Friday, November 13, 2015




Earlier this year, The Stark County Political Report initiated a series on a Stark County Top 10 List of Stark County Political Subdivision Elected Leaders (List).

At the top of the List on its first rendition and on the first quaterly update was Stark County Commissioner Thomas M. Bernabei.

So as far as the SCPR is concerned,  there is no better qualified and equipped leader in all of Stark County elected officialdom than Bernabei to pull Stark County's county seat of government—Canton—out of its current malaise, maybe even continuing to decline, than Canton's former long time law director, councilman, chief of staff, services director and current Stark County commissioner.

As a Stark County commissioner, elected in 2010, in a de facto role as being "the first among equals," he teamed up with:
  • Janet Weir Creighton (2010), 
  • Pete Ferguson (did not seek re-election in 2012), and Richard Regula (elected in 2012)
to pull Stark County out of the financial and lack of trust crises precipitated by the Stark County treasury loss of nearly $3 MM, the county victimized by the Deputy Treasury Vince Frustaci theft in office.

On November 10th, Stark County auditor Alan Harold and Stark County treasuer Alex Zumbar reported to commissioners at their regular weekly meeting that Stark County, since the dark days of the 2009—2011 county fiscal crisis, have been in such solid fiscal condition as it is now (SCPR's intrepretation of Harold's report).

Bernabei's leadership skills are such that he was even able to step in at the Stark Area Regional Transportation Authority (SARTA, LINK to SCPR blog) as interim executive director (March, 2009—October, 2009)  and provide adept and forward looking direction for this most difficult of government agencies to effectively manage.

Bernabei is a task master of a boss.  Those who are just marking time in government loathe working for Bernabei.  Most Stark County Political Subdivision employees want to excel on the job but lack leadership which inspires them "to be all that they can be."

Thomas M. Bernabei is such a leader and is likely to make a huge difference in the quality of life for Cantonians by the end of his first term.

But he is going need help.  The SCPR thinks that there are two key persons on Canton City Council who have the ability in terms of their own leadership skills to team up (in the context of having a critiquing mind frame) with Bernabei to show what authentic leadership compared to current Mayor Healy's braggadocio (but without much "real" substance) style.

The two?

Councilman at Large Bill Smuckler and Ward 8 Councilman Edmond Mack!

Smuckler, of course, will have no trouble at all taking on a critiquing-esque sounding board but collaborative role on Bernabei initiatives from his council perch.

Councilman Mack may prefer to don a "loyal opposition-esque" relationship with the new mayor.
    • SCPR Note:  Anybody who knows Tom Bernabei knows full well that he is a self-assured, strong minded leader who does not abide fools easily.  However, he is not God Almighty and needs to surround himself with cabinet advisers and sub level administrators who will fully vet his programs, policies and administration practices much as he did as one of Healy's top officials which, of course, got him fired
Mack was, it seems to the SCPR, "all out" for Healy and may still be smarting from the Healy loss on November 3rd.

He served as legal counsel along with his boss Lee Plakas in the to-benefit-Healy protest with the Stark County Board of Elections on Bernabei qualifying as an "independent" candidate for mayor.

Mack (2015), Plakas (2014) contributed to the Healy campaign and Mack canvased Ward 8 for Healy.  And Healy made campaign finance contributions to Mack (2015).

From Bernabei's standpoint, Mack's allegiance to Healy will be no problem going forward.

Mack, also a high ranking member of the SCPR Top 10 List, has demonstrated first-rate leadership on council as exemplified on a Canton Parks issue in his ward and on the recently defeated Charter government issue.

Yours truly has such a high regard for Mack's intellect, sensitivity to constituent input and determination to the task at hand that it was disconcerting to seem him supporting Healy.  As The Report sees Mack, Healy and Bernabei, Mack has much more in common with Bernabei in style, leadership intensity and community purposefulness than Healy has and is ever likely to demonstrate.

His reason for sticking with Healy, as the SCPR understands it, was primarily based on his loyalty to the Democratic Party nominated candidate.

From the SCPR's latest blog on Healy (LINK), Mack should now realize that Healy was undeserving of rank and file Democratic Party support, if party loyalty is the primary basis of his supporting Healy.

For Healy himself has demonstrated a number of times during his political career in Canton that he will jettison party loyalty for his political self interest at the drop of a hat.

The Report thinks that Mack is his generation's foremost up and coming political leader for Canton, Stark County and, perhaps beyond.

If he will, Mack can learn from the mayor-elect and Smuckler in how to grow in stature as a mature, seasoned and effective leader.

The Report thinks that four years hence Cantonians will be talking about how Mack seized the day with Bernabei's accession to the mayor's office and thoughtfully, analytically but collaboratively worked with this new mayor to get Canton genuinely on the right track to potentially recapture some semblance of her former glory.

On Tuesday last, the SCPR sat down with Mayor-elect Thomas M. Bernabei and asked him bevy of questions, including:
  • What has it been like for him as mayor-elect over the past week,
  • When he will be stepping down as Stark County commissioner,
  • What he is doing in terms of transition from the current administration to his own,
  • How he is likely to relate as mayor to various Canton City Council members who have voiced reservations about work with Mayor Thomas M. Bernabei,
  • Soliciting a list of his top priorities on taking office,
  • Whether or not he still expects as he said in the campaign to be facing a $3 million dollar Canton budget deficit as mayor,
  • What steps he will take to balance Canton's 2016 Fiscal Year budget,
  • His take on the Parks levy being defeated,
  • Bernabei's view on the future prospects of a renewed effort to make Canton a charter city,
    • Note:  Bernabei reflects on the list of Charter Commission candidates as a resource for his administration in connecting with Canton's citizenry, and
  • The Bernabei leadership style,
    • Note:  Bernabei addresses the status of Healy administration officials in terms of their potential to carry over to his administration
Here is the video and Mayor-elect Thomas M. Bernabei's answers.

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