeze, soundly defeating Democrat Bill Adkins in the sprawling, heavily-Republican Northern Kentucky District. He will have a leg up on seniority over most of the freshman class, having been sworn into office a week after the November election. Massie can be expected to be a consistent voice for tea party principles of less spending and smaller government.

Geoffrey Mearns:

Geoffrey Mearns
Credit WVXU

The 53-year-old Mearns – who was provost of Cleveland State University- came to Northern Kentucky University as its new president in August, after the retirement of long-time president James Vortruba. He is following a period of enormous and rapid growth for the Highland Heights campus. His greatest challenges in the new year will be the fiscal restraints put on universities in the Commonwealth by state government in Frankfort and collaborating with other area universities to make the metropolitan region an attractive destination for students from outside the immediate area – a collaboration he has said will benefit Northern Kentucky University.

Santa Ono:

Santa Ono
Credit University of Cincinnati

 The 50-year-old professor of pediatrics and biology had been provost and vice president for academic affairs at the University of Cincinnati since 2010 when, in August, President Gregory H. Williams abruptly resigned. Ono became UC’s 28th president in October and was recently signed to a 10-year contract with an annual base salary of $525,000 a year. The university’s board of trustees said they valued Ono’s work in academics, fundraising, athletics and athletic conference realignment and he can be expected to be a passionate advocate for the university, both at the local and national levels.

Roxanne Qualls:

Roxanne Qualls
Credit Michael Keating

She was mayor of the city of Cincinnati in the 1990s, when the mayor’s office was essentially a ceremonial post. Now she is running and running hard for the job in 2013. It is a mayor’s office which, since 2001, has had more power and influence. Qualls is vice mayor now; and she has the backing of the present mayor, Mark Mallory, who is term-limited out. And, as chair of council’s budget and finance committee, she has presided over some difficult and contentious decisions to fill the annual gaps between the city’s revenues and its expenses. Qualls is a passionate advocate of the streetcar project, which she says will spur economic growth and, eventually, help put the city on sound financial footing.

Tommy Tuberville:

Tommy Tuberville
Credit UC Magazine

It seemed like only hours after head football coach Butch Jones abandoned the University of Cincinnati for the Tennessee Volunteers when UC athletic director Whit Babcock announced hiring of Tuberville, a veteran college football coach who spent the past three years at Texas Tech. Babcock knew Tuberville from their days at Auburn. He takes over a program that went 9-3 this year, but was passed over for inclusion in the Atlantic Coast Conference and is still in the dwindling Big East. Tuberville’s job is to produce a winning football team that will fill Nippert Stadium, which is a rare occurrence. He has a good track record – 130 wins and 77 losses as a head coach.

Brad Wenstrup:

Brad Wenstrup
Credit Wenstrup for Congress

Many Republicans had tried to unseat Rep. Jean Schmidt in a Republican primary in Ohio’s 2nd Congressional District, but it was Wenstrup – a podiatrist and Iraq war veteran – who actually did it, ousting Schmidt in the March primary and ending her seven-year run in Congress. He won the general election handily against a little-known Democratic opponent and will take his seat in Congress Jan. 7. Wenstrup may not be cut out of the same mold as many of his GOP colleagues on Capitol Hill. He is one of 16 GOP freshmen who did not sign the “no new taxes” pledge demanded of GOP congressional  candidates by Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform. He is, though, a self-described fiscal conservative and is likely to have close ties to his fellow southern Ohio Republican, House Speaker John Boehner of West Chester.