COVENTRY TWP.  Voters in Coventry will be voting to fill both a two-year and four-year term on the trustee board.

The two-year term is the remainder of the term of former Trustee Tom Seese, who died this year. Trustees appointed Robert Saffian to the position. Saffian is running for the position along with Jeff Houck.

For the four-year term, current Trustee Richard Kutuchief is running for re-election and being challenged by George Beckham and Lisa Fouser.

Beckham is the former zoning inspector for the township and Fouser is a resident who has spoken out on numerous occasions about her concerns with short-term rentals in the township.


Why are you running

I am running to complete Tom Seese's term for many reasons.

To continue to improve the parks and recreation locations throughout the township. After analyzing the current condition and uses of the parks, Ingleside Park was the first to be improved. I handled the oversite of the work and the finished product is excellent.

To finalize the property where the new dam is located stretching from the Clock Tower to Biggins Ice Cream. I have worked closely with Sen. Vernon Sykes and ODNR to bring this project to the table and start working out the details of a potential lease agreement.

To have a Property Maintenance Package attached to our Zoning Code. The purpose of this is to set certain benchmarks for the exterior condition and appearance of residences and commercial structures. In instances where the owner is financially unable to facilitate such repairs, I would work with them and Summit County to discover what grant monies are available for assistance.

Continue to work with the Coventry Fire Department to analyze fees charged for their EMS and Mutual Aid services and bring them up to match similar fire departments. in the area.

Several years ago while serving on the Zoning Board, George Beckham and I devised an "Overlay District" on Manchester Road and South Main Street. This is designed to facilitate new business and light manufacturing into our Township.

Involvement in the community

I have been involved in Coventry for about 20 years. First appointed to the Zoning Board, then Fiscal Officer for five years and now trustee. I was involved with the schools since 1992-2016 while my son was a student. Worked the fundraisers, worked the football games in the concession stand, chaperoned the summer band camps for four long years. Currently, I represent the township on the Flood Control Committee, chaired by Barberton Mayor Wm. Judge. Will be a member of the Census Committee for Summit County.

One area to focus on

Outside of the physical improvements, roads, parks, buildings, etc. I think one of the most important issues is public safety, both in the township, business locations and schools.

Public safety is not a subject that any one person can achieve, it is a collaborative effort with local government and community. By open communication, both face to face and the proper use of social media, decisions can be made to decide what strategies best suit the situation. The first step would be to identify the safety concerns, investigate what other communities have successfully implemented to attack the problem and modify these approaches to best serve Coventry Townships needs and concerns.

Next, involve the residents through the township website and social media channels. With two-way communication, these concerns can be dealt with far more successfully, particularly since the strategy was developed as a community, not someone telling you what and how to do something.


Why are you running

Our beautiful Coventry Township in the Portage Lakes is a jewel of the greater Akron/Canton Metroplex. It is our quiet home, it is a center of business activity, it provides entertainment for the area and it is a vacation destination. The challenges for our future are bundled in how we maintain our status in the community as that quiet home, that hub of business, that entertainment center and that vacation spot while conservatively guarding our treasury and effectively managing our resources.

As administrators, we need to lean on the skills of the department leaders in the township and provide them the tools they need to succeed. The treasury in the township is limited. We have to guard the finances diligently while always keeping communication open with the constituents to assure their concerns are addressed, and to assure the aspects of the township that make them happy continue.

In my business experience, I have built multiple organizations that were successful because they identified opportunity for growth and resource management, often with difficult-to-understand concepts.

I started my career as an engineer of sorts, finding ways to make organizations more efficient and drive treasury to the bottom line through savings in labor and supplies. In the second half of my career, I evolved to become an organization creator, building meaningful employment for some 500-plus individuals, while managing organizational resources with both investment and fiscal responsibility.

I believe those skills I have developed in my career in business will translate well to the trustee position. We have an excellent township organization in place, with state-of-the-art safety services, a dedicated road and services crew, and a fine, responsive administration office. With all that, we still face many challenges as we move forward as a key regional player in the greater Akron/Canton area economy. I am determined to bring my skills to the administration of Coventry Township to keep us in a position of leadership, forward-thinking into the future while assuring the competent management of our existing resources and care for our almost 11,000 residents.

Involvement in the community

Born in Youngstown, raised in Pittsburgh, I achieved degrees from the Pennsylvania State University (BS, Logistics) and the University of Akron (MBA). I have been a part of the Greater Akron community for 35 years, and a resident of Coventry Township for 15 years. My wife, Lisa, and I owned and operated the Upper Deck for 10 years. During our tenure there, we had the opportunity not only to just operate a successful business but to identify multiple ways to give back to the community.

I have served on the boards of several organizations, including the Weathervane Theater and the University of Akron College of Business Advisory Board. We have been involved with development for such organizations as The Oak Clinic, The Project St. Nicholas Returns organization, The TJ Mozic Tournament and other development activities aimed at assisting organizations to help the community and its residents deal various life issues.

