Lifetime Achievement: Gretchen Green

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

Gretchen Green dreamed of being a writer of the great American novel when she graduated from Ohio State University in 1972.

Instead, she became one of the most respected human resources professionals working for the state of Ohio, although she has lost none of her passion for life or literature.

Green is in her 40th year of service to the Buckeye State, having served in eight different departments before ending up at the secretary of state's office, where she has served under both Democrat Jennifer Brunner and Republican Jon Husted.

"Anyone who knows her knows she is amazing," says nominator Keith Speers, who worked with Green at the Ohio Department of Education (ODE). "I have never seen anyone who could balance so many roles-working with the unions, treating people fairly, supporting leadership and making sound decisions.

"It's amazing all the ways she has impacted state government, our own city and the companies she has worked for. She has had a pretty profound impact on state government and the human resource policies that have rolled out for over 30 years."

Green, a self-proclaimed "military brat," is no stranger to change. Her father served 20 years in the U.S. Army before retiring to Upper Arlington when Green was 13. "My father was from Michigan and mother was from Kentucky," she says. "This was right in the middle."

After graduating from Upper Arlington High School, Green went to OSU to major in English literature and become "a hippie." She wryly admits a curfew violation even got her arrested during the 1970 campus riots.

Instead of pursuing her literary goals, she accepted an internship at the Ohio Department of Administrative Services. Upon her 1972 graduation, a job offer followed.

In 1976, Green moved to the ODE as assistant personnel director before joining the Industrial Commission of Ohio in 1980 as personnel chief in the newly formed rehabilitation division. In 1986, she became the commission's head of labor and employee relations.

After a move to the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation as labor relations manager and acting director of human resources, Green held similar posts at the Ohio Department of Human Services, Columbus Area Mental Health Center, the Franklin County Engineer's Office and back to ODE, before joining Brunner's staff in 2007. By 2009, she was promoted to chief of staff and stayed on through the transition to Husted, returning to her HR roots.

"I know things are going well in HR when I don't hear about what's going on in HR," Husted says. "Gretchen creates the welcome silence that allows us to focus on our core mission. Gretchen has earned my respect and this award."

Green calls her job her "passion," but admits her husband of eight years, Stan Kronenberger, would love it if she retired so they could spend more time volunteering as historical 1860s re-enactors at the Statehouse, traveling, and enjoying music and Green's love of theater. "I did summer stock for four years," she says. "I regret not going into it full time, but I wanted to eat.

"It doesn't feel like it's been 40 years," Green says. "That's why I keep doing it. I don't feel old enough to retire."

Nicole Kraft is a freelance writer.

Reprinted from the August 2012 issue of Columbus C.E.O. Copyright © Columbus C.E.O.