Thursday, November 4, 2010


One of newly elected Stark County commissioner Janet Creighton's claims to fame is leading cheers for the hometown team.

The question that the SCPR has about former Canton mayor Creighton is whether not she has overall leadership abilities to shepherd in a revitalization of Stark County?

She could not have picked harder times to have to demonstrate leadership ability.  Stark County departments of government are facing 16% cuts in 2011 that has resulted in Sheriff Tim Swanson to announce he is laying off 41 deputies effective December 8th.

If Stark County fails to maintain current revenue by renewing the 0.25 sales tax passed originally in 2003, then commissioners will have to deal with 35 to 40% department cuts in 2012.

There is really nothing in Creighton's political/government background to suggest that she is a creative, motivating and generative leader who sets growth and progress in motion.  She has demonstrated "solid as the Rock of Gibraltar" qualities in terms of her work as Stark County auditor and as mayor of Canton.  But she has not shown a spectacular side to her leadership style.

Canton has been sliding for some time now.  Where the slide began is open to debate.  Likely, somewhere in the midst of a past Republican administration.  Perhaps the Watkins administration.  Moreover, Creighton was not able to stem the downward decline.

But she did not leave the city a shipwreck as current Mayor William J. "Jamie" Healy, II has told the SCPR and anyone else who will listen to his excuse-making for himself.

The SCPR believes that Creighton has the potential to be a different type (more dynamic in the sense of driving achievement) of a political/government leader.  Key is whether or not she sees the dynamic quality in herself.

Signs to look for in determining whether or not she will be a productive leader in these tough times?

First, her ability to work with Democrat commissioners Pete Ferguson and Tom Bernabei.

Creighton should be superlative in this regard.  Creighton is "Stark County's most beloved politician" for a reason.  She is affable and she has the ability to connect with people (who under the surface) she disagrees with politically.  Moreover, in getting out in the neighborhoods and picking up trash when she was mayor, endeared her to many.  Had she not been running in a city that was more politically balanced than Canton (which is overwhelmingly Democratic) she would still be mayor of Canton.

Second, and more problematical, is her ability to bring into her governance structure others who can generate new ideas for economic development that work.  One of her mainstays in her time at city hall was economic development through annexation and its personage Sam Sliman who loves to describe himself as "Darth Vader to the townships."

Of course, the annexation approach is not a tool for commissioners to use, but if Creighton cannot do better than "that kind of thinking" for Stark County, there is little hope that she will be value added in terms of bringing a new economic development model to Stark County.  Many, including the SCPR, think that Stark County has "no" economic development plan at present.  Creighton with her executive experience needs to push for an articulated economic development plan for Stark County.  Something more that handing it off to the Stark Development Board.

Third on the list is her "cutting expenditures skill."   As commissioner,  she will have to look fellow elected officials in the eye and say to them:  "Use it anyway you wish, but this year's county revenue appropriation is 35% less than last year's."

The SCPR believes Creighton can be tough, very tough; when she has to be.  Experienced Stark County politicos should not discount "the friendly faced and paced" Creighton for being a softy.  She is not.  The Report believes that she has all the fortitude she needs "to twist arms and knock heads" to move Stark County forward.

The SCPR believes that Republican Creighton and Democrat Bernabei can put together a Stark County leadership team that Stark County has not seen the likes of in the past 30 to 50 years.  Because they come one each from the two main political parties, they can take the partisanship argument out of why someone would not want to work with them to advance the cause of Stark County becoming a county that provides an environment conducive to job production.

Commissioners should start with the idea of taking the Stark County Fairgrounds and reworking the complex into something special a la Clark County.  Why not look at floating a big dollar bond issue to completely repair/rebuild and expand the fairgrounds into an attraction that could be a "must go to" for those who come to the area to visit the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  Work could be done on a hotel/bed tax to fund the effort.

Defeated auditor Kim Perez has a terrific thing going with his "broadband project."  A broadband infrastructure as envisioned by Perez and his cohorts could be the the kind of technology development that fits in well with the technolgy effort underway at the Stark State College of Technology.  Commissioners should enlist Perez right away to stay with the project.  It appears that developing prolific and qualitative broadband infrastructure could be a huge draw to companies with a high need for communication technology to settle in Stark County.

But time is "a wastin."  Perez tells the SCPR that Medina County currently has a better plan than Stark County.  Our commissioners should not stand by and watch a nearby county get one up on us.

Hopefully, the highly respected "new commissioners" (Creighton and Bernabei) with consummate political and governmental experience will prove not to be stodgy as many established figures are.

Beginning with the assumption of office, Creighton and Bernabei need to blaze a bold path for a Stark County future that is rich in promise and hope for future generations of Stark Countians!

1 comment:

Victor said...

Don't underestimate Janet Creighton. Knowing about a half dozen people who work for the City of Canton, she was well liked by both management and line-level employees across the board, and was an effective leader. Anyone who can get a deficit budget balanced with the Canton City Council at the time she was Mayor is worth it big time.

Also -- I think your "take" on her tenure as Mayor doesn't give the credit deserved.