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Former Ohio congresswoman to fill top post at U.S. Seaway

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Former Ohio Rep. Betty Sutton soon will become the next administrator of the U.S. St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corp. — a high-ranking position that had been left vacant for more than a year.

Announcing his intent to make several appointments, President Barack Obama said in a news release Wednesday that these “fine public servants both bring a depth of experience and tremendous dedication to their new roles.”

Ms. Sutton, a Democrat, represented Ohio’s 13th district in the U.S. House of Representatives from 2007 to 2012. Following a congressional redistricting, she lost her seat in 2012 to Republican Rep. Jim Renacci, representing the 16th district.

Her predecessor at the Seaway, Collister W. “Terry” Johnson Jr., was fired abruptly last May in an unprecedented move by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Seaway Deputy Administrator Craig H. Middlebrook has been filling in as acting administrator.

The top Seaway position carries a seven-year term designed specifically to keep the agency out of the typical cycle of housecleaning when the White House changes hands.

Mr. Johnson said that he had been terminated by former U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood after he refused to resign and that his firing by the Obama administration makes him the first Seaway administrator to be kicked out in such a blatantly partisan manner.

At the time, Mr. Johnson was the last remaining appointee of President George W. Bush, his college roommate at Yale, at the DOT.

D. Lee Willbanks, executive director of Save the River, an environmental advocacy group based in Clayton, said Ms. Sutton should have a “better than average understanding” of issues concerning the Great Lakes.

“She seems to have a good track record on environmental issues,” he said, adding that Ms. Sutton had co-sponsored the interstate compact for Great Lakes water resources that was signed into law in 2008.

Mr. Willbanks said Save the River also has been “very pleased” with Mr. Middlebrook and hopes he will remain as the deputy administrator.

Under his leadership, the Seaway was certified in June by Green Marine — an environmental sustainability program for the North American marine industry — for its environmental stewardship.

The U.S. Seaway Corp. and its Canadian counterpart, St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corp., oversee the operation and maintenance of the Seaway from Montreal to Lake Erie.

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