By Ed Runyan
Despite having served as a Trumbull County commissioner since January 2004, Dan Polivka has been challenged very little during his three successful election campaigns.
He had three opponents in the 2004 primary election several months after being appointed commissioner and one in the 2004 general election, but won both elections handily.
He had no opponents in either election in 2008 or in the primary this year, two years after adding the title Trumbull County Democratic Party Chairman to his resume.
But this fall is a little different, as Republican John M. Hull of Hubbard Township challenges Polivka, of Warren. It’s Hull’s first try at elected office.
Hull, 36, a former Youngstown policeman and dispatcher and former hospital security guard, says Polivka and other Democrats have not been held accountable.
“There’s only so long you can sit back and watch people do things before you have to” run for office, Hull said. “There’s no accountability,” Hull said of county officials.
As an example, commissioners prevented the county courts in Cortland and Brookfield from being merged because Republican Judge Tom Campbell of Central District Court wanted the merger and hoped to become full-time judge over both courts, Hull said.
“The commissioners delayed it as long as they could,” Hull said. Judge Campbell touted the merger as a way to save money.
Hull describes himself as a “chicken farmer” who collects disability payments and says he was “forced out” of previous employment.
But he is supported by people who feel county government is “kind of aloof,” he said. “They don’t answer questions. People have to file lawsuits. People tell me they can’t access the government.” Hull said the county spends too much bed-tax money on the economic development work of the Western Reserve Port Authority and the promotional work of the Trumbull tourism bureau. The Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber could handle both of those jobs, Hull said.
Polivka, meanwhile, says he believes he’s an important part of the three-man team of commissioners that has kept county government running in recent years “without a single county layoff.” The two other commissioners are Paul Heltzel and Frank Fuda, both Democrats.
Polivka, 49, who first entered politics when he was a 19-year-old Warren councilman, has construction experience as a result of working for his family’s paving company.
That experience paid off early in his career as a commissioner. He persuaded the other commissioners to repair rather than replace the current county health department building, saving the county $1 million, he said.
Other achievements include introduction of “yurt” camping opportunities at Mosquito Lake State Park and helping an 82-year-old Vienna woman get financial assistance to replace a septic system, he said.
“This board has put in miles of services,” Polivka said, mentioning $47 million worth of sewers either completed or under construction, completion of many miles of bike trails, and frugal spending.
Polivka said he met personally with a land-development representative involved in the recent announcement for a new $8 million Menards home-improvement store at the former Wal-Mart location in Bazetta.
As for the port authority, Polivka said he doesn’t feel it has gotten enough economic-development results from its executive director, Rose Ann DeLeon, and he believes she should be replaced.
“If after three years at $155,000 per year and benefits, what makes you think you will all of a sudden turn it around?” Polivka said.
Heltzel is on the ballot Nov. 6 as well but has no opponent.