Sunday, November 6, 2016


There are two countywide commissioner races in our Hall of Fame county this presidential election year.

Being a successful Stark County commissioner is a challenge that few understand.

A challenge?


For the commissioners have little governance power inasmuch as most county offices administering to the Stark County public have heads that are themselves elected and therefore are free to ignore (accountable only to the electorate) much of what the commissioners collectively think is best policy and practice for the county at large.

But they do have the "bully pulpit."

One of the best "preachers" of the current set of commissioners is Republican Janet Creighton.

Creighton and then-Democrat Thomas Bernabei (now a political independent and mayor of Canton) elected in November, 2010 when Stark County was in the midst of a crisis of confidence in county government as an outgrowth of then-Chief Deputy of the Stark County treasury having stolen Stark County taxpayer money which, it turns out, was upwards of $3 million.

And preach she did that "the good old boys" model of county government were over.

Alongside her and the Rock of Gibraltar of "head-knocking" was Bernabei who in steel hand in soft glove fashion provided oomph to the Creighton preachments.

But now Bernabei is gone and off to Canton as its "independent" minded mayor in a quest to solve the decades long in the making severe problems that the Hall of Fame City is experiencing.

David Bridenstine has done a solid job as interim commissioner since January when Bernabei took over as chief executive at Canton City Hall.  But he accepted the appointment with the understanding he would not seek election as commissioner.

So the first order of election business for Stark Countians on Tuesday is whom to replace Benabei with.


Of all the "wholly within Stark County" contested races that The Stark County Political Report is weighing in upon, this election cycle, that Republican Bill Smith is the highest quality candidate of them all in terms of being prepared for the office he seeks is clear to The Report.

The election of term-limited-out as of December 31st state Representative Stephen D. Slesnick would make the job of the other two commissioners much more challenging.

Smith as a 13 year Canton Township trustee with an adult life of being a highly successful businessman.

Slesnick, the other hand, as state representative has amounted to no more than being a place holder in the Ohio General Assembly in a legislative district "rigged" (i.e. gerrymandered) by the supermajority Republicans.

Kirk Schuring (the 48th), Christina Hagan (the 50th ) and Scott Oelslager have conspired with their fellows in the Ohio General Assembly to isolate Democrats into urban districts so that Republicans could and have in fact achieved supermajority control of an Ohio which presidential, governorship and U.S. Senate races more often than not demonstrate that Ohio—given quality candidates—is pretty much a 50/50 state.

But such was the perfect place for the vegetating Slesnick to be.

Stark County does not need a place holding commissioner.

There are still many challenges that future Stark boards of commissioners face and the board needs to be composed of office holders who have demonstrated leadership ability.

Accordingly, Bill Smith gets the SCPR's highest recommendation ranking of all the "wholly within Stark County" candidate races on Tuesday's ballot.


Democrat and Canton councilman (Ward 7) John Mariol is one of the SCPR's favorite Canton councilpersons.

In the early days of being a Canton councilman, Mariol along with Ward 5 councilman Kevin Fisher, Ward 8 councilman Edmond Mack and Ward 9 councilman Frank Morris, III (all Democrats, of course) made up a group of energetic, progressive and independent (of then-mayor William J. Healy, II) which the SCPR termed as being "the four young turks."

But alas their vigor and independence was not to last.

By the 2015 elections all four were firmly committed to the re-election of William J. Healy, II as mayor of Canton.

Almost from the beginning of his political career in Canton, the SCPR assessed Healy to be a self-serving, manipulative politician of the first order.

He proved too skilled at political manipulation for Mariol, Fisher, Mack and Morris to resist being drawn into his web of political support.

Healy achieved his objective by using the overarching concept of political party loyalty as the snare to suck them into being part of his core of support.

It was a profound disappointment to see Mariol, Fisher, Mack and Morris to place political party loyalty over the well being of the county seat of Stark County.

Fisher is now out of Canton government.  Mack has said he is leaving at the end of 2017.  And by virtue of running for commissioner, Mariol is saying he wants out.

Only trouble is with Mariol is that he wants to leave Canton government without having left much of a mark on improving Canton's overall situation.

His Market Square project is promising, but far from realized.

It could be that over time John Mariol will prove to be a worthy leader who is equipped to spread his wings and one of three governors of all of Stark County.

But that day is not November 8, 2016.

Accordingly, he needs to stay the course in Canton government and focus on Mayor Bernabei as a model of what real leadership qualities look like in effective government improvement action.

Incumbent Republican commissioner Richard Regula, on the other hand, has grown into be being a somewhat effective commissioner.

His big thing is improving Stark County's infrastructure (e.g. non-flooding ditches, highways [Route 30 widening], and countywide broadband) and he has had significant impact on improving and expanding upon all of the examples.

One troubling aspect of Regula's tenure in Stark County government is that he continues to live under the shadow of his father Ralph Regula, the long-time congressman of the 16th congressional district who distinguished himself as congressman especially in terms of "bringing home the 'federal' bacon" to Stark County.

It is unreal that as the son of revered congressman that Richard has a track record of having lost two elections.

In 2000, he lost to of all people Gary D. Zeigler (who at the time had run unsuccessfully some eight times) in a race for Stark County treasurer.

Then in 2006, he lost to Democrat Nimishillen trustee Todd Bosley in one of the all time upsets in Stark County political history.

The SCPR senses that Richard is making headway in making his own mark as a Stark County leader.

Up to now, he has been mostly talk on infrastructure improvement and has demonstrated as commissioner that he is apparently content with piecemeal improvements as exemplified by the commissioners spending a million here and a million there on unplugging Stark's drainage ditches.

At the current pace of drainage ditch infrastructure repair,  the problem will not be solve during Richard Regula's political lifetime.

He has not developed a creative financing mechanism for funding the critically needed infrastructure projects he advocates for.

Richard Regula needs to get to work on a viable funding option to provide the financing needed countywide infrastructure development and realization.

In the judgment of the SCPR, he has the political/governance wherewithal to make his own Regula mark on benefiting Stark County.

The SCPR recommends the election of Richard Regula over John Mariol this coming Tuesday.

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