Three candidates are vying to replace Portage County Commissioner Chris Smeiles, who will end a 24-year stint on the board at the end of this year.
The March party primary winners, Democrat Kathleen Chandler and Republican Larry Solak, are joined in the Nov. 6 race by write-in candidate Michael Muldowney.
Meanwhile, Commissioner Maureen Frederick is asking to be returned to her post, which the Democrat has held for nearly a decade. In that race, Republican Edith Bridget Pavlick hopes to unseat her.
The only other contested Portage County races involve the recorder and common pleas clerk of courts.
Here’s what you need to know before heading to the polls:
Commissioner (Jan. 2 term)
Democrat Frederick served three terms as Portage County treasurer before being appointed to the Board of Commissioners in 2003. Voters have returned her to the post twice.
“I know what it takes to earn the money and how hard that is, so I am very protective and cautious in spending it,” she said.
One of the most important issues facing the county in the next term is dealing with declining revenue, she said.
There is “tremendous increase on the demand to fund the services the public expects and demands,” she said. “Increasing and unfunded mandates imposed by both the federal and state government contribute to this greatly.”
Equally important, she said, is a focus on business retention and development, including collaborating with businesses and educators “to assure we have a well-trained work force to meet the need.”
Frederick and other commissioners voted to fund a private-public venture called the Portage Development Board, which Frederick said is earning “tremendous credibility” in its effort to take over the roles of the county’s former economic development department.
Republican challenger Pavlick, in her second term on Streetsboro City Council, said Portage County needs leaders with a “proactive approach to our governing and not sit back and wait until something happens.”
“I would resolve the issue of leadership by actively researching and participating in things that are important to our residents, reaching out to and working in concert with other agencies to determine appropriate courses of action,” she said.
She also identified the county’s business base and work force as priorities.
“We should be reviewing existing and future regulations to make sure that the regulations are fair to all and that the regulations are applied to all in a fair and equal manner, so that anyone wishing to start or relocate a business in Portage County may do so without the expense and frustration of unnecessary or unfair regulation,” she said.
Commissioner (Jan. 3 term)
Chandler is a former Kent mayor and county commissioner who represented the 68th Ohio House District until term limits prevented her from running again after 2010. Now a self-employed consultant working for the Center for Community Solutions in Cleveland, she said unemployment is one of the most challenging issues of the day.
Commissioners play a key role in creating an environment conducive to job growth by working with everyone from universities and the state to local agencies, chambers and consortiums, she said.
“All regulations should be reviewed to ensure that there are no unnecessary barriers to development and employment,” she said.
Another major issue facing county leaders involves the debate over deep drilling for shale gas and oil and associated injection wells.
Gas and oil well development will provide “significant economic development and many jobs,” she said, but there remain concerns, including the need to protect drinking water.
“Of major concern is the number of injection wells being utilized to deposit millions of gallons of toxic hydraulic fluid waste in Portage County,” she said. “The commissioners must work with the state Department of Natural Resources, environmental protection agencies, legislators and others to track this industry, to identify issues of concern and to ensure sufficient oversight to protect the health and safety of citizens.”
Solak and Muldowney did not respond to requests for information.
Solak, a machine shop owner, has served as a Shalersville Township trustee and was president of the Portage County Township Association. Muldowney is a political newcomer.
Bonnie Howe, recorder since 2005, is asking to be returned to the office where she is tasked with maintaining land, real-estate and title records.
Howe, a Democrat, said the most important issue facing her office is updating operations, repairing the books and getting more records online.
She is involved in several local civic organizations, including Ravenna Kiwanis, Rootstown Civic Club and Rootstown Historical Society. Her political past includes a 15-year stint as a Rootstown Township trustee that ended in 2008.
Howe is being challenged by Kevin Fowler, a Republican from Ravenna Township who unsuccessfully ran for the 28th Ohio Senate District in 2004.
He runs the Midwest business unit for GE Richards Graphic Supplies and is part owner of the Portage Cyclery in Ravenna.
Fowler also noted the need to find easier and less expensive ways for the public to get access to records and said he would work with other county offices to make that happen within his first term.
Common pleas clerk
Voters will choose between Democratic incumbent Linda Fankhauser and Republican challenger Daniel Cartwright. Neither candidate replied to requests for information.
Paula Schleis can be reached at 330-996-3741 or firstname.lastname@example.org.