A month into her tenure as a Portage County commissioner, Kathleen Clyde says she’s still in “listening mode,” settling into her new role.

Clyde, who spent eight years as a state representative, was barred from seeking re-election because of term limits. She was appointed to the seat in December after former Commissioner Mike Kerrigan resigned.

She said former state elected officials who want to stay in public service take many paths after term limits end their tenure. Some run for another office, as she tried to when she ran for secretary of state unsuccessfully this fall, losing to Republican Frank LaRose. Others seek a local office instead. Clyde said two of her fellow former House of Representatives colleagues have become county commissioners, in Franklin and Hamilton counties.

“I’m happy to have this opportunity that fell into my lap,” she said. “It feels like a perfect fit.”

Kerrigan was appointed commissioner in 2017 after the death of Commissioner Maureen Frederick. In November, he won election for the final two years of her term. A month later, however, Kerrigan resigned, citing personal reasons related to his wife’s career. Clyde was one of the first Democrats to seek appointment to Kerrigan’s seat. She said she plans to seek election to the remainder of the term in 2020.

The Democratic Central Committee appointed her to the post on Dec. 20, and she was sworn into office the next day.

“It’s a big honor to be able to do a position like this,” she said. She said the job will enable her to make changes in the community that she has called home all of her life. Clyde, an attorney who grew up in Garrettsville, lives in Kent.

She said many people believe that state representatives spend most of their time in Columbus, something she said is not true. “This has always been my home base,” she said.

 

Getting input

Clyde said she is in “listening mode” as she travels around Portage County. She said she has been listening at several boards in the county, including the Portage Development Board, the Portage Area Regional Transportation Authority and the Board of Elections. The last one is especially important to Clyde as a very vocal advocate for voting issues throughout her life in public service.

“This is a new role, and I want to make sure I’m taking different things into consideration,” she said. “It’s like starting on square one.”

Clyde said she wants to focus on fighting the opioid epidemic and “bringing good paying jobs to Portage County,” something she said she focused on at the state level. She also believes she is uniquely positioned to advocate that local government funds be returned to communities. She plans to use her “family” of connections with current and former state officials, including State Sen. John Eklund and her successor, State Rep. Randi Clites, whom she considers a friend.

She pledges to keep her door open as she learns how to best address issues that are important to local residents.

“It’s a pretty cool job,” she said. “I’m excited to have the opportunity to do all kinds of things.”

 

Reporter Diane Smith can be reached at 330-298-1139 or dsmith@recordpub.com.