Monday, August 19, 2013









Today and tomorrow the Stark County commissioners will be interviewing candidates to become Stark's next dog warden.

Yawn, no?

As it should be.

Except in Stark, going back maybe as much as ten years, it hasn't been a yawn.

Management of the Stark County Dog Pound (SCDP - Pound) has been one huge problem for a number of prior Stark County boards of commissioners.

Current commissioner Thomas Bernbei told the SCPR last Wednesday that having an effective operating Pound is important and acknowledged that Stark Countians are no different than folks across the nation; they want and expect government to get the job done.

His consternation is abundantly clear that prior commissioners had not been able to get a handle on proper management of the SCDP is amazing in terms of the small part that Pound operations occupies when compared to the overall scope and responsibilities of county government.

Commissioner Janet Creighton cited to the SCPR a number of improvements (not all) that the current board of commissioners have made at the Pound, to wit:

  • A new heating, air conditioning and ventilation system,
  • The creation of a veterinarian examination/treatment room,
  • The introduction of pads into the cages to make walking around in them much more comfortable, 
  • Working closely with the dog warden (Reagan Tetreault) from the time they (Bernabei and Creighton were elected in November, 2010) took office to institute needed management and personnel changes
Tetreault resigned (having come on board in May, 2010) effective August 9th.

Creighton credits Tetreault with having stabilized operations at the Pound and having been a driving force to institute better conditions.


Moreover, Creighton sees the selection of a replacement warden as being an opportunity for she and her fellow commissioners to put their concept of leadership qualities in place.

During the time that the SCPR has covered the Stark County commissioners (since March, 2008), yours truly has seen, with the current set of commissioners, a marked upgraded change in the manner in which commissioners evaluate and select management level employees. 

When they interview, they make a point of having someone with "expertise" in the field (e.g. an experienced human resources person when they hired a county human resources lead person) in which an appointment is being contemplated.

While The Report does see that there does seem to be a political affinity factor (with Commissioner Creighton) regarding some of those selected as hires (e.g. well known Republicans Brant Luther [he actually worked for Creighton when she was county auditor, and, in fact, succeeded her as auditor as the Stark County GOP appointee] as chief county administrator and Canton Township trustee Chris Nichols as director of management and budget); both appear to be well qualified for their jobs and to be doing high quality work.

But then there is  the recent hire of Angela Cavanaugh as the county's chief building officer who does not appear to have any political connections with any of the commissioners.  And The Report is told that she does not have much, if any, history of being politically involved in her time with Canton.

An argument can be made that it took a large measure of political maturity on the part of Bernabei and Creighton to be in favor of a county Cavanaugh appointment inasmuch as she is currently working for Canton mayor William J. Healy, II. 

She will take office on September 3rd but will continue to work for the mayor for 120 days.

Political maturity?  How's that?

The Report is told that Cavanaugh is loyal to the mayor over and above that of most of his top administrators.  

Of course, it is well known that Bernabei (who he fired as Canton service director/chief-of-staff in January, 2009) and Creighton (who he defeated in her re-election bid in November, 2007 and whom he has criticized as having left the city of Canton in a financial mess) have been avowed political enemies of Healy for years.

So why would somone who is not "on the outs" with the mayor want to leave and why would a pair who are "on the outs" be willing the hire the former?

First, The Report is told that Cavanaugh is spread very thin over a large field of responsibilities with Canton and likes the idea that with Stark County her focus will be narrowed considerably.

Second, there appears to have been for some time now a recognition by the commissioners and by Healy that it is advantageous to both the county and Canton to work out a collaboration between the two entities for the sake of efficiencies and concomitant cost savings.  

However, the kicker has been that Healy would be unwilling to entrust Canton's building department work to the county (by contract or otherwise) unless someone like Cavanaugh was managing the county building department.

The Report does not think that Bernabei and Creighton have all of a sudden become enamored with the mayor.

But yours truly does believe that they care more about providing quality local government to Stark Countians than engaging in political warfare with Healy.


Brant Luther, in particular, is a key advisor to helping the commissioners select exactly the right person to succeed Tetreault as Stark County's dog warden.

If the commissioners make the correct choice, then the SCDP operation will hum along without the high drama and controversy that has plagued the facility even bleeding into the early days of Tetrault's management.

Believe or not, Commissioner Bernabei thinks that the commissioners have the right person in the job now as interim dog warden but that he is not interested in taking on the job permanently.

That would be former Alliance mayor Toni Middleton.

At 12:01 a.m. on August 10th Middleton became the appointed warden until they select Tetreault's replacement.

