Retired Air Force colonel Joseph Zeis Jr. will take a newly created post in the DeWine administration to protect and position Ohio’s military installations and assets, Gov. Mike DeWine announced Wednesday at the Dayton Development Coalition’s annual meeting.
Currently an attorney with Sebaly Shillito + Dyer, Zeis has a deep resume in aviation and aerospace law, including drones and unmanned aeronautical vehicles, connections to the Dayton Development Coalition, and a 26-year career in the Air Force as a pilot and acquisitions program manager. He has more than 1,800 flight hours in more than 26 different aircraft, according to his biography on the law firm site.
“I promised when I became governor, I would create a cabinet level military liaison who would report directly to me on our vitally important military bases across the state,” DeWine said. “Colonel Zeis has a tremendous level of expertise, and I am very pleased he is serving in our administration.
After retiring from the Air Force, Zeis worked at the Dayton Development Coalition from 2007 to 2013 where he was responsible for the identification, facilitation, and implementation of aerospace and technology-related opportunities to support business development and expansion in the Dayton Region.
He lives in Centerville.
Zeis will work to protect Wright-Patterson, which has an estimated 27,000 civilian and military workers, and other Ohio military installations. He will directly report to DeWine.
“My commitment is that we’ll have someone at cabinet rank who will be concerned about our military installations all over the state of Ohio,” DeWine said in January. “That is very important thing. The military supplies an awful lot of jobs in Ohio. Imagine what the impact on the Miami Valley is — having so many scientists … and mathematicians who live in this community.”
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The position will focus on Wright-Patterson, NASA Glenn Research Center, and other military installations across the state.
State Rep. Rick Perales, R-Beavercreek, advocated that the cabinet-level position be created and then he later applied for it.
“Mr. Zeis has a wealth of experience and knowledge dealing with military affairs. I am confident he will represent Ohio well,” Perales said on Wednesday. Ohio has more than 110,000 military-related jobs.
Congressman Mike Turner, R-Dayton, said “a cabinet-level position whose chief function is to bolster the military installations in our state is the kind of forward thinking organization Ohio needs to get an edge for future investment against other states.”
“As a senior member of the Armed Services Committee, I know firsthand that Ohio must improve our competitiveness to support and grow the military missions we have,” he said. “I look forward to working with the DeWine administration as it moves forward with this position.”
DeWine’s administration is already looking at infrastructure readiness in cities surrounding Wright-Patterson. He said he’d like to see available buildings right off base so that contractors and other businesses can easily move into a building in close proximity to the military.
“We’re looking at doing some type of partnership,” he told this news organization.
If a partnership like it did occur, it would likely be a large economic driver for surrounding cities like Fairborn and Beavercreek, as well as Greene and Montgomery counties. Deborah Gross, executive director of the Dayton Area Defense Contractor Association, said she was not aware of lack of space being an issue but it makes sense to be ready for the potential of growth in the defense sector.
“WPAFB has physical space and a strong workforce making giving it a great opportunity to grown missions or to bring in new missions,” she said. “It is important to have elected officials at the state and federal level that understand the importance of that and that will work together.”
DeWine has filled all other positions in his cabinet. He announced retired Maj. Gen. Deborah Ashenhurst, who served in the Ohio National Guard for nearly 40 years, will fill the Veterans Services cabinet position. She also served as the adjutant general and commander of the State of Ohio, a position she left in 2014. In that role, Ashenhurst commanded the 18,000 personnel of the Ohio Army and Air National Guard, Ohio Military reserve and Ohio Naval Militia.