The Mahoning County Democratic Party will select an interim auditor.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Mahoning County is looking for a new auditor who will take on the task of helping the county through tough financial times.
In a surprise announcement Thursday, George J. Tablack, auditor for 181/2 years, said he will resign at the end of July to become the new chief financial officer for Palm Beach County, Fla.
"I appreciate working with all the professionals in the county," Tablack told commissioners at their weekly meeting. "I wish you all continued success."
Tablack, 48, said he would be working with commissioners and various officeholders over the next two weeks to coordinate tying up remaining loose ends before he leaves.
He said he had mixed emotions about leaving the county. He grew up in Campbell and lives in Boardman.
"However, this was an opportunity presented to me that I had to pursue, and I will be sad to leave," Tablack said.
In a discussion with reporters, Tablack said he wanted to thank the public for the confidence voters showed by electing him five times as auditor. He also thanked professionals in his office and in the county's information technology department for doing a great job for him and county residents during his tenure.
Tablack said he was giving serious thought as to whether he would run for a sixth term next year when the Palm Beach job became available.
"There are opportunities that present themselves in life, and you have to take them when you can," Tablack said.
He said he is negotiating his salary with Palm Beach County officials. Tablack made $79,745 annually as county auditor.
He said he would be willing to give advice to commissioners and the Democratic Party as to who would make a good interim auditor.
Tablack told commissioners shortly before their meeting he was leaving.
"This comes as a shock to me," Commissioner Anthony Traficanti said. "I thought he was joking with me at first. George has been a great help to me in my first months as a commissioner. His knowledge and expertise in governmental operations and financing will be sorely missed."
Commissioner John A. McNally IV said he and Tablack didn't always see eye to eye on some things, but he has a great deal of respect for Tablack and his commitment to serving the county.
"If an opportunity comes along he feels is right for him, he deserves the chance to go after it," McNally said.
Filling his shoes
Whoever takes over will have chore trying to get Mahoning back on sound financial footing.
The county, which is recovering from the loss of a half-percent sales tax last year, borrowed $7.3 million to keep its jail open to comply with a federal consent decree and will have to devise a creative way to pay down on that debt over the next two years.
Voters passed a half-percent sales tax in May, but money collected from the tax won't be in the county's coffers until January.
James Lee of the Ohio secretary of state's office said there are no special educational or professional requirements for a person to run for county auditor. Tablack is a certified public accountant.
Someone who wants the job simply must be a registered voter in the county, must file petitions with at least 50 signatures 60 days before the May 2006 primary election, and must put up the $80 filing fee.
Lisa Antonini, county Democratic Party chairwoman, said the news of Tablack's departure was just a couple of hours old, so no one had approached her about taking the interim job.
She said, however, that someone will come forward, talk to the Democratic precinct committeemen and women, and they will decide who will replace Tablack.
Michael V. Sciortino, elections board director, said once Tablack officially resigns and a vacancy is declared, the Democratic Party can call a meeting between five days and 45 days to appoint a successor.
That successor would have to run for the job next year.
Palm Beach County
Tablack will join Stephen Stanec, the county's former information technology director, in Palm Beach County. Stanec left the county's employ in June to run the Florida county's IT operations.
The U.S. Census Bureau says Palm Beach County has 1.2 million people and is just north of Fort Lauderdale on Florida's Atlantic coast.
It has 37 incorporated places ranging in size from West Palm Beach, with a population of more than 70,000, to Cloud Lake, with a population of less than 200.
The county is a major producer of sugarcane and nursery products as well as vegetables and is a major tourism site.
Palm Beach County has seven commissioners and is a charter county.