Thursday, March 11, 2010

A Tribute to Charles A. Calhoun

I visited an old friend in mid January when I discovered he was at an assisted living center in NW Columbus. He was in the memory unit, and my visit was very one-sided as he wasn’t really alert. His body was frail.

I had last seen him in probably 2006 or so.  The last few years had not been good ones for my friend. I could tell.

Charles A. Calhoun was known to the titans of Ohio big business and government for decades as the head of the Ohio Public Expenditure Council.  He was creating metrics to hold government accountable before anyone called them metrics.  His research helped to keep a governor on Governors' and legislators' spending.

He had a rare touch though.  He could be critical of government policy but not be seen as criticizing. 

To me, a then 24-year-old who was new to state government in 1991, he was Charlie Calhoun, Vice Chairman of the State and Local Government Commission.  Retired from OPEC, Charlie was an active Vice Chairman who helped me to better understand public policy and how our little agency, among the smallest agencies in government if not the smallest, could make a difference.

He served the people of Ohio with that Commission from its inception in 1979 to its end in 2000. 

The nurses at his assisted living wing persuaded me that mornings were better so I paid a return visit on a recent morning.

It was then that I shockingly but, I suppose given his condition, not surprisingly learned Charlie had passed away. He died on January 31, 2010. He was 86.

I visited briefly with his wife, Marian, who is also at the same center. Understandably, she remains saddened. “I miss that devil,” she said.

Charlie was a friend to me and especially helpful as a mentor to me during my tenure in state government.

He was someone who had a passion for and love of his home state, Ohio.

His passion was contagious.

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