By Ed Runyan
Those who worked closest with Paul Heltzel at the Trumbull County Commissioners office are still reeling from his sudden death June 30, but there’s a deadline to meet in mid-August to replace him.
Commissioner Dan Polivka, who also is chairman of the county Democratic Party, said a handful of people have expressed an interest in the open position. He declined to name them.
But he has set a deadline of 4 p.m. Monday for anyone interested to submit a letter of interest in the position, along with a resume or qualifications, to Judi Toles, Democratic Party secretary, at the Trumbull County Board of Elections office on Youngstown Road. Toles is a board of elections employee.
John Blue, first vice chairman of the Trumbull County Republican Party, said the party’s central committee will nominate someone for the Nov. 4 ballot by the Aug. 11 deadline.
Blue asks registered Republicans to submit a letter of interest and resume to him at 122 East Main St., Girard, OH 44420, or email him at email@example.com.
Any of the Democrats interested in the position who want to attend a reception with precinct committee members, who will vote on the appointment, are asked for a $95 contribution to cover expenses for the meeting, Polivka said.
Each candidate will have a chance to talk with the party central committee members for about three minutes each prior to the vote, Polivka said.
The date of the meeting has not been determined, but it will most likely occur about the third week in July, Polivka said.
Heltzel, who died June 30 after a short battle with cancer, was first elected commissioner in 2004. His death was a shock to even close friends and associates.
He told only a few people he was dying, and that news came only a few days before his death. He missed commissioners meetings for about three weeks after cancer-related surgery in early June.
The party has 45 days from July 1 to select someone to serve as interim commissioner the rest of this year.
That person also will run in the Nov. 4 general election to complete the final two years of Heltzel’s term through 2016.
Polivka and the other remaining commissioner, Frank Fuda, as well as Auditor Adrian Biviano, agreed that they’re hoping the person who fills the position will enable county government to continue to operate cooperatively.
“When we disagreed, we disagreed professionally,” Polivka said, adding that he doesn’t want to return to period in 2004 before he and Heltzel were elected when the county’s financial outlook was marked by budget cuts and layoffs.
Investigators also were looking into corruption claims regarding the purchase of janitorial supplies.
When asked whether it would be desirable to have another attorney in the commissioners office, Biviano said, “We’re not going to replace our buddy,” referring to Heltzel, who had impressive academic credentials and experience in business and business law.
Fuda is a retired educator, and Polivka has a construction background.
“You want a person with the intelligence and the background in government to maintain the operations we’ve had for the last eight years, with the ability to work with the public officials to serve the public,” Biviano said.
“Right now, we have a good team. We don’t play politics,” he said.
“We want someone who will work as a team,” Fuda said. “We don’t want someone who will play a political game. We’ve made a lot of progress in the last eight years. We don’t need someone who’s going to go off on their own.”