The National Association of State Chief Administrators (NASCA) congratulates Bob Blair, director of the Ohio Department of Administrative Services, as the current longest-serving state chief administrator in the country. We talked with Director Blair about how he got his start working in government, his opinion of NASCA, advice he has for future chief administrators and got some insights on his golf game.
Q: Tell me how you first got involved in your public service with state government?
A: In 1972, I was teaching a high school class, “Problems in Democracy,” and we were studying the state legislature and advocacy. A state senator noticed my interest and engagement and suggested that I become a legislative intern. My fellow legislative intern at the time was now-Governor John Kasich in 1975
Q: What motivates you to serve in NASCA leadership?
A: As a state chief administrator, I began to realize quickly that I needed to reach out and find out what was happening in other states. My first impression of NASCA was that it had a lot of value, but I didn’t know what it really was until I went to an event. Now I see that it is a wonderful opportunity. Not only do I know what’s going on in other states, but I have friends in other states. The key is to have every state involved. The strength of an organization is that it can represent everybody.
Q: What has surprised you most about being a state chief administrator?
A: What has surprised me the most is every day is different. There’s no day that’s boring. Work finds you, and you’ll work from issue to issue. There’s no adrenaline rush every day, but there’s some real benefits in a job that multitasks.
Q: What do you find most challenging?
A: What I do find most challenging is that these are incredibly stressful jobs. You need to try to find a way to relieve stress. Rely on your family, rely on your friends and try not to take the stress of the job home with you. Try to realize that time solves a lot of problems, and you’ve got to manage your stress.
Q: What’s your biggest accomplishment, or something you’ve found to be the most rewarding?
A: Our department took over a segregated, siloed IT situation that had 26 separate IT entities. It was terribly inefficient and it was wasting money. We took that siloed infrastructure and consolidated it into one system. It has made it 100 percent more efficient than it was before, and I am very proud of that. Editor’s note: Read more in the 2016 Institute Case Study: The Transformation of the State of Ohio Computing System
In the 30 years that I’ve been involved in government, we have had a goal of having 15 percent of our goods and services provided by minority-owned businesses. The Governor has made this a major priority, and we’ve focused on trying to help those who haven’t been able to participate as much. We’ve hit and exceeded that goal over the last three years.
Q: In 2019, 36 states will have a gubernatorial election. There will likely be many new state chief administrators in their positions. What advice will you have for them?
A: New chief administrators should get involved to understand what NASCA can do to get them up to speed. They need to understand that getting involved will really help them and get someone else from your states involved. Preferably, someone who will be there a while. This will help create continuity between transitions.
Q: What’s left on your bucket list, personally or professionally?
A: I’ve always tried to run a marathon every decade. I’ve missed a couple, but I think I have one marathon left in me, or at least a half marathon. I would like to be able to shoot my age in golf. I’m certainly not there, but that’s something I would like to do.
Q: What part of your golf game needs the most work?
A: I am abysmal at the short game. I can’t chip. It is hard to shoot your age if you can’t get the ball within 20 feet of the hole.