Voters in Canfield and Austintown townships proved they are ready for a change.
By Elise Franco
In Canfield, both incumbents for trustee — Randy Brashen and Dick Puerner — were defeated in Tuesday’s election. All three trustee seats, two full-term and one unexpired term, were up for grabs. Incumbent Trustee Bill Reese did not seek re-election.
Austintown, meanwhile, re-elected incumbent trustee David Ditzler but replaced Trustee Warren “Bo” Pritchard with Jim Davis.
Brashen said he is saddened and surprised by his defeat, but he said the new board has a chance to be successful.
“They’re all successful business people,” he said. “There’s a bit of a transition, but if they use their business savvy it won’t be too difficult. The only thing they’ll miss is someone who’s been through it.”
Marie Cartwright was elected to a full term. She said it’s clear in the results that residents are ready for a change.
“Obviously the residents felt they wanted to take the township in a different direction than what the current leadership was following,” she said.
Cartwright said she along with Tony Bettile and Martha Zarlenga are prepared to meet residents’ needs.
“It’s going to be the issue of the financial accountability,” she said. “That’s the one thing residents have expressed concerns over: How money is being spent and on what.”
Zarlenga, who will fill the unexpired term seat of Puerner, said the new board has to be more open with residents and inform them of township projects and spending.
“I promise them newsletters and memos, whatever it takes to get information out there. We’ve got to keep them informed,” she said.
Cartwright said another informational outlet she’d like to revisit is the township Web site. She said meeting minutes could be posted for the public to view, and she’d also like to see a list of roads under construction posted on the site. “It’s the perfect opportunity to communicate with the residents.”
Bettile, elected to the second full term position, said once the board is settled, his bottom line will be reevaluating the previous board’s projects. “I think we need to evaluate all the projects that they’ve started.”
In Austintown, Ditzler, who has served as trustee since 1994, said he’s glad for the public’s support, and that the new term brings new challenges.
“The most challenging focus will be the contract negotiations, with five up at the end of the year,” he said. “It’s very difficult to jump right into that along with the anticipated loss of revenue from the state in 2010.”
Ditzler said he doesn’t expect the township to place another replacement levy on the May ballot. Residents voted down a 0.6-mill replacement levy that would have raised an additional $1.25 million for the township over five years.
He said residents will most likely see the levy back on the ballot in November 2010 as a renewal, not a replacement.
Pritchard was defeated by newcomer Davis, a lifelong Austintown resident who said he is excited to take his seat on the board of trustees.
“I want to get in and try to learn as much as I can off of Dave [Ditzler] and Lisa [Oles] and try to use as much of that knowledge to my advantage,” said Davis. “Once I find my comfort zone then I will start to move forward with my ideas.”
Oles said she hasn’t spoke with Davis but is willing to work with anyone who has the township’s best interest in mind.
Pritchard did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday, but Oles said she spoke with him at the polls Tuesday evening.
“I wished him well, and I thanked him for his years of service on the board,” she said. “I have no idea what his intentions are for the remainder of the year.”
The Ohio Supreme Court has suspended the law license of Pritchard after he failed to complete his biennial registration. Last week, the Mahoning County Bar Association filed paperwork with the Ohio Supreme Court seeking the suspension of Pritchard’s law license alleging multiple incidents of misconduct, ranging from clients who paid hundreds of dollars up front for services they never received to others in which Pritchard failed to show up for court appearances or make timely case filings.
Oles said she’s urging Pritchard to attend Monday’s trustee meeting and speak to the public.
“I think admitting his mistakes might be the first step in recovery for Bo,” she said. “... I want him to do what he feels is best for him and what’s best for the community.”