Thursday, December 8, 2011
NO POLITICAL GAMES FOR "LAME DUCK" STARK COMMISSIONER PETE FERGUSON
As yours truly was making his way to the regular Wednesday meeting of the Stark County commissioners yesterday, a perchance meetup with Commissioner Janet Creighton in the elevator leading to the second floor.
Creighton: "I had no idea Pete was not running for re-election. I was caught by surprise."
SCPR: "I know. The same for me."
Imagine the surprise for Stark County Democratic Party Chairman Randy Gonzalez when he received a telephone call from Ferguson Friday last informing him of the one term commissioner's decision not to seek re-election.
Being the politically minded person that yours truly is, the ruminations of the mind started entertaining notions that some political gamesmanship might be in order so as to give his successor Democratic candidate an advantage in next fall's election so that the Democrats would have a leg up in maintaining political control of the commissioners' office.
So yesterday, The Report put the question to Ferguson: Are you going to quit early so that the Democratic nominee (either Plain Trustee Louis Giavasis or Canton Councilman-at-Large Bill Smuckler) could assume office early and gain the advantage of incumbency?
Answer: "No way!"
One thing that Ferguson has been relatively good at as far as the SCPR knows has been to keep politics out of his doing his job as commissioner.
Oh yes, he attends a few Democratic Party candidate fundraisers here and there (e.g. former Governor Strickland when he appeared at Mayor-elect Kathy Catazaro-Perry's home last last year), but by and large Ferguson seems to be a nominal Democrat.
Of course, all politically-aware Stark Countians recall the action of he and fellow Democratic Commissioner Tom Bernabei joining with Republican Janet Creighton on October 19th of this year to appoint Republican Alex Zumbar as interim treasurer when Gary Zeigler retired/resigned after intense negotiations with commissioners.
Yours truly's take on Ferguson in attending nearly every commissioner meeting (and a number of additional Ferguson-attended events) during his tenure was that the job of being commissioner was not wearing well with him.
He came into office in January, 2009 on the heels of Stark's former board of commissioners (Bosley, Harmon and Vignos) having imposed a wildly unpopular 0.5% increase in the county sales tax which was repealed by voters in November, 2010.
Then the Frustaci story broke on April 1, 2009. As it turns out Vince Frustaci (chief deputy treasurer at the time) over a period of some 5 years or so had stolen an admitted $2.46 million [some believe $2.96 million] of Stark County taxpayer money.
Without recounting the precise twists and turns of that saga, to say the least, it was a trying experience for all Stark Countians and at the very least gut-wrenching for anyone holding county office during the period April 1, 2009 and October 19, 2011.
So for at least three years of his term, Commissioner Fegurson has been through a lot of governmental and political turbulence.
No wonder that he has decided that one term is enough!
But during the stressful period he stood tall. And it is no surprise to the SCPR that he maintains that he will continue to stand tall and finish out his term with energy and enterprise and not engage in any political gamesmanship to advantage Democrats.
Ferguson told The Report yesterday that he had every indication that the Republicans were not going to oppose him (political pay back for helping put Republican Alex Zumbar back in office?). Although former Commissioner Richard Regula had taken out petitions to run for Ferguson's seat, Ferguson told yours truly that he had indication that Regula would not be actually filing against him.
Apparently, that likelihood had filtered in the the politicized ranks of the Stark Democratic Party and it was suggested to Ferguson that he run and take the free pass and then resign and let the Stark County Democratic Party Central Committee appoint a successor.
A free ride for the Democrats would free up financial and personpower resources for Stark's Democrats to apply to other competitive Stark County races.
Well! Ferguson was having none of that. Nor is he having anything to do with proposed political shenanigans now that he is officially a "lame duck" officeholder with the passing of the filing deadline yesterday.
He cited to The Report how as a parent he would not tolerate his children starting something (e.g. playing high school basketball) but not staying the course when things were not going so well.
And what applied to them, applies to him.
Ferguson shared with the SCPR that he has goals to achieve as commissioner and he will not shirk his duties in his final year in office.
He feels that he is making headway to bring a veterans home complex to Stark County and related that matters are going very well with his pursuit. He says that North Canton Mayor David Held has confirmed to him that North Canton stands ready, willing and able to donate land from the city owned Arrowhead Country Club as a site for Ferguson's project.
Ferguson said that notwithstanding Mayor William J. Healy, II's intransigence (the SCPR's take - not Ferguson's) in terms of insisting on being the "man in charge" at the end of the consolidating, he will continue to pursue mergers of Stark County-based building, health and information technology operations.
Indeed. It appears to the SCPR that Commissioner Pete Ferguson will stand tall through January 2, 2013!!!
Posted by Martin Olson at 5:41 AM