MAHONING COMMISSIONER Reese reflects on his tenure as commissioner
The outgoing commissioner said his greatest disappointment was dealing with the sales tax.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Thursday was Edward J. Reese's last day as a Mahoning County commissioner, and he says the thing he'll miss the most is cutting the ribbon to officially open the Canfield Fair.
"All politics and hard feelings were put aside when the fair opened," said Reese, 45, who finished out his service as board chairman.
Reese chose not to run for re-election this year, deciding to take a break from politics.
He sat down recently to discuss his tenure and also spoke about his future.
One of his goals was to enhance economic development for the county, and he is proud of what the commissioners were able to accomplish on his watch.
"I wanted to make [the county] an economic development area and make sure we were a player in regard to competition with other counties," he said.
"We have the Centerpointe Project in Austintown, a public-private partnership, about 246 acres, that I think will be a catalyst for further development down the road for Mahoning County."
He also talked about how the county helped provide assistance for brownfield development along the Mahoning River in former steel mill property that went through Youngstown, Struthers and Campbell.
About $700,000 in sales tax funds were used to help build the Walton Avenue bridge in Struthers, and other county funds were used to help rebuild the Bridge Street bridge in Struthers and Center Street bridge in Youngstown to help open those areas up to become a viable industrial park for economic development.
He also was proud that during his tenure, county dollars helped erect the George V. Voinovich Center, the new county Children Services building, and the soon-to-be-constructed 7th District Court of Appeals building. All are located in downtown Youngstown.
Reese had no problem pointing out his greatest disappointment: The continued on-again, off-again permissive sales and use tax, a tax originally put on by commissioners in 1981 to help offset the loss of federal revenue-sharing funds.
Reese said the tax "has become a political football that has been held and used against the commissioners."
He said there were eight elections in his 91/2 years as commissioner on the sales tax and it was frustrating "not having the opportunity to go beyond a six-month budget to try to create a stable [financial] atmosphere for Mahoning County."
The tax voted was down in March and November, and the commissioners did not impose it Thursday.
Reese said most people think the commissioners have a lot of power to run county government. That perception is not true.
He said even though the board of commissioners oversees the budget and the allocation of county funds, those allocations can be changed.
"For example, judges can overrule anything we do," Reese said.
Other people believe county government should be run more like a business, and that would improve overall efficiency.
Reese, a businessman, said that perception also doesn't fly.
In business, the chief executive officer works with his or her staff to make sure one common goal is reached, and those staff people answer to the CEO. Nowhere in business do you not have the chief financial officer report to the CEO, he said.
In county government, the county's chief financial officer, the county treasurer, doesn't report to the commissioners because the treasurer also is elected.
Reese, of Canfield, believes the three-member commissioner form of county government used throughout Ohio is antiquated.
"You need one person [like a county executive], and the people have to vote for that person" and believe in his/her philosophies and goals, Reese said. He suggested maybe the Youngstown-Warren Chamber or a blue-ribbon panel could look at how county government can be changed and how to best implement that change.
Mahoning is only one of about 10 urban counties in the state. The rest of the counties are primarily rural in nature and don't have the same kind of issues that plague counties that have larger cities and populations.
Reese, however, says he finds it strange that although Mahoning is considered an urban county, agriculture remains the county's No. 1 industry.
The outgoing commissioner said he also is proud he never missed any of the 500 meetings held during his tenure, and the fact his colleagues selected him as chairman in three of the last four years.
Reese was elected as commissioner in November 1994. He lost his re-election bid to his colleague Dave Ludt in 1998. In 1999, he was selected by Democratic Party leaders to fill out the remaining term of Commissioner David Engler.
In 2000, he defeated challenger Debbie Taylor of Boardman in the primary and beat his Republican challenger Paul Sracic in November of that year.
Reese now will turn his attention to his business pursuits. He owns EDM Management Co., which owns or leases four health care and skilled-care facilities in Mahoning and Columbiana counties, and he owns Creekside Fitness & amp; Health Center in Boardman.
He also plans to continue helping the county by serving on various boards. He recently was appointed to the Community Corrections Association board. He said he loves the county and has no intention of leaving.
Have we seen the last of Ed Reese the politician?
"Well I would never say no to any future political involvement. I have a growing family, however, and it will be a family decision," he said.