MARIETTA - Many Ohioans are watching the state election campaigns with interest, but one group is keeping a close eye on the contests - the state's at-will, or unclassified, employees, who stand to lose jobs if their bosses aren't re-elected.
"We work at the pleasure of elected officials, and most know that going into a position. Every elected official has his or her own staff," said Marilyn Ashcraft, who chairs the Washington County Republican Party and is also an at-will employee for Ohio Auditor Mary Taylor.
Ashcraft is a regional liaison for the auditor's office, but Taylor is running for lieutenant governor with Republican gubernatorial candidate John Kasich.
"I had worked for the treasurer's office before, and when the Republican incumbent lost that election I sent my resume in to work for the auditor as soon as she was elected," Ashcraft said. "But there's no guarantee that you will obtain a position.
"It's a concern for most people who work for elected officials," she said.
As of Oct. 15 there were 11,563 unclassified employees out of a total 58,595 state workers across Ohio, according to Molly O'Reilly with the state office of administrative services.
Ohio Revised Code provides for the appointment of unclassified or at-will employees who serve at the pleasure of elected officials.
As of Oct. 15 there were 11,563 unclassified employees serving under the various departments in the Strickland Administration.
The state of Ohio has a total of 47,032 classified workers, who are not appointed by elected officials.
The unclassified workers serve under the offices of the governor, auditor, treasurer, secretary of state, and state supreme court.
"But each new administration does keep some unclassified workers," O'Reilly said.
Those employees are usually in key positions, according to Scott Varner, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Transportation.
"Some jobs that require certain responsibilities, like fiduciary management positions, may be protected," he said.
Varner noted that staff changes by incoming elected officials can have a negative effect on the department when long-time employees are replaced.
"People who have been here across many administrations help preserve the organization's institutional memory," he said.
ODOT District 10 Deputy Director Karen Pawloski said there are seven employees, including herself, whose jobs will likely depend on Gov. Ted Strickland continuing in office.
"We're unclassified employees who come under the governor's administration," she said. "You serve at the pleasure of the current governor - it just comes with the position."
Washington County Democratic Party chairwoman Molly Varner (no relation to Scott Varner) said a change in state administration mostly affects the upper echelon government positions.
"I've seen administrations change over many years," she said. "But people who are working in these jobs already know they're going from at-will to at risk if there's a change of government."