Middleton is Alliance's former fire chief (1989 - 1999) and mayor former mayor (2000 - 2008).

Commissioner Bernabei is thoroughly impressed with Middleton and would be in favor of hiring him "in a heartbeat," if the former Alliance chief executive (a Republican) was open to it.

Here is what Luther had to say about Middleton's appointment in a press release.

Not to detract from Middleton's appointment at all, but he does appear to have close political ties to Commissioner Janet Creighton which some might think has something to do with his selection.

For those SCPR readers who want a refresher on the trials and tribulations of the commissioners (present and of yore), here are a few links to past blogs:

The folks being interviewed as potentials for being the new warden are a curious mix.

There are some with prior experience in specifically dealing with canines.  However, there are some who have no such experience whatsoever.

These commissioners are not set on hiring someone with prior dog pound or dog handling experience. The focus is to find a warden who can apply solid and fundamental management skills to the operation of the facility.

Interim director Middleton has no direct experience with running dog pounds.

Nonetheless, the commissioners are confident that given his demonstrated management skills in Alliance over some 20 years, he will do just fine if not exemplary as the interim warden.

The seven to be interviewed include:

(Note:  all resume information is "extracted" from the full resume)

  • Sean Toohey who seems to have highly attractive qualifications inasmuch as he is deputy dog warden in Mahoning County.

A key to his becoming warden might hinge on his willingness to relocate to Stark County.

When a Geauga County official with impressive credentials as a potential county administrator replacement for Mike Hanke hedged on committing to relocate to Stark, The Report believes that was the end of any consideration he might have otherwise received for the job.

  • Sarah Hansford like Toohey has direct experience in Portage County's dog pound.
  • Timothy Harland shares with Hansford and Toohey a direct connection with involvement of care of dogs. If he can convince the commissioners he has the management skills to go along, he could be a prime candidate to be warden.  He is featured on this page.
  • John Koval evidently interests at least one of the commissioners because of his past work history in Human Resources.  Over the years of troubles at the Pound, managing the employees and volunteers and their historic antagonism with one another has proved to be a challenge for the succession of wardens.
  • John McCutcheon is an especially tough one for the SCPR to figure out as being of interest.  He has impressive credentials as a law enforcement type, but it is interesting that he was a past president of the union representing Summit County's deputy sheriffs.  One has to wonder how it would work out for him as the top manager of the Pound to have to be on the other side of the fence from the unionized Pound employees.  If memory serves yours truly well, it seems that union inspired employee testiness has been a problem.
  • Jon Barber is yet another former dog warden.   Like Hansford, Portage County.  How do like that for a co-incidence.   But Hanford is the current warden whereas he goes quite a ways back (nearly 15 years) as to when he was warden in Portage County.  And, as the following extract from his resume shows, Portage County's operation at the time was small.  A LinkedIn page on Barber does not list his warden background but interestingly enough focuses on his work in homeland security and law enforcement.


It is interesting to the SCPR that the commissioners did not choose to interview Cynthia Harris as a potential Stark County dog warden.

In 2010, when Todd Bosley, Steve Meeks and Pete Ferguson were Stark County commissioners, it was quite a stir among Stark County Dog Pound Advisory Board (SCDPAB) members (since assigned to oblivion by Commissioners Bernabei, Creighton and Ferguson [in 2012] without formally disbanding the group) when Ms. Harris surfaced as a candidate to possibly be named warden.

One has to wonder whether or not that flap made her a non-starter in terms of making the list for an interview this time around.

To The Report, she appears to have solid credentials (though dated in terms of specific employment) in meeting the dual optimum qualifications (documented management skills and "hands on experience) for the job.  A prime goal of the county's operation of a dog pound is for it to be self-supporting for it is an "enterprise funded" operation.

Note that Harris says that she had Countryside Animal Hospital double its profit within five years which is obviously is more than "breaking even."

No interview.



Perhaps not this go around.

The commissioners are quite pleased to have Middleton in place.

And they are serious indeed in proceeding cautiously in naming a Tetreaut replacement.

They recall all too well what a royal pain it has been for them to get the Pound to the more or less stable state it is currently in.

At the last commissioners meeting, Commissioner Creighton emphatically said that if none of the seven being interview satisfy them, they will not hesitate in the slightest to redo the process.

A point also emphasized by Stark County Chief Administrator Brant Luther.

Stark Countians should be well taken with this current set of commissioners and the manner in which they are building a leadership team for their area of responsibility of Stark County government.

They are "head and shoulders" above any board board that has served within the member of yours truly!

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