A POTENTIAL GOVERNOR?
MAYOR WILLIAM J. HEALY, II
2015 STATE OF CITY PREVIEW
How times have changed in State of Ohio and City of Canton politics.
Back in 2009 Ohio's Democrats were riding high with Ted Strickland firmly ensconced (elected in 2006) the governor's chair and the Democrats (2008 elections) in a majority in the Ohio House of Representatives for the first time in many, many years.
Moreover, Ohio now had a Democratic attorney general (which proved to be a disaster), treasurer, and secretary of state. Only Mary Taylor as state auditor survived as a statewide Republican (non-judicial).
Stark County Democrats were chirping too.
Youngstown area Democrat John Boccieri had seized the day (November, 2008) and carpet bagged to Alliance (since losing in 2010, he has returned to Mahoning Coungy) in Stark County and from there launched a campaign to defeat Stark's home grown then state Senator and Republican J. Kirk Schuring for the right to succeed the retiring Ralph Regula as 16th District congressman, when "all of Stark County" was in the district.
But the ship of state in the Democratic bastion of Canton was in danger of sinking.
Just barely a year after taking office in defeating Republican Janet Weir Creighton in November, 2007, the William J. Healy, II administration seemed to be on the brink of heading to bottom of the sea of political oblivion.
Healy, who had once bragged to the SCPR that the Democratic National Congressional Committee in the lead up to the 2008 congressional elections had offered to fund a Healy for Congress campaign with $1 million, was on the cusp of being a one term Democrat in a city with a nine to one Democratic voter registration majority that had a history of electing Republicans.
He had brought Canton Democrats (in terms of executive leadership) out of the depths of despair at their inability to convince Canton voters that the Democrats had chief executive officer capability.
In the past 40 years (pre-Healy) Democrats had only held executive office 8 years.
And in January, 2009 with the firing of the well thought of Thomas Bernabei (a former councilman and law director) as his chief and staff and service director; many thought that Healy was destined to be a failure and at best a one-term-mayor.
Many deemed him to be all mouth with his talk of being a business entrepreneur and having an MBA from the highly touted New York University Stern School of Business.
What followed with his taking the helm of Canton in 2008 was a seemingly unending series of one controversy, after another controversy, after another controversy, any one of which could have been the salvo which brought Ship Healy to the bottom of the sea of political oblivion.
But he survived each and every one of his self-inflicted blunders.
As readers of the SCPR know, The Report has bird-dogged Healy each step of the way.
Healy is now nearing the end of his second full term as mayor and seems unstoppable in his quest to be a Democrat - mind you - who on January, 2016 will be sworn into a third term in Ohio's eight largest city located in the state's seventh largest county and its county seat.
The Ohio Democratic Party (ODP), on the other hand, has experienced the reverse of Healy's political trek.
And it can be traced, the SCPR thinks, to the inept ODP leadership Chris Redfern of Port Clinton.
In early 2012, there was a gigantic battle within the Ohio Democratic Party Central Committee whether or not Redfern was going to be reelected chairman. There were election challenges (the primary election, March 2012) across Ohio's counties including Stark as to whether or not a pro-Redfern central committee person would be elected.
Healy was Redfern's man in Stark. As he was brought to the fore of the Democratic Party by Strickland in 2008.
He was elected and dutifully participated in Redfern's reelection as chairman.
As we now know, Redfern's continuance as chairman proved to be a political disaster in the making for the 2014 statewide elections.
Republicans won all statewide non-judicial offices comfortably, if not by a landslide.
Kasich obliterated Clevelander Ed FitzGerald in the gubernatorial race.
And the Dems managed to lose five seats in the Ohio House of Representatives (including Redfern's very own seat in Ottawa County).
The Democrats did manage to continue to hold 10 out 33 seats in the Ohio Senate, if one calls "treading water" being an accomplishment.
As he should have done in the light of the devastation of the Ohio Democratic Party - overall - during his reign as chairman, Redfern resigned on November 4, 2014, immediately after the crushing results of the election were known.
Now Ohio's "organized" Democrats are left with the task of "picking up the pieces."
The "picker-up-in-chief" is to be David Pepper, the Ohio Dems' unsuccessful attorney general candidate in 2014.
So where is Chairman Pepper to look for help in reconstructing the Ohio Democratic Party?
How about William J. Healy, II, mayor of Canton, Ohio?
Healy has had a few additional blunders since being elected in 2011 by a plurality, not a majority; namely:
- losing Warren Price as his service director and chief of staff after a falling out,
- taking command of a Canton police car and acting the "cop on the beat,"
- trying to change the rules of the Stark County Crime Lab to bring in "under the existing rules" unqualified director of the lab, and
- "mistakingly" (according to him) using a Canton Community Improvement Corporation credit card for personal purchases which he reimbursed for
Hold your breath, please.
It could be that he is finally maturing as Ohio's eight largest municipality chief executive officer.
In 2014, he was president of the Ohio Municipal League.
In recent Canton City Council meetings he has taken to bragging about how Canton is pulling itself up out of the ashes of devastating events (i.e. the Great Recession of 2008, draconian State of Ohio funding of local government cuts and the like) and is now on a track to be one of Ohio's great success stories as "a comeback city."
Here a video from Monday night (January 5, 2015) of his sharing the latest good news:
- on Canton unemployment being down to record low levels and concomitant income tax revenues being up for 2014, and on
- economic development and increased hiring within the city
Being the modest man he is (as to be noted in the video), Healy does not single himself out has having effected the turnaround.
But politics being what they are, the SCPR can see that maybe going forward he will increasingly take credit for matters improving in Canton and that maybe, just maybe he can do the same for Ohio.
There was talk that he might be a statewide candidate (i.e. for Ohio treasurer) in 2014.
So he does have interest in higher political office.
However, Ed FitizGerald proved that one cannot run for governor as a "smoke and mirrors" candidate.
And the SCPR assessment of Healy is that as of January 8, 2014 such is what Healy pretty much would be.
However, he registers an impressive majority win in the May 6, 2015 Democratic Primary election (he likely will not have an Republican opponent in the general election) and then builds on reelection with documented achievements going forward and thereby showcasing Canton as an authentic comeback city, it could be that he is a person that Pepper and Ohio Democratic Party shakers and movers look at as "to the rescue" leader in the statewide party.
Recently it has been announced that the Pro Football Fame complex is in for a major expansion. Healy is fully behind the effort and has with council approval pledged $5 million in seed money into the project.
His administration seems to be on the verge of finalizing financing to assist in the reconstruction of the Onesto Hotel in downtown Canton as a showplace residential site.
Scores of eyesore houses are being removed from Canton's neighborhood landscape.
Major corridors (12th Street and Mahoning Road) have been or are in the process of being rehabbed.
All of which, the SCPR thinks, are precursors to what the Canton Comprehensive Citywide Plan (asked for by the mayor and approved/funded at $300,000 plus by council last year) will pick up on and expand upon when it is published within a few months.
Such have the potential to be the cornerstone of an "authentic" Canton turnaround.
Back in January, 2009 The Stark County Political Report was counting Healy out.
All Healy has done since is to politically survive and therein become the envy of 9 life cats.
He may now be ready to surge beyond survival and thrive politically.
Time will tell.
In the meantime, does anybody doubt that ODP Chairman David Pepper will be keeping one eye on third term as Democratic mayor of Canton, Ohio William J. Healy, II as a potential Party standard bearer in 2016?