In the crowded Field for the Dem- ocratic nomination for the open Mahoning County commissioner seat, there are two candidates who stand out — with very different orientations when it comes to politics. David Ditzler has been a trustee in Austintown Township since 1994 and ran unsuccessfully for commissioner in 2004. Walter Pishkur has never held public office. But he’s as well known in the county as any veteran politician because his last high-profile position was as president and chief executive officer of Forum Health Inc.
While Ditzler also has private sector employment credentials as global manager of sales for American Nickeloid, it is his political involvement — he has served as chairman of the Mahoning County Democratic Party and is the party’s endorsed candidate in this race — that has burnished his reputation.
Thus, voters in the March 6 Democratic primary are faced with the not-so-unpleasant task of choosing between two qualified, knowledgeable individuals. The winner will meet Republican David V. Rossi of Boardman and Howard Markert of Youngstown, a Green Party candidate, in the general election.
There are four other candidates vying for the Democratic nomination: Joe Louis Teague of Youngstown; Domenic DelMonte of Austintown; Richard Oz Ouzounian of Boardman; and, Patrick Chrystal of Youngstown.
Only Ditzler, Pishkur and Teague met with The Vindicator editorial board, a requirement in order to be considered for an endorsement.
The question before the voters is this: Would Mahoning County government best be served by a political insider or a political outsider?
We believe that with Pishkur on the board of commissioners, alongside Anthony Traficanti and Carol Rimedio-Righetti, government would have the fresh, private sector perspective that many taxpayers have long wanted.
While Pishkur’s service at Forum Health during the hospital system’s most challenging period clearly demonstrated his leadership abilities and his success in bridging the gap between labor and management, his tenure as president and CEO of Aqua Ohio Inc. gave him the opportunity to work with various local governments.
His two terms as chairman of United Way’s board of directors exposed him to the civic and social life of Mahoning County.
On the important issues confronting county government, such as the budget, the need to fund the sheriff’s department so the jail is fully staffed and job-creation initiatives, Ditzler and Pishkur aren’t far apart. They both believe, for example, that having more than 200 beds in the jail empty because there aren’t enough deputies to staff the lock up is bad public policy. They believe that the county can earn money by housing federal prisoners.
They also agree that it’s time to move forward on the consolidation of the courts below the common pleas level. Ditzler, however, has been in a position to lead the charge, seeing as how one of the county courts is in Austintown.
The seat that Ditzler and Pishkur are seeking is being vacated by Commissioner John A. McNally IV.
Traficanti is also the ballot this year, and has the unconditional support of The Vindicator in his re-election bid. His only opponent is James S. Horvath, in the Democratic primary.
We believe that Traficanti and Pishkur will work well together, and along with Rimedio-Righetti, will move Mahoning County forward.