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Zurz caps off public service career

12/26/2013 - South Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

Kim Zurz
Photo courtesy of Kim Zurz
DOWNTOWN AKRON — Kim Zurz may be retired after 30 years of public office and public service, but that doesn’t mean she won’t be back.

“You have to wait two months after retirement,” said Zurz, who finished up in her current role as deputy director at the Summit County Board of Elections Nov. 30. “After two months, you can go back into public service or run for office. I haven’t really thought about what I’m going to do yet. There are a lot of things I have been thinking about.”

Zurz, formerly a Green resident who now lives in Coventry, will turn 55 in January. She said her retirement was prompted by changes to health coverage through the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System.

Zurz, a Democrat, said she began her career 30 years ago working for the Summit County Treasurer’s Office and in the county’s Domestic Relations Court.

She then was elected to Summit County Council and served from 1991 to 2003. She was appointed to the Ohio Senate in 2003 and won election to the seat representing the 28th District the following year.

In 2007, then-Gov. Ted Strickland named Zurz the director of the Department of Commerce. She began working at the BOE in May 2011, she said.

“Throughout my career, honestly, I’ve been lucky,” Zurz said. “I’ve been very fortunate to be able to represent the people of Summit County in different ways.”

She said her time at the BOE was an eye-opening experience.

“I’ve had all the other facets of looking at the BOE,” she said. “I was on County Council and would see their budget and pick it apart. Never had I understood the backside of what happens here, and I, like everyone else, probably thought, what could they possibly be doing that they are so busy? You have no conception of what’s going on behind the scenes to make sure the elections are going off without a hitch.”

She said a lot of the work requires staff to be detail oriented to make sure that ballots are correct, something she felt her skills were suited to.

“For me, it was really wonderful to gain such a respect for the backside of elections,” she said. “So I see now how it works. All the checks and balances are there, and elections are safe in Summit County. The people here, and the integrity level of making sure it is done right, it’s very important to them. It was a wonderful learning experience.”

Zurz is an Akron native who graduated from Firestone High School. She attended The University of Akron but left to work at her family’s business, Eckard Baldwin Funeral Home. She and her husband, Richard, are the parents of three children, Kyle, Lauren and Callie, and the grandparents to two.

“They are the loves of my life, and they’ve given up a lot over the years,” Zurz said of her family. “Mom  wasn’t always around, and I missed a lot of very important things for my kids. My whole family has made a sacrifice for public service, and they’ve been supportive of it. But I look forward to the years where I can do something that’s not as demanding.”

Two of her children have an interest in public service, and Zurz said she is supportive of that.

She said Kyle, a Green High School graduate currently attending Bowling Green State University, has interned for Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio). He also participated in a program called Semester at Sea through the University of Virginia that impressed her so much that Zurz is now serving on the program’s parent council.

“A student takes a semester and travels around the world and takes classes on the ship,” she said. “They have field labs in whatever country they are in. It’s a tremendous experience.”

Zurz said she still believes in the potential of the political process but admits that it’s not easy to be optimistic about the political climate today.

“Politics has changed so much over the years,” she said. “When I was serving constituents, it was never about the ‘D’ or the ‘R.’ I would say, ‘I don’t get elected by one party or the other — I represent the people.’ The inability to work with both sides is not doing what’s right for the people. It was important for me to be a legislator that could work with both sides of the aisle. Now the tenor has shifted to ‘It’s got to be my way or the highway.’

“I still have very good friends on both sides of the aisle,” she added. “That’s how you got work done. And that’s the way it should be.”

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