By Ed Runyan
Longtime Hubbard Councilwoman Lisha Pompili Baumiller is challenging longtime Trumbull County Commissioner Frank Fuda of Niles in the May 8 Democratic primary for county commissioner.
She received a boost from the county Democratic Party Central Committee, which endorsed her 91-84 in February.
Fuda, meanwhile, got an endorsement from U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-13th of Howland, who appeared with Fuda in a video advertisement saying Fuda is endorsed by labor unions, the Youngstown-Warren Black Caucus and members of the business community, who Ryan said “have all recognized Frank Fuda as a hard-working Democrat. That’s why Frank has always had my vote.”
Fuda is seeking his fourth four-year term as commissioner. He cited his work on numerous county sewer and water projects and his daily attention to matters big and small as evidence of his effectiveness as commissioner.
Pompili Baumiller, self-employed in debt collection and Hubbard 3rd Ward councilwoman since 2000, attacked Fuda at a recent interview on his position at various times in recent years on imposing a sales-tax increase to raise revenue.
She also blames him for a drop in the county’s population this decade, which went from 210,312 people in 2010 to 201,825 in 2016.
“To keep people here, you have to be aggressive to keep the existing businesses we have, and he’s not doing that,” Pompili-Baumiller said of Fuda.
“For example, with the blight and all the empty buildings, one of my platforms, I have been working with different teachers and professors over the past couple years to put a plan in place ... and that is to utilize students in the engineering department, architecture area, public relations.
“They need hours of service. We need their knowledge,” she said. “They can actually take a building that looks decrepit and deplorable, and they can actually show you with modern technology what it would look like if you put whatever amount of money into it and change it,” she said.
A few years ago, when it appeared the county was in dire straits financially, Fuda advocated for a sales-tax increase, saying the commissioners should impose one because it’s the commissioners’ job to make that decision, not voters.
“I can honestly go on record and say I will never support an imposed sales tax,” Pompili Baumiller said.
She also said Fuda attends a lot of functions but “is not doing anything” for the county. “Just because he says he goes to work every day, there’s more than going to work and sitting behind a desk and answering phone calls,” she said.
When asked about that, Fuda said to “check with my secretary or check with the people I work with, all the township trustees, the council members, [U.S. Rep] Timmy Ryan and [State senator] Sean O’Brien.
“You know who they call? You know who they tell their constituents to call? They say ‘Call Frank Fuda because he’ll get it done.’
“When they have a problem, even the governor last year – I don’t know if it came directly from him – because they know if somebody comes in the office and they got a problem, I’m not going to let it go until I get it resolved,” he said.
By the end of this year, the county will reach $90 million in water and sewer projects that have been completed during the time he has been county commissioner.
Fuda said many of the projects were difficult, so he traveled to Washington, D.C., and Columbus with the heads of the county sanitary engineer’s office and made contact with legislators and their staffs.
Dawn Campbell, receptionist at the commissioners’ office, who takes phone calls for the commissioners, said, “Of the phone calls, 80 percent are for Mr. Fuda, and they ask for him by name, and he returns every phone call. He tries to help everybody. Mr. Fuda goes above and beyond.”
She said the calls are from various local government officials and ordinary citizens having problems in their dealings with various county departments, and he resolves them.
Ryan also said of Fuda, “Commissioner Fuda is a man of integrity and an effective leader for Trumbull County. In addition to being a lifelong friend, Frank is one of hardest-working public servants I know.”