GALLIPOLIS — Bidwell resident and State Representative of the 93rd District Ryan Smith recently spoke about his bid for the Ohio General Assembly’s Speaker of the House position.
Currently in the House, one-third of the representatives are Democrat and the other two-thirds are Republican. Cliff Rosenberger currently serves as the Speaker of the House. There are 99 members in the House and the majority party vote determines the Speaker. Smith’s peers in office will choose who is the next Speaker.
According to ohiohouse.gov, the Speaker “guides the agenda of the chamber, presides over session and provides direction to fellow members and staff. Along with the House Leadership team, the Speaker decides when bills sponsored by individual members reach the House floor for a vote and determines committee chairmanships and leadership positions in his or her respective caucus.”
“The (Ohio) Speaker of the House, the President of the Senate and the Governor get together and work a lot of things out as far as trying to talk through what we want to get done and strategize,” said Smith. “The speaker and the president are kinda like de facto number twos in Ohio.”
Smith began his career in politics after running for the Gallipolis City School Board in 2007. In 2011, Representative John Carey resigned before Smith would announce his candidacy for the 2012 election. Smith would win the 2012 election and again in 2014 and 2016. Smith will be running again for office in 2018, this time with his eye on the seat of Speaker of the House.
“I want to be Speaker because I’ve been in the room when the decisions are made and its ultimately the Speaker making the decisions for the House side,” said Smith. “I think I have the experience having been Finance Chair for two budgets, but more importantly I think I have the policy knowledge to get results and drive Ohio ahead.”
Smith said while he wanted to accomplish progress for Ohio, an essential part of that plan was bringing southeast Ohio with it.
“Obviously, the higher you climb the ladder, the more clout you get and the ability to get things done,” said Smith. “That’s ultimately what I want to do. I want to make a difference and the biggest I can.”
Among Smith’s concerns, perhaps one of his greatest concerns is to get southeast Ohioans well-paying jobs.
“We need jobs and that’s no secret,” said Smith. “To get the unemployed into a job and the under-employed into a better job, that’s the only thing that is going to solve our problems. I’ve always said education is a pathway out of poverty. Our schools, like they have been, are underfunded from a rural perspective and I think we can do things more efficiently to offer more classes through digital learning (while also focusing on strengthening traditional public schooling).”
While college is a road to success, Smith emphasized it was not the only road and that vocations may offer a better option to some Ohio residents when college costs are rising and fields requiring college degrees are becoming saturated. Smith said he would ideally like to make training programs more efficient.
“We actually have a shortage of CDL truck drivers,” said Smith. “I’ve spoken with a lot of employers in Ohio saying we need more of them and jobs there can start at $40,000 or even more…What may take someone four years in college to earn a good living can potentially be done with several weeks in a course now.”
Smith said he felt the potential of natural gas extraction in southeast Ohio was also another possible job creator he would look into capitalizing on for state residents.
Internet access for rural Ohioans is another priority for Smith.
“We have to have internet access for our residents and kids if we’re going to compete nationally in education and jobs,” said Smith. “I don’t care how we do it, but we need to be able to get that last mile of country road access to it best we can.”
In regard to the opioid crisis, Smith said that with his time as Finance Chair in the House, he and his colleagues had focused on passing financial legislation in Ohio dedicated to fighting the opioid epidemic and would continue to target the problem.
“It affects everything,” said Smith. “It’s a disease.”
Smith said it was important for law enforcement to continue to receive support in fighting drug traffickers but that the key to combating the opioid epidemic was to treat it as a health problem as well.
Republicans have traditionally held to the idea that government needs to be small. Smith believes the importance of government is to be efficient and as unobtrusive as possible.
If Smith is elected to serve as Speaker of the House, he will be the first Gallia resident to do so in Ohio’s history.
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342.