In new gig, ex-Hill staffer aims to boost influence of Western governors group

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- If a new leader is going to have a trial by fire, at least this is a nice place to do it.

Freshly appointed Western Governors' Association Executive Director James Ogsbury marked his sixth day on the job Saturday, the start of the organization's semiannual meeting here at the Montelucia Resort & Spa.

"Six very long days -- it feels more like six months," Ogsbury, 53, joked to E&E Daily in an interview between events at the two-day conference.

Despite the hectic pace of his first few days, Ogsbury, who left his post as legislative director for the League of Arizona Cities and Towns after he was tapped for the WGA slot in late October, said he is still marveling at his new position.

"I don't know if it's kismet or if it's fate, but I really landed in what's absolutely a dream job for me. ... It gives me the opportunity to keep my head in policy and my feet on the ground in the West," Ogsbury said.

"It wasn't something that I had necessarily been aspiring to, but it put everything together for me," he added. "It put together the kind of political piece, the substantive piece, the association piece, the leadership piece, and all of that added up to what was in my mind an ideal opportunity."


Ogsbury said he plans to focus on boosting the WGA's influence and hopes to use his experience on Capitol Hill to help push legislation that will benefit the 19 states and three U.S territories represented by the organization.

"I come into this job without a political agenda whatsoever. What I want to make sure happens is that this association becomes an absolutely indispensable resource for Western governors to exchange ideas, to explore best practices and, probably most importantly, to promote sensible, bipartisan Western policy," Ogsbury said.

He added: "We're going to really place a great emphasis on implementation. We're able to make lots of recommendations, write lots of reports, draft lots of letters, but we'd like to go a little further in ensuring that those ideas are put into action, that those concepts are turned into reality."

An Arizona native, Ogsbury attended Harvard University and went on to earn a law degree at Arizona State University.

He spent nearly two decades in Washington, D.C., including stints on the House Appropriations Committee, eventually serving as staff director of the Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development between 1995 and 2000.

Ogsbury also served as federal manager of the Salt River Project, a public power utility that provides electricity to central Arizona and also operates as a water supplier to the state.

He later worked at the law firm Jones Walker and as a principal of the lobbying firm Triadvocates, where he represented organizations including the Arizona chapter of the Nature Conservancy, and the cities of Surprise, Chandler and Mesa.

Ogsbury also made a foray into elected politics in 2008, when he sought the GOP nomination to challenge then-Rep. Harry Mitchell (D), but he lost that primary to now-Rep. David Schweikert (R).

Asked whether he would consider another run for office someday, Ogsbury compared his bid to a well-known anecdote about the late-Rep. Mo Udall (D), in which a New Hampshire barber mocked his 1976 presidential primary bid.

"When I reflect on my congressional run, I think about that story, because there are a lot of us who are still laughing about my misbegotten congressional run," Ogsbury said. "I loved my campaign. It was something I felt I had to do. I'm very proud of the race that we ran, but I'm really happy with the opportunity that's been presented to me, and I have no plans to run again."

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