Tomorrow: #2 on the SCPR "Top 10" List
With the recent coming and going of March 12th, The Stark County Political Report is now into its 8th year.
On reflecting over the past seven years, it dawned on yours truly that there is now enough familiarity with "elected" Stark County elected officials that The Report is in a position the meaningfully evaluate who is doing an exemplary job, who is mediocre and who the dregs of Stark County political subdivision are.
Today, the SCPR states with the initial Top 10 listing.
Quarterly, The Report will reevaluate the listings to determine whether or not the ten listed in the-then current list merit continuing on the list and, if so, whether or not the list has that official in the appropriate ranking slot.
All of which means that it is possible for future quarterly assessments to drop down/move up the various listed persons and finally whether a given official should be on the new list at all.
A corollary is that an official heretofore not on the list could catapult to a place on the list on the basis of new actions which the SCPR thinks is a major move for the improvement of one level or another of Stark County Political Subdivision (i.e. villages, cities, townships and boards of education).
The next edition will appear beginning on July 1st and then continuing on the first day of each ensuing new quarter thereafter.
The first list of course is the brainchild of yours truly.
However, The Report is open to nominations from the SCPR reading public. Nominators should send nominations to email@example.com with a convincing argument why the nominee deserves a place of honor on list.
No anonymous nomination will be considered.
While the SCPR is pleased to point out those officials who have provided exemplary leadership; The Stark County Political Report would not be The Stark County Political Report if the derelicts of Stark County political and government leadership did not also get their quarterly "day in the sun."
Accordingly and soon, the SCPR will initiate a Bottom Ten of Stark County leadership.
After all "fair is fair," no?
THE FIRST QUARTERLY "TOP 10" LIST
#1: STARK CO. COMMISSIONER THOMAS BERNABEI
Tom Bernabei is a lifelong resident of Stark County and lives in Jackson Township. He graduated from Canton Lehman High School in 1964, Brown University in 1968 and The Ohio State University School College of Law in 1975. Between college and law school, Tom served four years in the United States Army, including one tour of duty in Vietnam.
Tom's first public service job out of law school was as Assistant Prosecutor in Massillon Municipal Court. He later served as an Assistant Law Director in Canton. In 1998, he was elected Canton Law Director. Tom retired in 2000 and subsequently -- after his wife tired of having him around the house - served one term as Councilman at-Large in Canton. Tom then worked as Director of Public Service in Canton from 2008 to 2009, and as SARTA's interim Executive Director in 2009. In 2010, Tom was elected Stark County Commissioner.
Tom proudly practiced law with his father, Joseph, from 1975 to 1989. He equally is proud to be married to his wife, Bebe.
Source: Stark County commissioners website
To the SCPR, Bernabei is "the best of the best" of Stark County political subdivision leadership.
Not perfect, to be sure.
But The Report thinks he is "head and shoulders" above the rest.
Stark County is really, really, really deficient in leadership that is forward looking in its planning and developing a vision of a future that captures the imagination of Stark Countians.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame Village concept is an example of what Stark needs more of.
While Greater Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce (GCRCC) CEO and president Denny Saunier himself has demonstrated some of the leadership qualities the SCPR has in mind, The Report sees the Chamber's leadership training and development component as being "a credential gathering" watering hole for those who want to get leadership positions on the basis of polished résumés and not upon real leadership skills and ability.
The GCRCC needs to completely overhaul its leadership development mechanism and thereby convert it from "a spit and polish" operation into "a boot camp-esque" (figuratively speaking) regime that produces fewer but more highly prized leaders-in-the-making (as contrasted to the merely "credentialed") and thereby provide a resource that over time will provide all sectors of the Stark County community with visionary direction and accomplishment.
Returning to Tom Bernabei.
He is long-time Canton law director and short-time service director in the first William J. Healy, II administration, he appears to be to the SCPR pretty much "his own man" who by and large (but not always) "calls them as he sees them" which of course are characteristic that the SCPR likes the most in public officials.
In January, 2009 (having been hired in January, 2008) he got fired as Canton's service director/chief-of-staff because Mayor Healy could not handle his incisive critiques of the fumbling and bumbling going on under the neophyte mayor.
Seven years down the road it seems to The Report that things have improved with Healy's leadership style but a casualty of his slow and grudging improvement has left a number of sacrificial lambs (Bernabei being the foremost example of) strewn along the pathway.
Healy learned early on that there are those in government and politics who will not bullied nor can they be finessed.
Healy may not admit it, but Bernabei's time on his staff was a blessing in terms of his modeling what "real" leadership looks like.
The major mark that Thomas Bernabei has made on Stark County government has been as Stark County commissioner.
With the onset of Stark County government troubles with the charges in early 2009 that Stark County Deputy Treasurer Vince Frustaci had stolen perhaps as much as nearly $3 million of Stark County taxpayer money (to which he plead guilty stealing about $2.46 million and was sentenced to federal prison for ten years), Stark County government was reeling in public distrust of "who was minding the store."
It took Democrat Bernabei and former Stark County recorder, auditor and Canton mayor Janet Creighton (a Republican) to put together a plan of action to restore public confidence in the integrity of Stark County government to the point that the commissioners were able to convince Stark voters to approve an increase in the county sales tax of 1/2 cent in November, 2012.
It was truly remarkable to see a turnaround in the public attitude in the brief time span of some eleven of Bernabei and Creighton taking office.
While the SCPR thinks Creighton has been an above-average commissioner; she is not - in The Report's judgment - at Bernabei's level. She and the third commissioner (Richard Regula) make a good supporting cast, but Bernabei appears to be the decider-in-chief.
She has not let their different political perspectives be much of a factor in doing what's best for Stark County. But from time-to-time she will team up with fellow Republican Regula to advance what seems to the SCPR as being a partisan interest.
It is clear to the SCPR that it has been Commissioner Bernabei who has been the driving force behind structuring and implementing core democratic-republican values of accountability, accessibility, openness, communicativeness and transparency into Stark County government.
Moreover, he been the "due diligence" commissioner who vets each and every commissioner action in coming to position on the many various issues that the commissioners had had to deal with over the past four plus years.
The Report has disagreed with a number of his positions (e.g. to hire the commissioners' very own legal counsel and the awarding of the Computer Aided Dispatch contract process among a number), but there is no doubt that he was convinced of his take on his interpretation of his due diligence.
The SCPR shutters to think what the county would have been in for had Jackson Township trustee Jamie Walters been elected in 2010 (as the The Report thinks he would have been had it not been for an "independent" candidate being in the race).
But for Thomas Bernabei being a Stark County commissioner, the SCPR thinks Stark County would be stuck in a quagmire of bickering and infighting and fiscal chlaos and therefore in a mode of governance that nurtures public cyncism.
Another quality that Bernabei brings to the commissioners' office is "a wry sense of humor." He is apt "at the drop of a hat" to make some pretty bizarre associations that provoke hearers to laughter.
Here is a SCPR videotaped example:
All the foregoing is why the SCPR thinks Commissioner Thomas M. Bernabei is "the best of the best" in Stark County Political Subdivision governance.
Tomorrow, #2 on the SCPR "Top 10" list.
Hint. From Massillon. And not Mayor Kathy Catazaro-Perry!