Voters in some of the largest townships in the Mahoning Valley redefined local government in their communities in Tuesday’s general election by shaking up the power structure on boards of trustees. In so doing, they produced a promising mix of seasoned leaders and energetic newcomers to manage local governments over the next four years.
Will preserving some of the highest-caliber trustees of the past while spicing up the bedrock of local government with several fresh and gung-ho leaders prove to be a recipe for success? Only time and circumstances will tell for certain.
But many voters demonstrated with absolute certainty one key grievance in several communities: Dissatisfaction with the status quo to some measurable extent.
How else can one explain the ouster of seasoned trustees in Poland and Canfield townships? In Poland, voters booted 16-year veteran trustee Mark Naples and replaced him with newcomer Joanne Wollett. The new trustee-elect emphasized the need for greater accountability and transparency in township business affairs as a key plank in her platform. A sizeable share of those who voted in Poland apparently agreed.
Others, however, registered satisfaction with the present structure of the board, as evidenced by the re-election of incumbent Robert Lidle and the razor-thin victory margin of Wollett over incumbent Naples.
An amazingly similar scenario played out in Canfield Township. There, incumbent Marie Cartwright was re-elected but her fellow incumbent Tony Bettile, with whom she shared space on some campaign materials, was defeated by Brian Governor.
In both Poland and Canfield, we urge the newly elected trustees to establish strong working relationships with current board members. And while the new trustees-elect have every right to pursue specific issues and complaints they presented in their campaigns, we hope they work amicably and productively with their peers toward airing out and acting on their agendas. The last thing the Valley needs now are flashbacks to the antics of some past boards of trustees on which bickering and divisiveness among members impeded progress and made a laughingstock out of local government.
SATISFACTION WITH STATUS QUO
Elsewhere in the Valley, disenchantment with the status quo appeared to be less evident. In Liberty Township for example, voters handily elected both trustee incumbents — Stan Nudell and Jason T. Rubin. But even there, residents turned a deaf ear to the two candidates’ vocal appeals by soundly rejecting a tax levy to improve Liberty roads.
Of all major contested township trustee races in the Valley, Austintown voters showed the greatest confidence in seasoned leadership in their voting patterns Tuesday. There, incumbent Trustee Jim Davis and former trustee and state representative Ken Carano overwhelmingly knocked off three other far less experienced competitors. Davis’ close contacts with Penn National Gaming and Carano’s familiarity with the ins and outs of local, state and federal government will serve Austintown well in its critical mission of ensuring the $125 million racino on Canfield-Niles Road opens without a hitch next year.
As new trustees prepare to take office and as incumbent trustees plan second-term agendas, we’d also reiterate a common strength of many of the candidates enunciated at meetings with The Vindicator Editorial Board earlier this fall. Most pledged to do all possible to reach out to other townships for cost-saving, service-sharing projects that bring tangible community improvements along with responsible financial bottom lines.