All that being said, this is my first attempt at entering a leadership position in the public sphere. In attending township trustee meetings, I have observed the issues that bring us together as well as those that divide us. While it's human nature to try to please everyone, I believe that with effective thought of the issues and even greater communication, we can find the common ground that knits our community together. I am looking forward to the challenge and promise my energy, diligence, and focus on all issues

One area to focus on

I look forward to learning more about the incredibly complex safety services. We have an excellent fire and EMS program, we are on Sheriff's patrol, I anticipate learning more about these services as an administrator and providing assistance when I can.

Our road department faces year-round challenges, and I also look forward to learning more about the structure and capital investment in the program. They made great progress this year in resurfacing a number of the roads, I hope to help with the scheduling of more roads over the next few years and communicating how this will proceed with the township residents.

Finances are probably the greatest ongoing challenge to the township. Over the years the state has reduced the general operating fund, so the residents of the township have had to step forward and pass tax levies for specific areas of operation. Assisting the various department and programs to operate within the confines of those levies and whatever portion of the general fund is available is a key responsibility and great challenge for the Trustees.

Also along those lines, as we identify areas of continuing or increased financial need, we will need to be thoughtful stewards of our constituents' finances. All levies will be carefully thought out and not presented unless absolutely necessary.

We need to pass the continuing levy for Fire/EMS operation that is on the ballot Nov. 5. These services are essential to our community and we are intensely proud of the department and the services they provide. As trustee, I will be involved so that we can be assured that, within the confines of the finances of the department, that we are delivering the services in the most effective way.

Our Sheriff's patrol is financed by levy also. I have heard residents state concerns over how safe they feel, and we will have to address those issues. It would take additional tax and levy to increase the patrol support, and I am not currently in favor of taking that action. As trustee, I will work to get involved with how the Sheriff patrol works and how we can make it more effective to address the issues of the residents of our community.


Why are you running

A lifetime of community service. I am your trustee — my leadership is proven and strong. I am dedicated to this job. My experience greatly outweighs my opponents in all ways. There is a great difference in working for the township and leading it — and being active in it. As a lawyer, I make decisions impacting clients daily. As a trustee, I make decisions impacting us all, and the future of our township. I have the skills and experience to lead Coventry Township and lead into the future. I have been involved in this community since Becky and I moved here in 1978. We raised three kids, active in sports and building our parks. Over time, I observed a dwindling of our identity, so I created our Coventry flag and obtained our own postal address — Coventry Township, Ohio. That's where our mail comes now. It is who we are, it sets us apart. I listen to residents; attend to each concern; keep all informed regarding Coventry. I am not single issued. Responsible spending is critical with our budget. My experience with Coventry Township and Coventry Schools enables me to be vigilant of spending, mindful of levy requests. When I took office, the township was set to close our parks due to no money. I developed our Park Volunteer Program and residents stepped up to save our parks. I have maintained our infrastructure and beautification plan and formed relationships with other county/state offices. My experience and dedication make me best qualified for trustee, and as such, I am seeking re-election to continue my work and to serve this community in the role I have succeeded in.

Involvement in the community

A trustee is a leader in the township and filled with challenges in many ways. Like the courtroom, there are different views or two sides to the story. Listening and gathering the facts to address a community member's concerns requires consideration, courtesy and objectivity. Hence, decision making is of vital importance, as a trustee's decision can impact not only the community but the future of the township as a whole. My experience as a trustee for four years, and as a Coventry Local School Board Member for eight, and my experience in my lifetime of community service provides my strength in making the difficult decisions for our township. When confronted with a decision, I make certain I study the issue and become informed of the matter.

We must deal with change and growth. Keeping up with the times is a balance between the money we have and the money we spend. Operating on a small budget requires priority spending and experience in operating our township. I have been part of the team successfully doing so. When we look for change in leadership, consider what we are changing from and why there is a need to change and what that change is. I have been facing challenges of running a small township and have successfully done so.

I have negotiated police contracts to bring costs down. I have changed the status of the Senior Center into the Community Center for all to use in a beautiful, remodeled venue. I have engaged a sidewalks interconnected walkway plan with the help of University of Akron engineering students at no cost to the township. We have the greatest Firefighters and FireMedics and we have kept up with state of the art safety equipment. I have bought a new fire truck I have torn down the worst most embarrassing police station, the Coventry Sheriff’s post in our township, nowhere near representing either our sheriff or our township. I have passed a road levy for our fine roads. I have passed a parks levy to enhance CT recreation and youth sports.

I have cut grass, trimmed hedges, changed lightbulbs, weed-whacked the clock tower and yes, painted fire hydrants. These things I have done with my colleagues, Ed Diebold, Tom Seese and Robert Saffian –  a board who is dedicated to the wellbeing of Coventry Township and it’s best interests.

