Of all the Tuesday night election surprises in Trumbull County, none was more dramatic than the defeat of trustees Gary Litch and Jack Simon in Liberty Township. In most other communities, the opening of a Walmart superstore, the development of a major highway connector, the expansion of the water and sewer infrastructures and the expected revitalization of prime property would have assured incumbent officeholders of landslide victories.
What, then, happened in Liberty Township? Residents apparently concluded that all the progress that has been made over the past several years is due to one individual, Administrator Patrick J. Ungaro.
Indeed, the winners of the general election, Stan Nudell, a commercial real estate sales and development specialist with Edward J. Lewis Inc., and Jason Rubin, president of CR Electric Inc., were unstinting in their praise of and support for Ungaro.
Nudell and Rubin made it clear that if elected, the administrator would have their full backing to continue the initiatives he has been pursuing to attract new businesses, help existing ones expand or stabilize, ensure the stability of neighborhoods and open up undeveloped tracts for residential or commercial investment.
By comparison, Litch, who has been a trustee for 16 years, and Simon, completing his 12th year in office, were less enthusiastic in their support of Ungaro, and the voters sensed that. It might have been unfair to judge the incumbents on such a narrow basis, but elections are not predictable.
Look what happened in Howland, where longtime trustee Richard Orwig was defeated in field of eight candidates, but the other trustee on the ballot, Sally Wehmer, was victorious.
Orwig will be replaced by Matthew VanSuch.
City of Warren
Then there is the Warren council-at-large race which featured three incumbents, Helen Rucker, Bob Dean and Dan Crouse.
Given the city’s financial problems, resulting in drastic cuts in the police and fire departments, the incumbents were vulnerable, but the race attracted only one challenger. And he turned out to be quite a formidable one.
Former mayor, city councilman and state representative Daniel Sferra, who has been out of office for five years, decided to come out of retirement and offer his knowledge and experience to a city that’s in fiscal turmoil.
The voters obviously saw some benefit to having Sferra back in government because they chose him over Councilman Crouse, who is completing his first term. They re-elected Rucker and Dean.
During the campaign, Sferra said that his relationship with the unions during his tenure as mayor enabled the city to avoid the tensions in labor negotiations that have been evident over the past several years.
It is obvious the residents of Warren believe that Mayor Michael O’Brien and members of city council need to work together to find solutions to Warren’s problems.
It is unfortunate, however, that city government will not have Crouse’s vision and creativity when the new term begins in January.