Experience, generational divide, separate candidates for commissioner
By Justin Wier
The Democratic primary for Mahoning County commissioner pits a two-term incumbent against an ambitious Canfield Township trustee who believes the county needs change and a younger perspective.
Two generations separate Commissioner Carol Rimedio-Righetti at 66 from the 32-year-old Joe Paloski, who is in his first term as a Canfield Township trustee.
Paloski believes his fresh perspective will shake up the county for the better, while Rimedio-Righetti paints her opponent as inexperienced and lacking the requisite knowledge to perform the role.
“I’m all for younger people getting more involved,” Rimedio-Righetti said. “But I think he needs to understand what a commissioner does.”
Rimedio-Righetti touted her working relationship with the other commissioners and said her experience is necessary to navigate the county through the loss of about $4.1 million in annual revenue from a discontinued statewide tax on Medicaid managed-care organizations set to hit the county in 2019.
Paloski, who said he had been approached to run for Ohio’s 6th District in U.S. Congress, cited the continued population loss across the county and said he opted to run for commissioner because the old guard needs to change.
“I couldn’t let it go,” Paloski said on his decision to run. “We need to start holding people accountable.”
He said new ideas will enhance economic development, promote population growth and improve the community.
A point of contention is Oakhill Renaissance Place, the county office complex with less than half of its 353,000 square feet occupied.
Rimedio-Righetti wants to obtain funds to renovate a floor of the former hospital into transitional housing for female veterans. She has also entered discussions to potentially move the Mahoning County High School, a community school that provides education to students who have been suspended or expelled, into the complex as well.
Her challenger was not impressed with these ideas.
“The county can’t even get other county departments to move into Oakhill, and now she wants to add housing and a school into a building which is ... around 100 years old,” Paloski said.
He also criticized spending $534,000 to improve the ventilation system in Oakhill’s morgue before the county obtained a new medical examiner.
Rimedio-Righetti has a more utilitarian approach to the Oakhill issue.
“That is our building now,” she said. “We have to make it work.”
Paloski cited prohibitive renovation costs at Oakhill and suggested finding a nonprofit health care operation to use the space or renting it out as a filming location for movies.
“There is an opportunity for movies to film at Oakhill as a set for a hospital or psychiatric ward,” Paloski said. “It brings in much-needed economic dollars for the community.”
He also questioned Rimedio-Righetti’s support of former Mayor John A. McNally IV as he sought re-election last year.
McNally pleaded guilty to four misdemeanors for his role in the Oakhill corruption scandal as a county commissioner.
“If you want to be a leader in this county, you have to make tough choices,” Paloski said. “You can’t represent people who committed crimes.”
Rimedio-Righetti said McNally is a friend and he dealt with his own legal issues.
“He was the endorsed Democrat. I supported him as that endorsed Democrat,” Rimedio-Righetti said. “I feel like I have shown the people of the Mahoning Valley my integrity.”
The winner of May’s primary will face off against Rick Barron, the sole Republican candidate, in November.