One area to focus on

I, along with my trustee colleagues, have met with top brass of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources as to how the township will control, use, and manage the East Reservoir and clock tower footprint for the benefit and betterment of not only Coventry Township, but the region as a whole. It is a wonderful area for recreation, beauty, relaxation and meditation. The development of this new park footprint provides us with large opportunity but must be done so with caution and great thinking. I have studied this for its entire three-year duration of build contemplating how our township will use and maintain this footprint. We must be conscious of not only its use but its cost of maintenance and police enforcement. Hence, going hand in hand with this development is focusing on adding strength to our police protection. I have been involved in studies and negotiations for our police protection. We have faced great increased expenses of police protection contracts, over my term. We have worked with Sheriff Barry who has given all he can to help us with our budget and providing protection within the budget. Yet the Sheriff must face the reality of the rising cost of police protection, and Coventry Township must too. I have tried and tried to work to add another patrol car, but we simply do not have the money. It is easy to say we want to "add police protection for safer neighborhoods", but finding a real solution of how will we pay for it without an additional levy is nearly impossible, especially when we have already asked taxpayers in our last police levy to give more tax money. We must explore all options, such as a merger with, or cooperation with, neighboring police departments.


Why are you running

In 2018 I retired after 30 years as the Township Zoning Inspector. For those 30 years, I approved all Zoning Permits, approved all land usage types and spent countless hours on housing maintenance issues. As the Zoning Inspector, you are the "go-to man" for anyone with questions on a multitude of subjects. I understand many township issues other than land use, including county and state issues that affect the township. I believe that I must not only help the person with their issue but do it in a professional manner that would leave a good impression with future and current residents or businessmen. I understand people’s frustrations with government, people want short and sweet -the bottom line- not pages of flowery wishful text when one paragraph of facts will do, for 30 years I practiced doing just that.

Involvement in the community

My involvement as a township employee is at the top of the list in community involvement. I was involved in the formation of the Joint Economic District with Akron as well as all parts of the Zoning Code. I have been involved in all township land, parks, buildings and the two cemeteries.

When I was hired, I lived in an apartment. I bought a house and became a known figure in the community. I recall laughing with trustees that I conduct business anywhere, from Acme to the gas station to my front yard.

On a personal level, I am a past member and president of the Portage Lakes Advisory Council and have been involved in the Portage Lakes Historical Society.

One area to focus on

No one will argue we have to solidify our financial status. We have a lot of problems passing levies no matter how small. Sheriff levies are almost impossible. We need to figure out what we need and try to educate the resident based on our knowledge. My focus will be the Sheriff, fire department, roads and zoning, services we expect government to provide.


Why are you running

My ultimate goal is to "Preserve Coventry to Prosper" through high community standards, values, and teamwork. I have lived in Coventry Township for the past 10 years and grew up in similar neighboring townships. I am a community-minded person. I have volunteered in child mentoring programs and also have been a director/coach of youth athletic associations, board member of a Home Owners' Association, etc. I have held professional positions within family-owned corporations that are staples in their communities to multimillion-dollar companies that participate both nationally and internationally. It wasn't until the past 15 months of encountering a head-on neighborhood challenge that I learned so much about government from township to state levels. What started out as an issue for "my home" and "my street," soon cast my eye to a wider vision. No matter the issue of a single resident, it should always be a community concern. I have been in awe of the fellow community members that have reached out to me during my recent efforts of trying to gain official township support. I believe through a development of camaraderie, they realize how much I do care for the welfare of Coventry. Through much soul searching, I have come to the reality it might just be time to step up. When elected to the position of Coventry Township trustee, it is my goal to return the service of board elected officials back to its people. With your vote, we can "Preserve Coventry to Prosper".

Involvement in the community

While I am new to the area, I am not new to community involvement. In the very same years of my opponent’s service here in Coventry, I too have served as much in the communities of Copley and Bath Townships. I have served in environment, school, church and athletic programs in both communities. Here in Coventry, I have served our local church in grounds maintenance and program work. I have served both Coventry Middle School and high school volleyball programs. Most recently, I have spearheaded a neighborhood campaign in trying to gain the support of our trustees, in the banning of short term rentals in our residential areas by maintaining the current definitions as stated in our existing zoning book.

One area to focus on

There are three main areas of focus I will be addressing once elected. The first will be restoring the community's confidence in our governing board. We will do this through developing and sustaining best practices of listening to the people, confirming they have been heard and work through their issues until a compromise is to be had. Secondly, the Sheriff patrol to call ratio needs to be realigned to our current demands. Lastly, zoning definitions and the neighborhoods they are meant to support need evaluated, substantiated and enforced. To quote from the late Tom Seese, "I have lived in Coventry most of my life and it is much better today than in previous years." He could say that only because of the amazing foresight the authors had in writing our zoning book. This book needs to be the basis of our decisions and the community needs to know that it will.