At 36, Cliff Rosenberger is the youngest statehouse speaker in the nation. The self-described "small-town Ohio" native was first elected in 2010 and is serving his second term as speaker. An Air Force National Guard veteran and graduate of Wright State University, Rosenberger has worked at the White House, was political events coordinator for Mitt Romney's presidential campaign and was special assistant to U.S. Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne--all before running for the legislature at age 29.
What are the advantages and challenges of being a leader at a relatively young age? The challenges are that a lot of people doubt you, they don't know you're ready to take on the role and they sometimes don't take you seriously. The advantage is being able to disprove that, but also understanding how to use and tap into things we haven't done before. Part of that is figuring out a better way to message what we're doing legislatively to all Ohioans through social media--like more videos explaining a sales tax holiday or what's happening in the Statehouse--and just getting around the state and being extremely active.
What do you hope to see emerge in the relationship between states and the federal government under the Trump administration?
Speaker [Robin] Vos created a federalism committee in Wisconsin, and based off that we created one in Ohio. Then we decided to bring our two states together and keep talking about it. People are starting to understand they get a lot more done at the state level than they ever realized. And that's putting a lot of new pressures on state governments. The federalism initiative is extremely important to ensure that our elected officials in Congress understand how their decisions affect us. That's everything from health care to transportation to energy policies. That's why NCSL is the best format for this conversation on federalism, so we can all get involved in the mix.
Why did you run for office? The big motivation for me was when, in my hometown of Wilmington, [shipping company] DHL pulled out and 10,000 jobs were lost. All of a sudden, on the national news you were seeing friends and families talking about having to move in together and stopping school. And then my mother was laid off. I thought I could make a difference in the legislature, so I stepped up to run. My focus has been economic development and diversifying Ohio's...