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Incumbents endorsed for Trumbull commissioner

Monday, October 31, 2016

Voters in Trumbull County face critical and challenging decisions in selecting two members to the executive panel of county government in this fall’s election.

The decisions for those county commissioner seats are critical because those elected will wield power in shaping important policy affecting the lives of the county’s 208,000 residents over the next four years. Voters’ decisions are challenging because of the high caliber of some of the candidates and because of a cloud of controversy hanging over one of the two incumbents.

In the race for the Jan. 2 term on the board between incumbent Democrat Mauro Cantalamessa – appointed in 2014 after the death of former Commissioner Paul Heltzel – and Republican Jim Priester, The Vindicator endorses Cantalamessa for his first full elected term.

For the Jan. 3 term on the board between Democrat incumbent Daniel Polivka and Republican Mary Williams (write-in candidate Todd Johnson is also in the race), The Vindicator endorses Polivka with reservations and conditions.

We do so with reservations because of the charges and allegations of nepotism and favoritism in hiring decisions directed against him by several sources. We endorse him for a new term with the expectation that he would promptly resign should an ongoing investigation find any solid proof that the nepotism and favoritism charges are valid.

JAN. 2 TERM

For the Jan. 2 term, Cantalamessa clearly ranks as the strongest candidate. In his two years in office, he has shown mature growth in the position and has worked well with his two colleagues on the board. He played a role in the decision to avoid asking residents to raise the county sales tax and instead toe the bottom line by careful and responsible budget management. He’s also advocated service sharing with other local government units to produce economies of scale and savings for taxpayers.

In a full term, the Howland restaurateur presents a credible agenda that includes working to revitalize the Golden Triangle area of Howland and Warren into a renewed economic hub for manufacturing, industrial and warehousing activities. An immediate focus in a new term would be improving infrastructure there to better attract developers.

Priester, a fuel attendant from Hubbard, did not attend an interview with The Vindicator Editorial Board, a prerequisite for consideration for endorsement.

JAN. 3 TERM

Williams, Polivka’s GOP challenger, brings a lengthy background of public service and public policy-making skills to the race . She has served on the Lakeview Local Schools Board of Education for about 10 years and has been a board member of the Trumbull Career and Technical Center board for eight years.

Her proposals to strengthen job-readiness mentorship programs, to better respond to the county’s large agriculture community and to expedite demolition of blighted buildings all hold merit.

She, too, accuses Polivka and his colleagues of making “Trumbull County the employment agency for certain families and friends.” In her interview with the editorial board, however, she refused to identify one person by name whom she believes was hired inappropriately.

Polivka vehemently denies such charges by Williams and others. Until concrete evidence proves otherwise, we will take the incumbent at his word and focus more intently on his record.

When examining that record, Polivka fares well. From consolidation of 911 emergency telephone service to a massive $50 million update of Trumbull’s sanitary-sewer network to balancing the operating budget without layoffs to rising as a strong advocate for senior citizens and veterans, his record illustrates that he is an officeholder who has learned the importance of responsive constituent service. Barring any damning revelations before Election Day, he merits re-election.

As a rule, The Vindicator does not endorse write-in hopefuls, believing that if they were serious and responsible candidates, they would not have bypassed the traditional channels for full ballot access.