Thursday, July 20, 2017



Commissioner Bill Smith
Auditor Alan Harold
N.L. Construction of Canton

"We Will be Watching!"

At the end of 2015, then Stark County commissioner Thomas M. Bernabei resigned his commissionership in order to take office as mayor of Canton having been elected as a political independent in November.

Bernabei, as the SCPR sees it, was a linchpin of regaining public confidence in the operations of county government,  in working closely with former Canton mayor Janet Creighton, also elected as Stark County commissioner in November, 2010, as the county was in the process of recovering from the theft of upwards of $3 million from the county treasury by former chief deputy treasurer Vince Frustaci (publicly identified by law enforcement authorities on April 1, 2009).

Of course, nobody is irreplaceable.

Nonetheless, I was skeptical that either of the candidates for the Bernabei vacated post were up to filling the void of quality leadership left by Bernabei's departure.

I was sure that former state Representative Stephen Slesnick (Democrat, Ohio House, the 49th for eight years; term limited out as of the end of 2016) was not up to the task.

Slesnick was "Mr. Where-Are-You" as far as I was concerned in gauging the effectiveness of Stark County-based Ohio General Assembly members.  Because he was so utterly ineffective, he seemingly avoided at all cost, any interaction with The Stark County Political Report (SCPR).

Like so many politicians, Slesnick had gotten used to the "public tit" and in order to continue his political/governance addiction focused on the vacated by Bernabei seat to continue his heretofore ineffective public officeholder-self on the Stark County public.

But what about his Republican opponent; namely, Bill Smith of Canton Township.

Could he approximate the first-rate county leadership that Bernabei provided Stark County as commissioner?

The results of the Slesnick/Smith matchup:

A look at his biography suggested that he might be somewhat of an answer.
Bill Smith lives in Canton Township with his wife Diana, to whom he has been married since 1975.  They have two married children who also live in Stark County; Bill and his wife Amy and Jennifer and her husband Jerry.  Together they enjoy nine beautiful grandchildren.  Bill graduated in 1974 from East Canton High School and has been in business at Smith’s Waco Market since 1976. After purchasing the store, he and Diana lived above the store for several years as the business grew. Bill also manages several commercial properties through Smith Properties and owns Mary Ann's Donuts Cafe in Canton South. 
Bill has been a Hot Air Balloon pilot since 1988 and holds a Commercial/Instructor rating in Lighter-than-Air, Hot Air Balloons.  He has served on the Hall of Fame Balloon Classic Committee and is the field announcer for the event.
Bill served as a Canton Township Trustee from 2002 through 2016, and is a past member of the Canton South Jaycees; Canton South Athletic & Band Booster Clubs; and a past Board Member of the Canton South YMCA.  He has served on the Canton Local Long Range Planning Committee as a Levy Chairman, as well as, on a variety of other levy committees.  Bill is an Honorary Board Member of the East Central Ohio Food Dealers Association where he served as Chairman of the Board and on several other association committees. 
Bill enjoys helping people and is honored for the opportunity to assist the people of Stark County as a Commissioner.
At yesterday's regular weekly (Wednesdays at 1:30 p.m.), Smith demonstrated that he has the potential to be a straight talking, "hold'em accountable" commissioner.

The occasion?

Commissioners were considering a Stark County auditor's office awarding of a contract for the remodeling of the office complex housed for the most part in the Stark County Office Building complex located at 110 Central Plaza in downtown Canton, to wit:

After the motion to approve the resolution was presented, moved for adoption the following Smith-initiated discussion took place:

Stark Countians should be thoroughly impressed with just-a-little-over-six-months as commissioner Bill Smith having done his homework and quite willing to go the public record with a message to N.L. Construction that the company will be closely monitored

Unlike prior boards of commissioners (for example: including the likes of Todd Bosley,  Tom Harmon, Jane Vignos ["imposed" a 1/2 cent county sales tax in 2008] and Steve Meeks), from  January 1, 2011 on, the county has had a pretty good quality of commissioners.

Only Pete Ferguson  (a really nice guy) as a commissioner in the Bernabei era seemed to me to be lacking in minimal basic effectiveness as a commissioner.

Smith's comments in terms of his intention to follow the "on-the-job" performance record of N.L. Construction (i.e. will N.L. complete the contract at the $367,601 bid-awarded specs) seem to imply that a completion at the $367,601 will determinative of whether or not commissioners should approve future N.L. "lowest bid" in the event that there are future contract bids in which N.L. comes in as the lowest bid.

Smith is obviously skeptical witness his comments in the video above that N.L. will actually complete the remodeling at its $367,601 bid.

The SCPR was able to come up with one instance in which N.L. was low bidder on a Stark County Metropolitan Housing Authority (SCMHA) "put out to bid" contract and, when, the company was not awarded the business, it sued.

Eventually the SCMHA settled with N.L. for $88,000.

Smith's initiated discussion pre-vote on the resolution observations (e.g. "We will be Watching") based on his research into N.L.'s performance history set the tone for Auditor Alan Harold in promising to assist the commissioners in ensuring that Stark County taxpayers get quality work at the bid price.

The SCPR commends Commissioner Smith for his demonstration of due diligence and his willingness to go "on-the-record" with his reservations about where N.L. Construction will end up in terms of staying within the $367.601 it bid.

Yesterday's action suggests to the SCPR that former long time Canton Township trustee Bill Smith is "made of the right stuff" to be a county commissioner and seems to have the potential to a highly effective commissioner.

And it appears that Stark Countians made "the right choice" in last November's general election.

But it is still too early to tell conclusively.

Stay tuned to the SCPR for your best opportunity to see how Smith and Stark County political subdivision elected officials actually do on the job.

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