The winner will take on a former Austintown Township trustee in November.
By BOB JACKSON
VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Three candidates, including incumbent David Ludt, are seeking the Democratic nomination for Mahoning County commissioner in the May 7 primary.
M. Mike McNair, publisher of The Buckeye Review newspaper, and Joseph Naples, a former Youngstown city councilman, are seeking to oust Ludt, who is completing his first four-year term.
The winner will run against former Austintown Township trustee Jeff Groat in the November general election.
Poland Township trustee
Ludt, a longtime Poland Township trustee before being elected commissioner, said commissioners have accomplished many projects during his tenure and there are more he'd like to see completed.
Ludt said he worked with common pleas and area court judges to bring video arraignment technology to the courts. The next step will be to consolidate the area courts in Austintown, Boardman and Canfield to one building in a central location. The Sebring court will be left alone because it's more convenient for residents there.
Commissioners also served as the funding conduit for several communities to buy and install more than 25 emergency warning sirens. Five more are expected to be done this year, Ludt said.
Commissioners have pumped millions of dollars into local infrastructure projects, like a $1.5 million waterline extension for fire protection service in Canfield Township and a $1.1 million sanitary sewer system in Damascus.
Other accomplishments Ludt cited were two consecutive years of paving record numbers of county roads, the purchase of 10 new dump trucks for the county engineer's department, a successful job retention effort at Cold Metal Products, a new water tower in Sebring and 90,000 square feet of county-funded sidewalks in Youngstown.
Many of the projects were a decade overdue, but couldn't be done because the county lacked the money, he said.
McNair cited "the law of the lid" as one reason for his candidacy.
"The Mahoning Valley can rise no higher than the leadership ability that resides at the top," he said. "As an expert in leadership and management, I possess superior skills of analysis and, most importantly, communication and vision."
It's McNair's third bid for the commissioners' office. He tried unsuccessfully to be appointed to a vacancy in 1999 and ran unsuccessfully in 2000.
His goal is to be the first black man, and the first city resident in 12 years, to be elected to the office.
He proposes a plan in which government would create programs to connect with at-risk population and provide aggressive team intervention to reduce, and possibly eliminate, homicides in the city.
Reducing crime and developing a regional approach to business development would help turn around the area's image and lead to growth and prosperity, he said.
Commissioners have spent too much time dealing with mundane tasks such as approving travel vouchers and credit card policies, he said. Such issues as transportation, education and fiscal soundness are more important.
He said an operations review program would require each department to submit a monthly report to commissioners about its operation.
"It facilitates a closer look without infringing on county elected officials' operational autonomy," he said.
Naples said commissioners have settled with maintaining the economic status quo for too long rather than working to bring growth and diversity.
"There is no conceivable reason why we are constantly struggling 24 years after the steel industry retreat," Naples said. "Government needs to create an atmosphere of progress. Leadership is not maintaining status quo."
Naples said he would promote economic development by working with the Youngstown-Warren Regional Chamber, promoting and expanding CASTLO and trying to land a carrier for the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport.
He also will push for the area to be included in a high-speed rail system being looked at for Ohio and promote development of technology-based businesses. Without new business development here, young people are forced to leave the area to find work, Naples said.