The former county commissioner says he is not interested in getting back into politics.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- David Engler is keeping his word.
Engler, a Mahoning County Educational Service Center board member and former county commissioner, said he will not run for Mahoning County Court judge or any other political position.
Engler said he was thinking about a run for judge, but he will not run because he is too busy with the school board, his private law practice and other business interests.
"I'm very engaged in what we're doing on the board of education," said Engler, who bragged about the district's position as the No. 1 urban school district in the state in terms of proficiency test scores.
When Engler made the surprising announcement a year ago that he would run for an unexpired two-year county school board term, he said he was "not getting back into politics. This is it. I won't run for judge, commissioner, Congress or any other office. I'm unequivocally saying that."
During a Friday interview, Engler repeated that he will not get back into politics.
"I'm not interested in anything else," he said. "I don't know why these rumors always come up."
Rumors have circulated during the past year that Engler was going to run for county court judge and that the county school board race was a test balloon to see how well he would do at the polls.
Engler, a former local political heavyweight who had aspirations to run for state office at one time, said for some unexplained reason, he cannot shake the perception that he is looking to make a political comeback.
"Some people don't believe me," he said. "I was always given more credit than I deserved for being politically influential and less credit on getting things done. It was the worst of both worlds."
One theory, Engler said, is as one of the founders of the Democrats for Change movement that took over the Mahoning Democratic Party in 1994, he became a lightning rod of controversy to those who opposed the movement. Engler said he is proud of his accomplishments as a Change leader and nearly seven years as a county commissioner.
"But when you create great change, there's tremendous opposition to it," he said. "It affected people in profound ways. We made things happen and accomplished a lot."
Engler is supporting the candidacy of Michael B. Dockry, Austintown Township administrator, for the judicial seat. Dockry and Judge Loren Popio, appointed by the governor in July 2001, are the only candidates to file for the seat. Atty. Diane Vettori of Canfield is also expected to file nominating petitions. Thursday is the deadline to file.
Judge Popio's appointment expires Jan. 2, 2003, and whoever wins the Nov. 5 election will serve until Jan. 2, 2007.
County area courts are located in Canfield, Boardman, Austintown and Sebring. The four county court judges, who serve on a part-time basis, earn $50,000 annually. The judges are responsible for handling criminal misdemeanors and initial and preliminary hearings on felonies.