Endorsement: Summit County Council at-large representatives
Michael Callahan (R) vs. Pete
Crossland (D) vs. David Drew (R)
vs. Jon Poda (D) vs. Ilene Shapiro (D) vs. Lynn Slaby
This election year is one of relative
upheaval for Summit County Council.
The three at-large seats are up for election this year, and there are six candidates, with two being current Council members, vying for the seats.
In addition, two district seats could open up and be subject to two newly appointed members.
Current at-large Councilman Paul Gallagher is seeking election to judge of Summit County Court of Common Pleas and, as such, has forfeited his seat. At-large Councilman Clair Dickinson also forfeited his seat by choosing to run for judge of the 9th District Court of Appeals.
District 2 representative and Democrat Tom Teodosio also is running for Common Pleas Court judge. If he were elected, his seat would open up when he assumed the bench in May 2007. And District 4 representative Pete Crossland, a Democrat, has thrown his hat into the ring for one of the open at-large seats.
Therefore, the only incumbent in the County Council at-large race is current at-large Councilman Michael Callahan, a Republican.
The four remaining candidates are Republicans David Drew and Lynn Slaby and Democrats Jon Poda and Irene Shapiro.
Callahan, 48, of Bath, is an attorney with Callahan, Greven, Rilley & Sinn. He has been on County Council since 2001. Prior to that, he served as Summit County prosecutor from 1999 to 2000, Summit County Court of Common Pleas judge from 1995 to 1999 and Akron Municipal Court judge from 1993 to 1995. He also previously sought election to state representative of the 42nd District and mayor of Akron.
Married with three children, he earned a bachelor’s degree from Grove City College and a juris doctor degree from The University of Akron (UA) School of Law.
Crossland, 69, of West Akron, is a retired professor of political science at Kent State University. He has degrees from Miami University, Yale University and Duke University. He served as a state representative from 1973 to 1983 and has been on County Council since 1989. He also sought election to the Ohio Senate in 1990 and 1998. He has two children.
Drew, 42, of Stow, is a self-employed attorney, having earned a bachelor’s degree from Keen State College in New Hampshire and his juris doctor degree from the UA School of Law. He is married with one stepdaughter. He has not held public office but ran for Summit County prosecutor in 2004.
Poda, 49, of Green, is a self-employed small-business owner. He is married with three children and attended UA and Kent State University. He is a licensed real estate appraiser and broker. He has never run for a political office.
Shapiro, 59, of West Akron, is married and is currently vice president of Summa Enterprise Group. She is retired as a senior executive at FirstMerit. She said she has “one-plus years” of college education. While she has never run for a public office, she chaired the Summit County Charter Review Commission and is a member of the Summit County Planning Commission.
Slaby, 31, of Fairlawn, is a financial adviser. He is married with two children, and it should be noted he has the same name as his father, Lynn Slaby, who currently is the presiding judge of the 9th District Court of Appeals. The younger Slaby graduated from Revere High School and earned his bachelor’s degree in finance from The Ohio State University. This is his first run for public office.
Callahan and Crossland both said their experience is the main reason they should continue to serve on Council as at-large members. With the loss of Gallagher and Dickinson, they both said they could provide strong leadership that will be needed.
Callahan also noted the possibility exists that Council could lose as many as three members who are lawyers, and his judicial experience would also be a positive on Council.
Callahan points to co-sponsoring methamphetamine legislation, working with the Veterans Service Commission to secure a new facility and working with the Summit County Sheriff’s Office on criminal justice issues as his main accomplishments, while Crossland touts his leadership on the temporary sales tax, riparian legislation and the county smoking ban.
Looking ahead, both said responsibly handling the county’s finances will continue to be the biggest priority facing County Council.
Crossland added criminal justice issues and “getting this CSB [Children Services Board] mess straightened out” as priorities.
Callahan said an additional priority for him would be to see to fruition the new facility for the Veterans Service Commission.
