Stark County Sheriff-Elect Michael A. McDonald notified Stark County commissioners Thursday that he is medically unable to hold the position of county sheriff.
Sheriff-elect Michael A. McDonald will not take office Monday as Stark County’s 47th sheriff.
McDonald, who was elected in November, has notified Stark County commissioners that he is not medically fit to hold the office.
For the past 15 months, McDonald, 54, who started with the sheriff’s office full time in 1981, has been battling esophageal cancer, a diagnosis he made public in November 2011 leading up to the primary election.
Sheriff Timothy Swanson said Thursday that McDonald’s undisclosed illness is a new development discovered in recent weeks and not related to the esophageal cancer.
“It is not the same, it’s all new,” said Swanson, who said he could not release further details due to federal health confidentiality laws.
McDonald’s physician also issued a letter also stating that it was a recent change in his medical condition.
Swanson said McDonald’s family has requested privacy and asks for prayers.
Commissioners will hold a special meeting at 1 p.m. Friday in the board’s conference room to appoint an interim sheriff. Their appointee will serve in the position until the Stark County Democratic Party’s Central Committee appoints a new sheriff. The Central Committee includes roughly 200 people from across the county who were elected or appointed to represent the Democrats in their respective precincts.
Voters will then elect a new sheriff in 2014. That person would serve the remainder of McDonald’s four-year term.
Swanson, who has served as sheriff since 1999 but didn’t seek another term in November, said he would consider holding the interim post if asked by commissioners, but “not for anything further.”
During the May primary, three other Democrats took out petitions for sheriff but ultimately chose not to challenge McDonald. They are Jackson Township Police Chief David Zink, Stark County Sheriff Maj. Brian K. Arnold and Summit County Sheriff Lt. Douglas S. Smith.
Smith withdrew his name after questions arose about whether his candidacy would violate the federal Hatch Act, which restricts the political activities of government employees.
Randy Gonzalez, chairman of the Stark County Democratic Party, said the party will meet within the 45-day window as required by state law to appoint a sheriff, but nothing has been scheduled yet.
Gonzalez said he talked with McDonald numerous times in the past month about his upcoming term, and said that McDonald had completed the two-week training course required for all new sheriffs.
“He had every intention of taking the office and worked hard to obtain it,” Gonzalez said. “This is really a tragedy.”