More than 50 Stark County officeholders are not seeking re-election this year. The exodus means that nearly one third of the 182 seats up for election on Tuesday will have a newcomer next year.
Their elected seats are on the Nov. 5 ballot, but their names are not.
For the first time in nearly two decades, the names of Alliance Municipal Judge Robert G. Lavery, Washington Township Trustee Steve Kimes, Lawrence Township Trustee Marvin Hardgrove, Osnaburg Fiscal Officer Susan Pero and Chris Goldthorpe of the North Canton school board will not appear as candidates on the general election ballot.
They are among the more than 50 Stark County officeholders not seeking re-election. The exodus means that nearly one-third of the 183 seats on Tuesday's ballot will be filled with a newcomer next year.
Most of the outgoing officeholders serve on school boards. In school districts, such as Alliance City School District, the absence of the three incumbents on the ballot means voters will elect three new faces who will represent the new majority of the five-member school board.
R. Mark Locke, the most senior of the three incumbent board members in Alliance and who was the first to announce his departure, said the decision for the three of them to not return was a coincidence. He added that the caliber of the four candidates and the school's new administration helped him feel more comfortable with leaving the board he's served for 12 years.
"We wouldn't leave the board if we thought we had people running that would be detrimental (to the school district)," Locke said.
Compared to congressional or statewide candidate elections, local elections, which feature city and village council, township trustee and school board candidates, traditionally tend to have more turnover, say political observers. But different this year is the high number of veteran officeholders who are choosing to leave.
Matthew DeTemple, executive director of the Ohio Township Association, said he's seen a similar trend throughout Ohio. He said the natural shift in demographics likely has play a role.
"I think people are getting to an age where they decide to spend more time with the family," he said.
Recent changes to state laws likely are the biggest contributor, he said.
"It's (the trend of longtime trustees leaving) really accelerated this year," he said. "I think that's because of the changes to the (Ohio Public Employees Retirement System) pension system."
Randy Gonzalez, chairman of the Stark County Democratic Party and longtime fiscal officer for Jackson Township, questioned whether the combination of constant government cuts and increased scrutiny due to social media and bloggers also has caused some officials to leave.
"From a party standpoint, it's harder to find a candidate (now) than it ever has been in the past," he said. "People think it's just not worth it."
WHY THEY'RE LEAVING
The Repository contacted some of the longtime public officials to find out why they are not returning to their public posts and asked about their future plans, here's what they said:
Susan Pero, who stepped down in March after serving as Osnaburg Township's fiscal officer for 22 years, said she had planned to serve the remaining three years of her four-year term but the changes in the state pension law made her health care too expensive for her to stay. She now works a part-time payroll job at Papa Bears Restaurant and enjoys supporting her husband, Trustee Richard Pero who is seeking re-election, and son, Randall Pero, who is a first-time candidate for Osnaburg Local.Marvin Hardgrove, who has served 23 years as Lawrence Township trustee, had taken out a petition and gathered signatures to be on the ballot again but changed his mind."I'm 76, and thought it's time for a younger crowd to take over, I guess."
Hardgrove, who took over as trustee after his father died, said recent health problems also were a factor.
Before he leaves Dec. 31, Hardgrove hopes to move forward with plans to fix the often flooded Millfield Road NW. He also has started a campaign to get tornado sirens installed throughout the township.
Mary Cirelli, an at-large councilman for Canton who has been involved at the city, county and state level of governments since 1984, plans to remain involved in the community even though she lost the chance for re-election when she lost her bid for Canton city treasurer in May."Once you've been there, done that, you can't let it go," she said. "You're always interested in what's going on."
She said she noticed that more longtime candidates than usual weren't on the ballot this year, calling the situation a two-edge sword.
"It's good to have new people; also not good to lose the institutional knowledge from the more seasoned public servants," she said.
Cirelli didn't rule out a return to the ballot in the next few years.
"Who knows, I might be dead in two years," she joked. '... If my health is fine, I may run again."
Reach Kelli at 330-580-8339 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter: @kyoungREP
ELECTION DAY GUIDE
Tuesday is General Election Day. Polls open at 6:30 a.m. and close at 7:30 p.m. Here's some answers to frequently asked questions about Election Day:
Q: Do I need to be registered to vote?
A: Yes. The deadline to register for this election has passed.
Q: Where do I vote?
A: To find your voting location, contact the Stark County Board of Elections at 330-451-8683 or visit the Ohio Secretary of State's website, which features an online searchable database: http://ow.ly/qpJVl
Q: If I make a mistake on my ballot, can I change it?
A: Yes. However, you must make any corrections before selecting the "cast ballot" option. Once a ballot is cast, it's final.
Q: Can I ask a poll worker a question about the voting process if I am confused about how to use the equipment?
A: Yes. Poll workers are permitted to help voters at the site.
Q: Can someone stand in the voting booth with me when I cast my vote?
A: A voter with a physical or mental disability, or who is unable to read or write, may be assisted by anyone the voter chooses, except a candidate seeking office that precinct, the voter's employer or employer's agent, or an officer or agent of the voter's union. The voter may be assisted by two poll workers of opposite political parties.
Q: Do I need to bring identification?
A: Yes, per state law. A current driver's license, state identification card, military identification, current utility bill, bank statement, paycheck and other government documents are acceptable.
Q. What if I forget my identification?
A: Voters who do not provide acceptable identification at the precinct will be given a provisional ballot, which has the same contents as a regular ballot but is counted only after the voter's eligibility is verified. Voters also may be asked to sign an affirmation statement swearing to their identity under penalty of election falsification.
Q. Where I can find election results?
A. Visit CantonRep.com after the polls close on Election Day for ongoing updates of the results, follow the Repository's coverage on Facebook or on Twitter using #starkelex, read Repository's election coverage in its Wednesday edition or visit the Stark County Board of Elections website.
Sources: Stark County Board of Elections, Ohio Secretary of State