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Indiana native takes on job as Asian Carp czar

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COLUMBUS, Ind. (AP) — Columbus native John Goss has a pretty impressive resume.

Among the positions he has held are:

—Executive director of the Indiana Wildlife Federation.

—Director of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

—Vice chairman of the Great Lakes Commission.

—Director of tourism for the state of Indiana.

—Chief of staff for Lt. Gov. Frank O'Bannon.

—District director for 8th District Rep. Frank McCloskey.

—Deputy mayor of Bloomington.

Today he has another job, one far more impressive in scope and much more unusual in title. The 1969 Columbus High School graduate is the federal government's Asian carp czar.

"It brings out a lot of smiles among my friends whenever someone brings it up," Goss said recently from an office in Washington where he is responsible for a $78 million budget. The lesser known but more accurate official title is chairman of the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee.

In a city where there are economic czars, drug enforcement czars and a legion of other quasi-czars, the title Asian carp czar might qualify for a spoof on "Saturday Night Live."

No one in the Great Lakes region would laugh, however.

The Asian carp threatens a $7 billion sport and commercial fishing industry in the Great Lakes, according to Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., who described Goss as "an exceptionally qualified candidate and a longtime friend of Great Lakes."

It has only been in recent years that the Asian carp has captured universal attention, primarily because of some unique video footage in a constant state of rerun on YouTube that shows hundreds of the fish leaping out of the water and into passing boats.

The jumping Asian carps have had their effect, seriously injuring some boaters who were struck by the fish that can weigh up to 100 pounds.

However, those injuries pale alongside the dire predictions raised should invasive varieties break into one of the Great Lakes to the detriment of native species.

"They're voracious bottom feeders who are also prolific breeders," Goss said. "There have already been sightings in Indiana waterways like the Wabash and White rivers, not to mention the Illinois River."

Some Asian carp have been recovered in Chicago waterways (although not in the central city) and raised fears that they could eventually migrate into Lake Michigan.

Durbin has been one of the main proponents in urging President Obama to appoint a federal coordinated response coordinator for Asian carp.

In September, Obama did just that, naming Goss to the post. At the time Goss was director of the Indiana Wildlife Federation but had already amassed a significant resume in the field of natural resources.

"My interests in the outdoors go all the way back to my time in the Boy Scouts and growing up in Petersville Methodist Church," he said.

He is the son of the late Robert Goss, who worked at Arvin Industries and retired from Reliance Electric before his death last year. His mother, Harriet, still lives in Columbus, as do his brother, Steven, and sisters, Marcia Harbaugh and Jan Reed.

After obtaining bachelor's and master's degrees from Indiana University, Goss went to work for the city of Bloomington, where he would eventually serve as a deputy to two mayors.

He was on the staff of 8th District Rep. Frank McCloskey, D-Ind., and took part in the infamous 1984 election against Republican challenger Rick McIntyre that required recounts until McCloskey was declared the winner by a mere four votes.

"I still have nightmares about all those paper ballots we had to look over," Goss laughed. "It was like a prelude to Florida and the hanging chads (in the still disputed presidential election between George Bush and Al Gore in 2000)."

He became involved in state government after serving as chief of staff to Lt. Gov. Frank O'Bannon, who would later follow Evan Bayh as governor. That led to two statewide appointments, one as tourism director and the other as director of the Department of Natural Resources.

Because of numerous dealings with his peers in other states, Goss built up a network of contacts and became an expert on issues relating to the economic viability of the Great Lakes.

By the time he was appointed to the current White House post, he was well versed on the dangers of Asian carp.

Although he will be administering a $78 million budget, very little of it will be spent on staff.

"The staff only consists of three people," he said. "Most of the money will be directed to agencies such as the Army Corps of Engineers for specific projects."

The corps is but one of many federal, state and local agencies Goss will coordinate with in developing a successful resolution of the Asian carp problem.

One study under consideration is a proposal to permanently shut down the Chicago waterway system linking Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River.

Goss anticipates that much of his time will be spent traveling throughout the Midwest instead of directing operations from Washington.

"I'm going to continue calling Indianapolis home," he said. "I've been fortunate in that some old friends from my Bloomington days who now live in D.C. have let me stay with them while I'm in Washington."

 

 

Posted 10/24/2010

 

 

 

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