Published May 23, 2007
The word "will" in the title of this blog reflects the political reality of Mahoning County. If you ask the question "Who should replace Maureen Cronin" the answer is clear: The best and the brightest in the legal community. But, Cronin's successor on the Mahoning County Common Pleas Court bench will be appointed by Gov. Ted Strickland, the first Democrat to serve in the position in 16 years, which means that politics will be a major consideration. To the victors belong the spoils.
So, who will replace Cronin, who announced Tuesday that she will be retiring on July 1? Some names have already hit the rumor mill: Mahoning County Court Judge Diane Vettori; common pleas court magistrates Wade Smith and Tim Welsh; county Commissioner John McNally; and, Heidi Hanni. Remember, this is from the rumor mill. There undoubtedly will be many more names by the deadline for applications that will be set by Mahoning County Democratic Chairwoman Lisa Antonnini.
The county Democratic Party will submit a list of recommendations to the governor's office, but there is nothing that says Strickland must choose from the list. He could well decide to open the process up to anyone who qualifies to be a judge and then have his own screening committee conduct interviews.
The only certainty is that a Republican has as much chance of being appointed Cronin's successor as he or she has of being elected mayor of the city of Youngstown.
Gov. Strickland has said he believes in finding the most qualified to fill judicial vacancies. He will be put to the test in Mahoning County, where politics and not qualifications determines who will serve in government.
Judge Cronin, whose retirement came as a surprise to most people, is supporting Wade Smith for her position. Smith currently serves as her magistrate. It will be interesting to see whether Cronin's opinion is taken seriously.