Regardless of which two candi- dates for Austintown Township trustee stand in the winners’ circle in the Nov. 5 election, no township residents will be losers.
Each of the five candidates vying for two opening seats on the three-member township governing board has an impressive resume and decades of dedicated service to the Austintown community. Each is armed with creative ideas to move the township of 30,000 forward.
The candidates in the Austintown trustees race are incumbent Jim Davis and challengers Ken Carano, Robert “Bob” Raymond, Bruce Shepas and David Stryffeler.
The Vindicator Editorial Board endorses Davis to continue his four years of effective leadership, particularly in overseeing development of the $125 million Hollywood Gaming at Mahoning Valley Race Course. We also endorse Kenneth Carano for his more than four decades of results-focused leadership in the community as a Fitch High School teacher, speech coach, township trustee, state representative and regional director for former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland.
STRENGTHS OF OTHER CANDIDATES
Stryffeler, an engineer for First Energy Corp., has given nearly two decades of public service on the board of Austintown Community Baseball and now serves as director of the Tri-T Pony Baseball Board. His private-sector experience in overseeing multi-million-dollar First Energy projects would serve him well in overseeing the completion and opening of the racino and in monitoring township spending.
Shepas, a correctional system officer for the Federal Bureau of Prisons and former reserve deputy sheriff, is running on a solid platform that prioritizes business and job growth, responsible management of the township’s budget and close oversight of township roads and other infrastructure. Shepas says he was motivated to run for office to give the township “new” and “honest” leadership and not be a “puppet” of other interests with “hidden agendas.” Yet, he does not publicly accuse Davis or other township trustees or officials of such questionable or underhanded governance.
Like other candidates, Raymond, a sales and purchasing agent for Troymill Wood Products, stresses the need to fund and improve the township’s infrastructure, to ensure safety forces are sufficient for expected growth and to attract new businesses for new tax dollars. Unlike other candidates, he cites his first-hand knowledge of mineral rights and gas well leases as a source for funding growth, and he addresses the elephant in the township room – Joint Economic Development Districts – with refreshing pragmatism. “To be close minded on all JEDDs would be irresponsible,” he said.
STRENGTHS OF CARANO, DAVIS
Among the challengers, however, Carano emerges as the logical choice to fill the open seat. As the oldest candidate in the race, Carano also has the longest and most diverse record of capable and trustworthy public service under his belt. Thousands upon thousands of Fitch High alumni remember Carano for his rigid standards and cutting humor. But there’s little funny about the long record of achievements Carano has accumulated as township trustee and state representative, particularly for such key constituencies as senior citizens and veterans. Carano also has powerful and prestigious contacts at the local, state and federal levels to tap as valuable resources for continued township prosperity.
If elected, Carano vows to work diligently on economic development, alternative funding for the township, greater transparency in budgeting, protection of property owners’ home values and improvement in overall quality of life – all without raising taxes. His goals may sound lofty, but those familiar with Carano know he is an active, aggressive and determined public servant who generally delivers what he promises.
Finally, township residents should have no qualms about re-electing Davis to a second four-year term. In his first term, he amassed a laundry list of achievements of which he and township residents can be proud. He worked with Police Chief Bob Gavalier to restart a reserve officer program that has saved the township more than $90,000. He had kept a close watch over park improvements, including construction of the township’s first dog park. He played an active role in generating support and tax funding for the Austintown Senior Center. Most recently, he worked to create the first-in-Ohio collaboration between a fire/rescue department and a private ambulance service to increase response times to emergencies.
The Vindicator Editorial Board has been most impressed with Davis’ conscientious and untiring monitoring of Penn National Gaming’s racino project on Canfield-Niles Road. He has maintained open and constant communications with Penn National, and he’s monitored every step of the project, visiting Columbus numerous times to promote and protect it. Davis’ critical link to Penn National in the final stages of the project should not be severed.
Opportunities for growth and prosperity in Austintown will abound over the next four years. Residents should entrust their votes to Davis and Carano, both of whom have the experience, demeanor and talent to seize those opportunities with gusto.