After 30 years of public service at the county and state level, Kim Zurz is retiring.
Zurz, currently the deputy director at the Summit County Board of Elections, started on Summit County Council, moved to the Ohio Senate, served as director of the Ohio Department of Commerce under former Gov. Ted Strickland, and then returned to the county to assume the second seat at the elections board in April 2011.
“I’ve had such a wonderful career,” said Zurz, a Democrat who attended her last board meeting Tuesday. “I’ve been blessed.”
Zurz, like many other public officials in the Akron area and across Ohio, is retiring because of changes being made to the state’s pension system. She was hoping she could work it out to stay through the end of the year, but was told she needed to retire by Saturday.
“I don’t have any other options,” she said.
Zurz, 54, said she has enjoyed her time at the board, which gave her the opportunity to see elections from a different side.
“It gave me an insight and appreciation for the whole process,” she said.
The board is advertising for a replacement for Zurz, who was paid an annual salary of $106,000, and hopes to have someone in place by the end of the year, said Tim Gorbach, the board’s Democratic chairman.
That means the board probably will function without a deputy director during the Dec. 10 special election for a Norton sewer issue.
“We are a little slower,” Gorbach said. “We’re not too pressed.”
Gorbach said Zurz will be tough to replace, especially with her experience serving at the county and state levels and in an administrative position. He said she was organized and professional and helped bring balance to what can be a stressful environment.
“She brought a lot to the table,” he said. “She made my job easy.”
One of Zurz’s final duties as deputy director was working with Joe Masich, the board’s Republican director, to craft a budget for the board for next year. That process has been contentious in recent years because the board and county have disagreed on how much the board needed.
The board’s budget request for this year, at $5.1 million, is about $600,000 over the county’s proposal.
After meeting with Zurz and Masich, though, county officials have pledged to boost the board’s budget, Gorbach said. He said he thinks the board will be able to live with this revised amount, with the understanding that the board might have to return to the county if unanticipated expenses arise.
This year, Gorbach said, the board had enough to buy two vans and two Ford Focuses with leftover money in its budget — expenses approved by the county — and will still be able to return about $250,000 to the county.
“We are pleased with how Kim and Joe kept the budget in line,” Gorbach said.