Thursday, January 24, 2013


UPDATE:  6:00 PM

The SCPR has learned that all interviews went well and that it is likely that Stark County's next chief administrator will be selected from among the five finalists interviewed Wednesday (Lair) and Thursday (Cozy, Luther, Marion and Nichols).

The Report has learned that commissioners are likely on Monday to announce the process going forward on such things as to whether or not additional interviews are needed to get to a final determination.

On Monday of this week, in a videotaped interview with the SCPR (see below), Commissioner Bernabei announced a timetable for the hiring process which is designed to put a new administrator in place a week or so before retiring administrator Mike Hanke's departure on March 1 so that there is a coordinating overlap.

Yesterday, the Stark County commissioners were in executive session interviewing Geauga County administrator David Lair in their quest to replace the seemingly irreplaceable Michael Hanke as Stark County's chief administrator.

Lair was one of five candidates that the commissioners narrowed a list of about 30 applicants to in determining whom to interview.

From the list of 30, SCPR could easily have picked Luther, Cozy and Nichols as finalists.

But Vince Marion of Alliance city government and Lair of Geauga County were surprises to The Report.

First of all take a look and a listen to Stark County commissioner Tom Bernabei as he described on Monday to yours truly what the commissioners would be seeking in a new chief administrator.

Today, the commissioners will once again go into executive session to interview:
  • Brant Luther - the head of the Stark County Family Court guardian program,
  • Mark Cozy - city manager of Canal Fulton,
  • Chris Nichols - a Canton Township trustee,
  • Vince Marion - director of planning and development for Alliance
    Before yesterday's session, The Report had an opportunity to chat with Lair as he waited to be interviewed by the commissioners.

    The Report learned that Lair is originally from Massillon but moved away at a young age to eventually end up in Geauga County where he has been  county administrator for nine years. Prior to becoming involved in Geauga County office holding, Lair tells the SCPR that he worked in information technology in the private sector.

    The News-Harold reports that Geauga County commissioners on December 12, 2012 approved a general fund budget of little over $27 million for 2013.  This compares to Stark's expected $54 million budget which is obviously twice what Lair is used to working with.

    He is also the fiscal officer for Newbury Township and in the words of the township's website "has been responsible for the township’s financials since January, 1988."

    The Burton Blog (LINK) indicates that Lair makes about in the range of $100,000 annually as administrator and also some $23,631.15 (2011 numbers) as Newbury Township fiscal officer (township LINK).

    While the SCPR was impressed with Lair in the 15 minutes or so of conversation; if the income numbers cited above are accurate, one wonders how Stark County could possibly afford him given that Hanke is signing out making $78,000 annually.


    Brant Luther has a number of  jobs since his first listed employment according to his Linked-In listing, to wit:
    • Director, CASA/GAL [guardianship] Program Stark County Family Court
      January 2007 – Present (6 years 1 month),
    • Part-Time Private Law PracticeMay 2002 – Present (10 years 9 months),
    • Magistrate / Staff Attorney Stark County Probate Court
      January 2005 – December 2006 (2 years),
    • County Auditor [Republican] November 2003 – December 2004 (1 year 2 months) [having been appointed to succeed current Commissioner Janet Creighton when she was elected mayor of Canton and which he lost to Democrat Kim Perez in November, 2004],
    • Chief Fiscal Officer of Stark County, Ohio,
    • First Ward Councilman Alliance City Council, Alliance, Ohio
      January 2000 – November 2003 (3 years 11 months)
    • Law Clerk Stark County Family Court
      January 2000 – April 2003 (3 years 4 months)
    In April 2011, he applied for the Stark County  judgeship that went to Rosemary Hall.

    He ran an unsuccessful campaign as the Republican candidate state representative (the "old" 61st Ohio House District) in 2006.

    RE:  COZY

    Mark Cozy appears to be another candidate (reference Lair) that has credentials that are directly relevant to Stark's administrator position.  Here his Linked-In listing, to wit:
    • City Manager City of Canal Fulton January 2006 – Present (7 years 1 month)
    • Township Administrator Plain Township September 2000 – January 2006 (5 years 5 months), and
    • Public Service Director City of Green April 1999 – September 2000 (1 year 6 months)
    Noteworthy also is the specific listing of his responsibilities for Canal Fulton as set forth on the Canal Fulton website:
    The City Manager is the chief executive and administrative officer of the City.  He is responsible to and subject to control, supervision and direction of the Mayor.  The City Manager is responsible to City Council for the day-to-day operations of the City.   Other responsibilities include advising Council  regarding the financial status and future needs of the City and reporting to Council on the general operation of City departments, offices, boards and commissions, as well as exercising leadership in the development of City projects and economic development.


    Chris Nichols is an interesting candidate mostly on the basis of his having been a Canton Township trustee (Republican) for over 12 years.   But his administrative experience has all been in the private sector.  The Report believes that the commissioners are looking to hire someone who has government administrative experience.

    Here is his Linked-In listed experience:
    • Director, Revenue Assurance First Communications Privately Held; 201-500 employees; FCOM; Telecommunications industry May 2002 – Present (10 years 9 months 
    • Township Trustee Canton Township January 2001 – Present (12 years 1 month) Canton, Ohio Area

    Vince Marion is an intriguing possibility to succeed Hanke.  His bio includes the following:
    • Alliance Director of Development from January 2001 to present.  He describes his duties thusly:
      • My office oversees all Economic and Community Development in the City of Alliance, Ohio. While I have a staff that manages the day to day activities of Community Development, my duties are focused on business attraction, retention and expansion. My office manages economic development incentives, financing and working with clients to guide them through the development process.
    • He is president of Stark County Regional Planning for the past 13 months.  
    • He was administrator for Plain Township from 1994 into 1998
    His connection with Stark County Regional Planning (SCPRC) could be very helpful to him in his endeavor to land the county administrator position inasmuch as the commissioners have a lot of interaction with SCPRC.

    If the commissioners elect to select from among this group, this is how the SCPR would rank them just on their actual job experience.
    1. David Lair (if they can afford him),
    2. Vince Marion,
    3. Mark Cozy,
    4. Brant Luther,
    5. Chris Nichols
    We should know soon as to whether or not any of these five measure up the very high standard that Mike Hanke has marked this position with.

    As Commissioner Bernabei said on the video, if they do not the commissioners are set on reformulating the search until the find a candidate who does.

    As well they should.  For the chief administrator is a key figure as to whether or not they succeed as commissioners.

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