Tuesday, October 16, 2012


Last week Stark County Democratic Party chairman Randy Gonzalez said that he is confident that Chief Deputy Sheriff Mike McDonald (Jail Division) will be Stark County's next sheriff.

Undoubtedly, Republican Jeff Matthews is saying the same thing about Larry Dordea.

Whomever it is among the two, the winner on November 6th will be joining a long line of men who have served Stark County as sheriff.

The SCPR believes the race is too close to call.

No doubt, most partisans will be lining up as Democrats for McDonald and Republicans for Dordea.

But then there are a whole lot of us Stark Countians who do not vote that way.

We look at the candidates in the context of their experience and differences between them on the issues and perhaps an intangible or two in deciding whom to vote for.


The SCPR says that on experience there is pretty much a tie.

Yes, Mike McDonald has been with the sheriff's department since 1977 but he has never had the overall responsibility of directing the entire operation.

Larry Dordea, on the other hand, has been the chief of relatively small police departments:  Alliance for some 20 years and Hartville for the last four or so.

It is difficult to comparatively evaluate supervision experience based on one candidate being in charge of a jailing operation (McDonald) and the other a police chief.

Both have served with distinction and therefore The Report believes both have "the right stuff" to be "the leader" of the sheriff's department of Stark County government.


Picking up on The Rep's Kelli Young's article (October 7th - For the first time in 13 years, Stark County will have a new top cop in January,) as a framework for the SCPR's analysis of the strengths/weaknesses of the candidates, here is the SCPR's take.

Note:  While The Report has cited Young's piece, yours truly has had numerous Q&As with both candidates on these very issues.


Sitting Sheriff Tim Swanson has never (in the memory of the SCPR) had an effective road patrol in terms of covering Stark County.

The Report is acutely aware of Swanson's deficiency (which he says is due to lack of financial resources) inasmuch as yours truly is situated in Lake Township where the the sheriff is responsible for the bulk of township policing because only the village of Hartville and unincorporated Uniontown have police forces (nine square miles).

But the problem is not limited to Lake.  Other than Stark's villages and municipalities and a few townships, most of the land mass of Stark County is dependent on Stark County sheriff patrol services.  And they are virtually non-existent.

McDonald's solution?

Jockey personnel from other aspects of the the sheriff's overall operations to road patrol to increase road patrols.

Dordea's solution?

Draw upon the department's reserve officer corp to produce an elasticity that would allow for the freeing up of sheriff's department personnel to increase its presence out in the unpoliced townships.

Who's idea is better?


If he can overcome work rule issues and convince the reserve officers that the should "voluntarily" acquiesce to Dordea's mandate to retain certification, Dordea's plan could result in a substantially increased road patrol presence in the county and also cut down significantly on response times when an emergency call is made to the sheriff.

The Report believes McDonald's plan is not a real plan to fix the deficient sheriff patrol operation.  It appears to be based on "a hope and a prayer" that he can manipulate the workforce to scratch out a few more road patrol personnel.

Stark Countians should be interested in concrete plans not speculative ones.

Again, in the opinion of the SCPR, Dordea has the better idea.


As strange as it seems, the Stark County sheriff's department (due to historical financial troubles) a Stark County Sheriff Detective Bureau as such does not exist.

Now that Stark County has passed and is collecting on a criminal justice and administration sales tax (0.5% for eight years in November, 2011), it is time to get a "formal" bureau up and running.

Dordea's plan?

He says he will re-establish a centralized detective bureau but will go one better.  He envisions a detective operation in which he deputizes detectives that currently function in that capacity (in township, village and city police departments) as an additional investigative capacity for the sheriff to tap into.

While he does not call it a regionalization of policing in Stark County, the SCPR believes that is what it amounts to and thinks that these kinds of "sharing of services" (as Stark County Commissioner Pete Ferguson likes to term cooperative agreements) are the way to go.

Such a structure would be:

  • more efficient than solely having a centralized unit, and
  • would likely increase detective services across the county and result in more law violators being brought to justice.
McDonald's plan:

Appears to be re-establishing a centralized detective bureau to work more closely with village, city and township policing units.

Of the two, the SCPR is more impressed with Dordea's plan.


Another casualty of the financial hit to the sheriff's department has taken over recent times, it is imperative that Stark County have a complete ability to respond to violent incidents which surface from time-to-time.

Of course, everybody hopes that Stark County will never be faced with an Aurora, Colorado event, but something similar could happen and the county needs to be prepared.

Canton has an excellent SWAT operation, but it is designed to deal with incorporated city of Canton events.  Obviously, if something happened out in the county, mutual policing would kick in and Canton would assist.

But it could be that Canton will have its own problem as the same time there is one occurring out in the county.

So, Stark County must have its own capacity or alternatively a binding agreement (something stronger than mutual aid) that ensure that should simultaneous incidents occur in Canton and out in the county, that the county has earmarked capability to respond.

McDonald's plan?

Not reinvent the wheel.  

McDonald wants take county resources and equipment and  team up with Canton to provide SWAT services for all of Stark County including all of its cities, villages and townships.

A laudable goal, McDonald's plan is.  But is it workable?

The SCPR believes that it is difficult to work any cooperative agreement with the city of Canton these days with William J. Healy, II serving as its mayor.

Understandably, Healy takes the position that his first obligation is to the citizens of Canton.  But he goes beyond that.  He as mayor of Canton wants to control any effort to consolidate citizen services.

Accordingly, The Report is skeptical that the sheriff's department can work out a plan with Canton that would ensure that those living outside the city of Canton would have SWAT services available should a simultaneous event occur in the city and out in the county.

Dordea's plan?

Reconstruct a county SWAT team.

Who's idea is better?

The SCPR's heart is with McDonald's because it has the potential to be more efficient and effective because of bringing resources together.

However, it could also be unrealistic given who is mayor of Canton.

It could be that Dordea's plan is the realistic one.


A major advantage for Dordea is the "fresh ideas" factor.

In presenting his positions on various aspects of increasing the efficiencies and effectiveness of sheriff department operations, Dordea show that he is willing to entertain novel ideas.

A major advantage for McDonald is his long term tenure at the sheriff's department.  He has been there for nearly 35 years.  While most of his experience has been with the jailing operation, undoubtedly he has learned valuable lessons of "sheriffing" from the likes of Papadopulos, Stern, Umpleby and Swanson.


The SCPR is of the opinion that no matter whom from among Dordea and McDonald is elected sheriff on November 6th, the county will have a first-rate sheriff.

Whom to vote for?

That is a decision that each and every voter has to make.

And it is a difficult one for the non-partisan, "I want the best man" type of voter.

Difficult though it may be, it is the civic responsibility of each and every Stark Countian to make a thoughtful decision and not a "knee-jerk" partisan one!

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