Tom Niehaus, it seems, has lived two lives. The 60-year-old New Richmond, Ohio, resident lived first the life of a lowly newspaperman. Then, in January, he was sworn in to the lofty position of president of the Ohio State Senate. A steep climb.
Niehaus’ ascent began at a weekly Community Press chain in Cincinnati, starting on the production staff and working his way up to reporter, editor, managing editor and eventually publisher. “I remember going to an annual editors meeting for Suburban Newspapers of America,” Niehaus says. “It was in Pittsburgh. I said to someone, ‘Where do the publishers go?’ The publishers went to Hawaii, and I said, ‘I want to be a publisher.’ ” Niehaus didn’t waste time. He caught the eye of the chain’s general manager, who created a management-training program that gave him the chance to learn every aspect of the newspaper publishing business.
Along the way, he earned an MBA from Xavier and crossed paths with former state Sen. Rose Vesper who helped him launch his political career, which began with election to the Ohio House of Representatives in 2001. He served two consecutive terms before earning a seat in the State Senate in 2005. He was chosen by his caucus colleagues to serve as president after he won reelection last fall and Republicans regained majority control.
Niehaus has since won recognition from his former media pals as well. Columbus Monthly magazine ranked him the best listener in the legislature and one of the 10 most effective legislators. So how did he become such a good legislator? By being a good reporter. “The newspaper experience was very helpful in terms of learning how to listen and ask questions, knowing where to go to get information and challenging people to defend their positions,” he says.