Most Stark County residents have a new congressman and/or a new state representative this year, even though every incumbent lawmaker running in Stark County last year was re-elected.
The arrival of a new year often brings change, and for most Stark County residents a new state representative, state senator or congressman will represent them in 2013 due to redistricting once every 10 years to account for population changes.
Tuscarawas Township Trustee John Speicher, a Democrat, says he’s not that familiar with his new representatives — 38th Ohio House District Rep. Marilyn Slaby, R-Copley Township, 27th District State Sen. Frank LaRose, R-Copley Township and 7th District U.S. Rep. Bob Gibbs, R-Lakeville. Last year, it was State Rep. Christina Hagan, R-Marlboro Township, State Sen. Scott Oelslager, R-North Canton and U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci, R-Wadsworth.
“This area was like Ralph Regula for the congressional district forever, and now who’s our congressman?” he said, adding that his new lawmakers should send postcards to their new constituents introducing themselves. “When district’s got all changed around like they did, there’s going to be a little bit of a (learning) curve here until things settle down and you get more accustomed to who your rep is.”
Generally, the only Stark communities with no change in both state and congressional representation are Jackson Township, North Canton, the western half of Lake Township and Hills and Dales.
Here’s what’s been happening with the transition by lawmaker:
• U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci, R-Wadsworth, 16th District (new to his district: Stark County portion now includes only North Canton, Jackson Township, Lawrence Township, Canal Fulton and parts of Plain and Perry townships) — Renacci, who for two years represented all of Stark County, moved his district office last month from Jackson Township to Wadsworth, which is a more central location for the new district, which still includes Wayne County and parts of Medina County but now has parts of Cuyahoga, Summit and Portage counties.
• U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Niles, 13th District (new to his district: Alliance, Lexington Township) — Ryan said he’s met with Alliance Mayor Alan Andreani, Canton Mayor William J. Healy II, Massillon Mayor Kathy Catazaro-Perry and Stark County Democratic Party Chairman Randy Gonzalez. Ryan said he will concentrate on promoting “economic development, education, and infrastructure development in the areas I represent” as part of a regional approach and plans to visit Alliance and Lexington Township to meet constituents. Andreani said he met with Ryan last January to discuss ensuring Alliance’s main post office stays open.
• U.S. Rep. Bob Gibbs, R-Lakeville, 7th District (new to his district: the rest of Stark County) — The congressman of the former 18th District that stretched from Carroll County south into Appalachia last year visited Stark county businesses, attended an energy forum at the Stark Area Regional Transit Authority, toured areas in Louisville affected by flooding and arranged for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to do a flood study there.
Page 2 of 3 - Though Gibbs, a former hog farmer, in November got only 45 percent of the vote in Stark County and 29 percent of the vote in Canton, he won the new 7th District by taking the district’s nine other counties by large margins.
“Rep. Gibbs is eager to represent the majority of Stark County in the 113th Congress,” his office said, and would seek “to meet the needs of his new constituents.” His office said Gibbs will open a district office in Ashland County but “our plan is to open an office within Stark County” contingent on Gibbs’ congressional budget.
• State Rep. Kirk Schuring, R-Jackson Township, 48th District (new to his district: nearly all of Perry Township, Navarre, Meyers Lake, northwestern Canton Township, one precinct of Bethlehem Township) — Schuring said he represented these areas as a state senator from 2003 to 2010, so he’s familiar with them. “I will be accessible and responsive to the new areas in my district just like I was in the past,” he said. Schuring, a 1970 Perry High School graduate, is credited with facilitating discussions between the Perry Township trustees and the Ohio Department of Transportation on preventing flooding along state Route 172.
• State Rep. Christina Hagan, R-Marlboro Township, 50th District (new to her district: northern Plain Township, Alliance, Lexington Township, Limaville, Washington Township, Paris Township, Stark portion of Minerva) — Hagan worked as a waitress in Alliance and was the city’s 2007 Carnation Festival Queen, visiting nursing homes, hospitals and businesses. She said she’s started receiving emails and letters from her new constituents and that she, last year, visited the Pro One distribution center in Alliance and a plastics company in Lexington Township.
She said this month she will have an outreach program where she will contact eastern Stark County school and government officials. Alliance Mayor Alan Andreani, a fellow Republican and the former superintendent of the Marlington Local School District, said he’s known Hagan, a 2007 Marlington High graduate, for years. “She has a very good awareness of what our various needs are,” he said.
Plain Township Trustee Lou Giavasis said he’s looking forward to getting to know Hagan better, but he expressed concern that the interests of northern Plain Township may not dovetail with the interests of Hagan’s predominately rural district. Plain Township, which was represented mostly by Schuring the last two years, is now divided into three Ohio House districts.
• State Rep. Stephen Slesnick, D-Canton, 49th District (new to his district: Massillon Wards 1-5, Pike Township, East Sparta, nearly all of Bethlehem Township, small parts of Perry, Osnaburg, Plain and Tuscarawas townships) — Slesnick said he’s met with Massillon Ward 4 councilman Tony Townsend and Massillon Mayor Catazaro-Perry. He said he plans to hold office hours and town hall meetings in his new areas and has added some of his new constituents to his email newsletter list.
Page 3 of 3 - • State Rep. Marilyn Slaby, R-Copley Township, 38th District (new to her district: Canal Fulton, Lawrence Township, nearly all of Tuscarawas Township, Massillon Ward 6, Sugar Creek Township, Brewster, Wilmot, Beach City) — Slaby, a retired teacher whose district also includes western Summit County, said she campaigned last year at Northwest and Tuslaw football games and is seeking to attend more community meetings in Stark County. She said she has plans to hold office hours in western Stark County.
• State Sen. Scott Oelslager, R-North Canton, 29th District (new to his district: Alliance, Lexington Township, Washington Township, Paris Township, Stark part of Minerva) — Oelslager graduated from the University of Mount Union and he said he developed relationships with people in eastern Stark as a congressional staffer. “I’m very thrilled to represent the Alliance and Minerva area,” said Oelslager, adding that he’s often been part of the annual Alliance Carnation parade. “I have a warm feeling for Alliance because it was my second home.” Oelslager said last year he toured the Alliance and Minerva schools.
• State Sen. Frank LaRose, R-Copley Township, 27th District (new to his district: same as Slaby) — LaRose said he plans to attend Chamber of Commerce, Rotary, township trustee and city and village council meetings in western Stark County. He also plans to hold office hours in western Stark, where he said he and his wife have taken Sunday afternoon drives.