Though they run as Republicans and Democrats, political affiliation should be a non-factor as to whom someone votes for in an election for county commissioner.
Republican Richard Regula and Democrat Bill Smuckler sat down with the SCPR yesterday and fielded questions from The Report (see video at the end of this blog).
Yes, partisanship might not be a key ingredient in deciding whom to vote for, a somewhat philosophical partisan note might have been sounded by Regula as he talked about the county (the engineer's office) sourcing jobs out to the private sector; a notion and concept he wholeheartedly supports.
A Republican game plan often includes privatization as some sort of panacea for whatever ails a given level of government.
Other than that, the SCPR heard very little that might smack of a particularly political tint.
Oh yes, Regula is wildly enthusiastic about Utica shale oil and gas exploration as a main and enduring factor in Stark County's economic factor.
The Report does believe that Republicans are more enamored with the oil and gas and the fracking industry than Democratic officeholders, but there are plenty of Democrats who are fully on board with fracking as an economic recovery cure-all. Witness Democratic Canton mayor William J. Healy, II who has dubbed Canton as "The Utica Capital."
Regula insists however that he is attentive to fracking environmental concerns and points to his work done during a previous term as commissioner (January 1, 2003 through December 31, 2006) monitoring landfills which dot southern Stark County.
Regula's opponent, Democrat Bill Smuckler, was much more measured on the significance of fracking as an enduring and permanent basis upon which Stark County should build its economic future. And he seems to The Report to have greater concerns about a negative impact that fracking might have on the environment.
It does come through that Richard Regula enjoyed being commissioner and wants to return so that he can pick up where he left off in 2006.
His political base is out in Stark's townships. He has served as a Bethlehem trustee and a Navarre village councilman.
A driving force with him seems to be having grown up in Stark County farming country and his fascination with the 4-H movement. He see 4-H as being an organization that the county should foster as a means toward developing wholesome adult Stark County citizens of the future.
Smuckler, on the other hand, is a city boy.
And this could work against his being elected county commissioner. Sitting commissioner Tom Bernabei has much the same political/governmental background as Smuckler and was narrowly elected in 2010. This time around, go figure, he is running unopposed.
Smuckler has been a long time fixture in Canton city politics and government. He has served as councilman, council president and has run for mayor of Canton twice.
His passion has been for years, getting everybody in Stark County officialdom to work together.
This former Canton city councilman is probably Stark County's most ardent advocate of intergovernmental collaboration, consolidation, merger and sharing of services.
He may be a city boy, but he aspires to bring all of Stark County together in working out agreements:
- on a centralized and reformed countywide 9-1-1 operation in which police, fire and ambulances are sent efficiently and effectively to the scene of an emergency
- on building department operations
- on health department functions, and
- on any other efficiencies that can be realized.
He wants to devote energies to pick up on the work of current Stark County Commissioner Pete Ferguson who has made collaboration, consolidation, merger and "shared services" a focal point of his time as commissioner.
Regula and Smuckler are running for Ferguson's seat inasmuch as he has decided not to seek re-election.
Smuckler has been criticized as being "all talk and very little action" on bringing Stark County's political subdivisions together on various efficiency projects.
But he has powerful evidence to the contrary. He points to himself as being a key in the collaboration between Canton and Jackson Township in August, 2010 when the city and the township worked out a Comprehensive Economic Development Agreement (CEDA).
Regula and Smuckler differ in the approach on solving chronic flooding problems that have afflicted Stark County's villages, cities, and townships in recent years.
Smuckler thinks that each community owes its citizens to step-up-to-the-plate with "real" money to contribute to localized projects to deal with specific community problems.
Regula has a more global approach (i.e. federal funding, Muskingum Watershed funding, et cetera) and also emphasizes educating residents adjacent to ditches such as the well known Stark County Zimber Ditch to not contribute to the problems by dumping refuse into the ditches.
The foregoing narrative does point out differences between these two candidates.
For its part, the SCPR believes that this is another race (e.g. Dordea versus McDonald in the sheriff's race) where the voters really can't go wrong.
But The Report is fascinated with the possibilities that Smuckler offers with his history of working for county/city/village/township collaborations.
It appears that the Kasich administration is pushing localities into mergers, consolidations and shared services arrangements.
It could be that the timing could not be better for Smuckler, if he is elected commissioner, to be in a position to make his many years of pushing for governmental efficiencies pay off.
An interesting aspect of the Smuckler/Regula face-off is whether or not the candidate plans on being a "full time or part time" county commissioner.
Smuckler, who owns a business with two siblings, says they will run their restaurant supply business whereas Regula says that he plans to stay on with his full time position with Mercy Medical Center.
The SCPR has been getting some negative feedback on Regula's "part time" plans.
Perhaps, the outcome of the election will turn on that issue.
The SCPR sat down with the two candidates yesterday and spent over an hour with them going over factors that Stark Countians ought to be considering in determining whom to vote for.