Ohio Turnpike hiring new boss amid leasing debate

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BEREA, Ohio (AP) -- The Ohio Turnpike has hired a new executive director amid the debate over leasing the toll road.

The turnpike commission voted Wednesday to appoint Republican former state Rep. Rick Hodges. The former turnpike commission member replaces George Distel, who retired in April. He starts Monday.

Hodges lived in Wauseon (WAW'-see-ahn) when he represented a northwest Ohio district in the House from 1993 to 1999. He currently is director of legislative development and operational reform at the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation.

The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer reports Hodges had the backing of Gov. John Kasich (KAY'-sik) for the turnpike job and will be paid $129,500 a year.

Kasich wants to lease the turnpike, a move he says will bring Ohio a financial windfall. Lease opponents fear higher tolls and shoddy maintenance.

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