Crossland and Callahan also both spoke frankly about County Council butting heads with County Executive James McCarthy, saying that hampers the work of the county.
“We need to get things back into a civil nature in county government,” Callahan said, adding he sees Council taking a more active role as a check and balance to the executive branch in county government in coming years.
With the departure of Gallagher, Dickinson and possibly Teodosio — all strong council members — we believe the two current council members who are running, Callahan and Crossland, should be elected to at-large seats.
All of the four remaining candidates would have a lot to learn if they were elected.
Drew and Poda both clearly have their hearts and ambitions in the right place. In his endorsement interview, Drew said he has never attended a Council meeting, which raised a red flag with us. Likewise, he demonstrated little knowledge regarding some issues facing the county.
He said his main priority would be fiscal responsibility with taxpayers’ money and followed that up with economic development and ensuring core services are maintained.
“I really don’t have any specific agenda,” Drew said, which he characterizes as a strength. However, we’re not sure the best way to bid on a political seat is by taking a wait-and-see approach.
Poda has made an impressive effort to get out into the county and reach out to local government representatives. It seems his main initiative would be to bring unification to the county — which is noble, but we wonder about how realistic that effort would be.
He stated an additional priority would focus on economic development.
He added he would have community meetings in all parts of the county on a monthly basis and is running for County Council as a way to reach out to the most people he can.
His enthusiasm and his efforts to reach the entire county are impressive, but we feel his experience and knowledge are lacking.
That brings us to Slaby and Shapiro. We were impressed with both.
While Slaby and Shapiro could face challenges with the time commitment required of an at-large county council representative — with Slaby having two very small children and Shapiro working full time as a company vice president — both candidates seem focused enough to dedicate the necessary amount of time to the position. Shapiro, for instance, said much of her job could be done during off hours. She added she has attended every County Council meeting since the Primary Election in May.
According to Shapiro, she has forged good working relationships with both McCarthy and Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic, and we find that to be very valuable. It’s no secret that tensions between County Council and the county executive exist, and, as virtually every candidate said, those tensions must be overcome for the sake of the county.
While she exhibited knowledge of and a willingness to work on the major issues facing the county, such as animal control and children’s services, Shapiro’s driving objective is to improve economic development in the county.
That may be her bailiwick — and it makes sense to bring one’s strengths to the table — but a platform mainly centered on economic development may be misguided. Council has little to do with and little jurisdiction over matters of economic development. Or, as current Council member Crossland described as he held his thumb and forefinger a fraction of an inch apart, Council’s impact on economic development is “about that much, and I’m not even sure that much.”
Shapiro is a fine candidate. We have confidence she would serve well and benefit Council as well as the county as a whole.
However, we give the edge to Slaby in this race.
Budget oversight is a much larger faction of a County Council member’s responsibility than economic development, and Slaby said he has nine years of experience in the financial industry. Moreover, he has a broad range of ideas to offer.
We recognize that mere name recognition probably gives Slaby a boost. But putting that aside, we truly believe Slaby is the strongest of the four remaining candidates, if only by a small margin over Shapiro.
Slaby spoke with knowledge about the workings of County Council, the role he believes he can play, and he shared several well-rounded objectives that include fiscal responsibility, education and rebuilding trust in county government, along with economic growth.
It seems as though he would bring equal parts confidence and willingness to learn to the position, and that he would be well-suited to work with fellow Council members in an independent, but not contentious, manner.
Slaby said he has attended several County Council meetings, both before and after the Primary Election, and also has attended local Council meetings.
No matter how this election shakes out, at least one at-large member will be relatively inexperienced in the political arena. We believe pairing the experience and leadership abilities of Callahan and Crossland with the poise and youthfulness of Slaby would result in the best slate of Council members for the upcoming term.
The West Side Leader endorses Michael Callahan, Pete Crossland and Lynn Slaby for Summit County Council at large.