When Democrats and Republicans in Columbiana County go to the polls on May 7 to pick their nominees for the county commissioner seat up this year, the question they should ask themselves is this: Who is best qualified to help lead the county out of its current fiscal crisis?
On the Democratic ballot, incumbent Commissioner David Cranmer has earned his party's nomination. Cranmer, completing his first four-year term in office, has proved to be a quick study and a thoughtful, objective officeholder.
By joining with his two colleagues on the board of commissioners to impose a 0.5 percent sales tax, he showed that he was willing to risk his political future for the good of the county. Cranmer had the most to lose with that vote, seeing as how he is the only commissioner seeking re-election this year, and given that the United Auto Workers union had publicly opposed such action. Indeed, the UAW mounted a referendum effort, which prompted the commissioners to withdraw the tax. It will appear on the May 7 primary ballot.
Cranmer is being opposed by Dale Landsberger, who did not appear before The Vindicator's editorial board and, therefore, was not considered for endorsement.
On the Republican side, Columbiana County Recorder Gary L. Williams, a former Madison Township trustee, makes a stronger case for his candidacy than Wayne Wallace, who ran for commissioner in 2000. The other two candidates in the race for the GOP nomination, Greg Rayburn and Donald Vos, did not appear before the newspaper's editorial board.
Williams was refreshingly honest about the reason voters in 1999 rejected the sales tax that resulted in an 18-month revenue drought: "Distrust and mistrust" of government.
The county recorder believes that the approval last year of a 0.5 percent tax -- in return, commissioners reduced the county's 2.2 mills inside millage by 2 mills -- does show a change in attitude on the part of the voters, but he insisted that all county officials must demonstrate that they are good stewards of the public treasury.
Among the priorities Williams would push if he is elected are promoting economic growth, improving the infrastructure of the county, with special emphasis on water and sewer, and dealing fairly with each officeholder on budget requests, with a commitment to ensuring that county government lives within its means.
Wallace, who did not receive The Vindicator's endorsement when he last ran for commissioner, was surprisingly vague about his solutions to the county's fiscal crisis -- even though he insisted that residents pay enough taxes and that he, personally, would not be voting for the tax increase this year.
Wallace contended that he had an economic recovery plan -- it does not include a tax increase -- but refused to reveal the details. He seemed to believe that the other candidates in the race were just waiting to steal his ideas.
Columbiana County is at an important point in its history, which is why this year's election for commissioner is so crucial. Democrats and Republicans have a responsibility to put forward their best candidates for the general election.
We believe that Cranmer and Williams deserve the chance to face off in November.