On Monday, The Stark County Political Report started a new feature: Stark County Top 10 Leaders.
On a quarterly basis, The Report plans on ranking Stark County's political subdivision (villages, cities, township and boards of education) leadership in terms of the "Top 10."
See previous blogs in this series for the particulars of how the quarterly "Top 10" blogs will be constituted, revised and what the timetable is for publication. (reference: the Tom Bernabei blog)
And, of course, to see the SCPR's presentations on:
- Stark County's #1 leader; namely, Stark County Commissioner Thomas M. Bernabei, and
- Stark County's #2 leader; namely, Massillon Councilwoman Nancy Halter,
- Stark County's #3 leader; namely, Canton Councilman Edmond Mack,
- Stark County's #4 leader; namely, Stark County Auditor Alan Harold,
- Stark County's #5 leader; namely, Stark County treasurer Alex Zumbar,
Today's blog is on Canton City Councilman-at-Large Richard Hart.
Political Affiliation: Independent
1972 Graduate of Lehman High School
1975 Graduate of The Ohio State University B.S. Education
1989 Graduate of University Of Akron, Masters Degree
Personnel Committee (Chairman)
Member, Environmental & Public Utilities Committee
Member, Public Safety & Thoroughfares Committee
Member, Downtown Development Committee
Memberships (Past & Present):
Ex News Boys
Boy Scouts of America
Grace United Church of Christ
Canton Preservation Society - Advisory Board Member
Riverwatch Tower Property Owners Association Board Member
Calvary Mission Board Member
Tri-County Waste District Policy Committee
Former Member of Board of Zoning Appeals
Former Member of City Planning
Former 10th Ward Council Member
Former 7th Ward Council Member
Brought City Wide Curbside Recycling to Canton
Fought to protect Canton's Water Sources from being polluted
Fully staffed Police/Fire Departments
Lower Sanitation rates for Recyclers
Improving Canton's Neighborhood redevelopment
Working to improve Canton's employment opportunities
Park Improvements for residents
Term Expiration: December 31, 2015
(Source: City of Canton Website)
A surprise election to Canton City Council in 2013, Richard Hart had a tough introduction as an "independent" Canton councilman in the context of all the other councilpersons being Democrats.
There are two key words in the foregoing paragraph.
First keyword, his election a surprise?
In that Canton has a 9 to 1 Democratic over Republican voter registration edge and Hart a former Republican seemed to be tied to his Republican past despite his best efforts to separate, it was "assumed" by yours truly and nearly every other Stark County political observer that Hart could not - given the registration numbers - even managed to come in third in the election of three councilpersons-at-large in the 2013 election notwithstanding his having been a former Republican councilman from the 7th (different from today's 7th Ward now represented by Democrat John Mariol) and the 10th (which no longer exists).
Most of us thought that newcomer Democrat Roland K. Burns, III would be elected just by virtue of being one of three Democrats on the November, 2013 ballot.
But as can happen, Burns the third became his own work enemy in being accused by Canton building officials as being a poor steward of rental properties he owns and maintains within the city.
Even so many of us politicos thought he would survive.
And he may have but for the very familiar to Canton households name of Richard Hart.
Second key word: A "tough" beginning as a new councilman?
Richard Hart got caught up (in a negative light) - by his inaction - in a fight between Ward 2 Councilman Thomas West and Ward 9 Councilman Frank Morris, III as to who was going to be vice president (majority leader) of council.
The vote was 6 to 5 in favor of Morris which fact West seized upon in challenging the legitimacy of Morris' "apparent" election.
Had Hart done anything but "not vote" then council could have gotten on with the business of organizing and initiating the new term (2014 - 2015) with nothing but an interesting but "clearly" falling short effort by West to upset Morris' applecart.
A vote for West (as reports indicate he was inclined to do) if he decided the enter the Democratic political fratricide would have made it a 6 to 6 tie which would have thrown the matter to council president Allen Schulman who was set to break the tie in favor of Morris or he could have "seen the handwriting on the wall" and voted for Morris making Morris the clear winner of a "true" (i.e. all seven council member voting) and thereby "cut [West] off at the pass."
But he didn't and insofar as the SCPR can determine such has been the only blemish on Hart's 2014 - 2015 term on Canton City Council.
While Hart has not been spectacular in his role as council's only non-Democrat, he has been a steady, studied and serious minded councilman who knows how to ask incisive questions.
His advantage over some of his Democratic colleagues who too can ask the tough minded questions is that it is hard to make the argument that in doing so he has a partisan or in the case of the Democrats (intra-partisan) agenda going.
The SCPR sees a guy like Hart as more or less an ideal type of councilperson in that his take on issues that come before council seem to be about as objective as one can be.
And he can and does open his mouth and thereby sets himself apart as a leader in council.
That he has been given a chairmanship by the Democratic council caucus is testimony in support of the SCPR's take that Richard Hart is a leader albeit in a mode that is somewhat different than one normally sees.
Hart is by no means a novice to Canton politics and government.
As noted in this biography above he has served as a "Republican" councilman in Canton and he has run as the Republican candidate for the Ohio House of Representatives.
Moreover, he ran as an "independent" for mayor in 2011.
Richard Hart's primary contribution to Stark County political subdivision politics and government is serving as a model to aspiring political independents to go and do likewise.
A SCPR "hats off" to Councilman Richard Hart for the non-traditional leadership he has shown as a political independent.
Next up in this series, the SCPR turns to the Carnation City.
Hint: The Report's #7 leader has a leadership pedigree.