Though 10 people originally filed for the Portage County commissioner’s seat on Tuesday’s ballot, only four remain.
Still, that’s enough for two head-to-head primary election battles that will decide who will face off in the fall General Election.
Three commissioners oversee the county’s $36 million general fund. The seat up for grabs is for a four-year term beginning Jan. 1.
The large number of initial filers was because the Republican Central Committee had yet to appoint a replacement for Tommie Jo Marsilio before the Board of Election’s petition filing deadline. Marsilio resigned in January.
Most of those who sought to be Marsilio’s replacement withdrew after the Central Committee tapped Sabrina Christian-Bennett to finish the term. She took office in mid-February.
Christian-Bennett, a political newcomer who lives in Rootstown Township and owns Bennett Land Title Agency, is being challenged by Kristen Kline Morris of Garrettsville.
Roads are one of the county’s most pressing problems, Christian-Bennett said, and were made worse by the severe winter.
“My top priority will be to work closely with the county engineer to obtain state and federal funding to keep our roads and bridges in good repair to help protect our citizens and their vehicles from being damaged,” she said.
Economic development is also something that needs to be addressed, she said.
Christian-Bennett serves on the nonprofit Portage Development Board and said she’s “a big advocate of economic development and the impact that it has on the county and citizens by joining both the public and private sectors together. When both sectors work together, more can be accomplished in gaining, retaining and expanding businesses that will in turn equate to more jobs and a better economic climate for all.”
Kline Morris did not return a call seeking comment.
The Democratic primary will see county Treasurer Vicki A. Kline vying against Ravenna businessman Angelo Battaglia. Battaglia, who owns Brimfield Township-based Battaglia Construction Inc., said he can bring his business sense to the office.
“I think there needs to be more economic growth throughout Portage County, meaning more jobs,” he said. “Somebody needs to talk to these businesses and see what they can do, and as Portage County commissioner, I would have an open door to every businesses so we could find solutions and help the county grow.”
It’s a strategy Battaglia would like to employ with community leaders and others.
“I’d like to go through all the offices the commissioners are involved in and talk to the people in office, from top to bottom. I’d like to ask the township trustees what we can do to help,” he said.
Battaglia made his first run for office in 2012 for the seat now held by longtime Commissioner Maureen Frederick. He said if he wins the office, he will turn his company over to his son and devote full time to the post.
Kline, a Franklin Township resident, ran for commissioner in 2010 but lost to Marsilio. She was appointed county treasurer in January 2012, then elected to that post later that year.
“This was not an easy decision to run for commissioner, but I know this is the right time for me and the right thing to do. I can serve Portage County more effectively as their commissioner,” she said.
Kline also believes economic growth is a top priority for the county.
“Although the economy is improving, it is at a very slow pace. Even though our unemployment number is down, we have many that are underemployed and may also be working more than one job to support their family and meet their obligations,” she said.
“Having a solid foundation and an integral knowledge of budgeting and finance is vital to being a strong and effective commissioner. I have over 30 years of financial and budgeting experience.”
Kline said she would remain on the Portage County Land Bank, a group that has worked to raze blighted buildings and soon will be rehabilitating old homes.