Thursday, February 28, 2013


In the annals of Stark County commissioner history December has proved to be both the best of times and the worst of times for former Stark County commissioner Tom Harmon.

The best of times occurred on December 13, 2007 when on the strong support of the-then Commissioner Harmon, the commissioners selected former Repository managing editor and longtime employee Michael Hanke as Stark County's new chief administrator.

No one knew it at the time, the decision to hire Hanke was probably the saving grace in getting Stark County through the worst of times which were yet to come.

The first year went well enough for Hanke, but then came December 28, 2008:  the beginning of the worst of times (LINK - prior blog) for Stark County finances.

On that date the-then Board of Stark County Commissioners composed of Harmon, Todd Bosley and Jane Vignos decided to impose a 0.5% sales tax.

The imposition of the tax kicked off an furor among everyday Stark Countians which resulted in the tax being repealed in November, 2009 and coupled with a nose diving national/local economy resulted in Stark County government experiencing a financial crisis which the county is just now beginning to get out of.

Much of the credit for survival and even a degree of prospering is in the opinion of the SCPR owing to Chief Administrator Hanke.

But he did have help.

In November, 2010 former Canton mayor Janet Creighton (who has held a number of Stark County elective offices) and former longtime Canton law director Tom Bernabei (also a former councilman and Healy administration official) assessed that there was a large deficiency in county commissioner leadership quality and offered themselves to Stark Countians as having "been there, done that" type of leaders who on being elected teamed up with Hanke to pull Stark County through to the point it now occupies:  surviving and in small measure beginning to thrive.

The Report could go through all the many tests, trials and difficulties that Stark County has endured during Hanke's tenure, but to do so would be to spoil yesterday's celebration by the commissioners of the former reporter and editor turned top flight administrator's gig as chief administrator.

During Hanke's time, he has served with eight commissioners.

Stark County employees will hold a Hanke retirement celebration event at the Stark County Office Building tomorrow afternoon.

Hanke announced his retirement on December 13, 2012:  five years to the day of his initial hire.

Be sure to see this video of Commissioners Bernabei, Creighton and Regula commenting on the Michael Hanke era as chief administrator for the Stark County commissioners.

And thank you Tom Harmon for having the foresight in being a driving force in 2007 Board of Stark County Commissioners making the right choice!

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