Is a merger with Leetonia the answer to the village's political woes?
By NANCY TULLIS
VINDICATOR SALEM BUREAU
WASHINGTONVILLE -- With the reins of village government up for grabs, residents at The Classics Cafe here didn't want to guess what will happen next.
Mayor Charles Morrow told council last week he would not complete the remaining two years of his four-year term. His last council meeting is Oct. 2.
Resident Robert Leonard said he had no complaints about Morrow.
"Chuck did plenty, and I think his intention was to do a lot more," Leonard said. "I'm sorry to see him resign. I thought he was doing a good job."
Former resident Joel Piersol, now of Lisbon, said if Morrow is unhappy, then quitting is the right thing to do.
"He was right on top of some situations I had a while back," Piersol said. "He was a good mayor when he wanted to be, and if he doesn't want to be there now, then he should go."
On council: Four council seats also will be vacated Dec. 31. Only incumbent Councilman Michael Donnalley has filed, and that as a write-in candidate. Last Monday was the filing deadline for write-ins.
Theresa Allison's and Laura Trummer's council terms expire in 2003, and Allison has said she doesn't know if she'll complete her term.
Council probably will appoint council president Roy Hartman to take over as interim mayor, then appoint new members to council.
Two former council members think a merger with another community such as Leetonia would put an end to the village's political woes.
The village is on the border of Mahoning and Columbiana counties close to Leetonia.
People care: Diane Hoschar, who served on council several years ago, said people shouldn't assume that a lack of response to council vacancies means Washingtonville people don't care about their community.
"People have opinions, people care," she said. "I think people don't want to deal with the hassles of small-town politics," she said.
Hoschar said merging with a larger community would give Washingtonville more of a tax base and enable the village to be more competitive in applying for grants.
Jane Ehrenberg, also a former councilwoman, agreed. Leetonia and Washingtonville share a school system; Leetonia provides fire protection for much of Washingtonville; and Judy Garlough is clerk for both village councils, she said.
Ehrenberg said she understands residents' reluctance to serve because there's much more to the job than attending council meetings.
She said to do a good job as mayor or a council member, residents must be willing to do their homework, including attending out-of-town training sessions such as those sponsored by the Ohio Municipal League.
"I won't do it again," she said. "I've been asked. It takes a lot of time. The phone rings off the hook. I'm at a point in my life where I like to come and go."
Under pressure: Todd Walters, former mayor of Leetonia, also knows the strain managing even a small community can be. He said government leaders in small towns such as Washingtonville and Leetonia are under pressure because there's no anonymity, no buffer from criticism and ridicule.
Walters said that though he was young and ambitious and eager to serve the village, he had to resign for health reasons.
"I had a lot of support from council, the whole community," he said. "People don't realize what all is involved," he said. "I didn't. It's way more than you realize.
"Council kept telling me to slow down, that I didn't have to run out and try to solve people's problems at midnight, he said.
"I told my doctors about my schedule, my lifestyle, and they said something had to give. I got my wings clipped, all right. I clipped them myself."
Surprised by move: Walters said he is a friend of Morrow's and was surprised by his resignation. He said they never discuss politics.
"I never thought he'd resign, but it's a difficult situation," Walters said. "You want to do what's best for the village, but you have to take care of yourself."
Hoschar said Morrow put a lot of time and effort into the job, but "a lot of people have a problem with his attitude," she said. "If you are in politics holding an office like that, you have to be careful what you say."
Blames press: Morrow declined to comment for Wednesday's Vindicator story about his resignation. When contacted again later, however, he said the press, -- specifically local newspapers including The Vindicator -- are to blame for the village's troubles.
"As far as I'm concerned the reporters can come in and run the council meetings," Morrow said. He said about 99 percent of the reason for his resignation is that "you people [the press] have ruined this village."
Morrow alleged that reporters have disrupted his meetings and used profanity, and their management turned a deaf ear to his complaints.
"You didn't write about that, though," Morrow said. "You wouldn't write about each other," he said.
"You can write what you want -- you will," Morrow concluded. "You never write about the good things that happen here."