Changing the Guard at BWC

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

Marsha Ryan will be 60 years old when she steps down as administrator of the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC) Jan. 9, but don't expect her to ease into a carefree retirement. "I gave up being director of an insurance company, I gave up being on the board of a community bank, I gave up a lot of volunteer and community activities to avoid conflicts of interest," Ryan says. "I would hope I could find something meaningful, though I'm not looking for another 24/7 job."

Appointed in May 2007, Ryan says Gov. Ted Strickland told her to clean house "and then stood out of the way" as she scrubbed an agency still reeling from the 2005 "Coingate" scandal that sent prominent Republican Party fundraiser Tom Noe to prison for criminally mishandling a $50 million rare-coin investment ("After the Scandals," March 2010). Strickland told Columbus C.E.O. he's been "exceedingly pleased" with Ryan's performance.

Among Ryan's accomplishments:

• A $20 billion BWC investment portfolio, "the highest ever recorded for our funds."

• Reduced premium rates for Ohio's private employers and public taxing districts.

• New insurance products such as deductible coverage.

• A group rating program that better reflects the risks employers bring to the system.

"From the big-picture perspective, I'm happy that we have made this a more business-like operation," says Ryan.

To replace Ryan, Gov.-elect John Kasich tabbed state Sen. Steve Buehrer, an attorney who has chaired the General Assembly's Workers' Compensation Oversight Commission. Buehrer's lengthy state résumé includes a stint as the BWC's chief of human resources in the '90s.

"The governor-elect has said throughout the campaign that one of Ohio's biggest challenges was the workers' compensation program, that it was a contributing factor to Ohio's bad business climate," says Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols. Buehrer "will bring innovations and modernizations to the program to help businesses--particularly small businesses--across the state better manage workers' compensation."

Nichols says Kasich favors "introducing more competition into the system," and Buehrer has promoted allowing private insurers to compete with the BWC. "He's been knee-deep in workers' compensation stuff for a while now," Nichols says, "and he'll be able to hit the ground running."

Reprinted from the January 2011 issue of Columbus C.E.O. Copyright © Columbus C.E.O.