Faber honored with official portrait for Senate walls

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Caption
Faber portrait to join others at Statehouse

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Term limits mean more portraits at Ohio Statehouse

The walls of the Ohio Statehouse are adorned with oil portraits of presidents, governors and dignitaries such as William Howard Taft, William McKinley, James M. Cox, JoAnn Davidson and others who played roles both large and small in state history.

The latest to join them is Celina Republican Keith Faber, who after putting down the Senate president’s gavel walked across the hall to start serving — again — in the Ohio House.

The Faber portrait unveiling on Wednesday at the Ohio Statehouse drew more than 225 friends, lobbyists, colleagues and others for a luncheon and tribute to the lawmaker, whom they praised as a big hearted, steady leader and dedicated public servant.

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This contrasts sharply with the ratings issued by Columbus Monthly magazine last year that labeled Faber — based on anonymous surveys from political insiders — the most humorless, most arrogant, least compassionate and most ambitious.

As with previous portraits of senate presidents and governors, private donations covered the expense of the Faber artwork, which Charlie Moses of the Capitol Square Foundation said ran about $20,000, not including the bill for the luncheon.

Two of the past senate president portraits — Oliver Ocasek and Harry Meshel — are photographs while the remainder are oil paintings, most of which now hang in the second floor hallway outside the Senate president’s office.

The Ohio House has just one former speaker depicted on canvas — Republican Davidson, who was the first and only woman to lead either legislative chamber in state history. Her portrait hangs in both the Ohio House chamber and the Ladies Gallery.

The other past speakers dating back to 1888 are depicted in photographs, four to a frame, hung outside the speaker’s office on the second floor.

That’s about to change, though, said House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger, R-Clarksville.

Rosengerger said that at Faber’s urging, portraits will be commissioned of former speakers dating back to 1967: Charles Kurfess, A.G. Lancione, Verne Riffe, Jr., Larry Householder, Jon Husted, Armond Budish, William Batchelder. The cost will be covered by both public and private funds, he said.

While some served just two years as speaker, Riffe held the gavel for 20 years. Term limits passed by voters in 1992 triggered a quicker turnover of lawmakers and leaders beginning in 2000.

Some of the former leaders returned to the Statehouse to serve as lawmakers again or work the halls as lobbyists.

Householder said he reluctantly agreed to sit for photographs for the artist to use. Householder, who was elected again to the Ohio House after a 12 year hiatus, wants to be speaker again, saying it would then be awkward to have his portrait hanging in the hallway. “There is a chance I could hold a gavel again.”

Former Senate president Tom Niehaus said he didn’t want a portrait. “I fought it but I was lobbied very hard at home and I lost,” he said.

So does having your portrait hanging on the wall help your lobbying business? “Never really thought about it,” Niehaus said, who is registered to represent 32 companies and organizations.