Wozniak, Gerken face challengers for their commissioner seats

10/31/2012
BY KATE GIAMMARISE
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Pete Gerken.
Pete Gerken.

In­cum­bent county com­mis­sion­ers Pete Gerken and Tina Skel­don Wozniak are seek­ing elec­tion next week in what has so far been a pair of low-key races.

Tina Skeldon-Wozniak.
Tina Skeldon-Wozniak.

Both com­mis­sion­ers, who are Dem­o­crats, are seek­ing their third terms in of­fice.

Kevin Haddad
Kevin Haddad

One con­test is a three-way race be­tween Ms. Wozniak and Re­pub­li­can chal­leng­er Brent McCor­mack and Syl­va­nia Town­ship Trustee Kevin Had­dad, who is run­ning with no party af­fil­i­a­tion. In the other race, Mr. Gerken faces Re­pub­li­can John Mar­shall, a re­tiree, Air Force vet­eran, and for­mer small-busi­ness owner.

John Marshall.
John Marshall.

Ms. Wozniak, 57, cites bal­anc­ing the county's bud­get as a key ac­com­plish­ment.

“We've right-sized county gov­ern­ment to the tune of $25 mil­lion,” she said. She holds up the merger of the Lu­cas County Job and Fam­ily Ser­vices agency with the Lu­cas County Child Sup­port En­force­ment Agency as an ex­am­ple of sav­ing tax­payer dol­lars while im­prov­ing ser­vices.

Ms. Wozniak also points to the county's ef­forts in fore­clo­sure pre­ven­tion and the cre­ation of a mag­is­trate to aid home­own­ers fac­ing fore­clo­sure as an im­por­tant ac­com­plish­ment. Ms. Wozniak said the col­lege coach pro­gram, which works with the fam­i­lies of el­e­men­tary school stu­dents to em­pha­size the im­por­tance of a col­lege ed­u­ca­tion, is a key el­e­ment of the county's eco­nomic and work-force de­vel­op­ment.

“If we don't start early, if our cit­i­zens don't have an op­por­tu­nity to learn about post-sec­ond­ary ed­u­ca­tion at an early age, we might not have a ready work force,” she said.

In 2009, Ms. Wozniak op­posed a mo­tion by a fel­low com­mis­sioner to dis­miss her cousin, Tom Skel­don, from his job as county dog war­den.

Mr. Had­dad, 57, said his three years as a town­ship trustee have pre­pared him for the role of com­mis­sioner.

“Trustee is the same job, it's just at a dif­fer­ent level. And be­ing pres­i­dent of the town­ship as­so­ci­a­tion, I help out all the town­ships now,” Mr. Had­dad said. He is run­ning with no party af­fil­i­a­tion, he said, be­cause there are is­sues he agrees with and dis­agrees with in ei­ther ma­jor po­lit­i­cal party and pre­fers to just deal di­rectly with vot­ers, he said.

If elected, Mr. Had­dad said he also would con­tinue to serve in his role as town­ship trustee un­til the end of his term in Decem­ber, 2013.

It's not clear how that would hap­pen. An opin­ion from the Ohio At­tor­ney Gen­eral's of­fice ear­lier this year stated hold­ing both the po­si­tions of county com­mis­sioner and town­ship trustee si­mul­ta­ne­ously are “in­com­pat­i­ble.”

Mr. Had­dad, a fre­quent and vo­cal critic of the Toledo Area Re­gional Tran­sit Au­thor­ity and its di­rec­tor, James Gee, said as a com­mis­sioner, he would pro­pose re­gion­al­iza­tion mea­sures for greater sav­ings. One plan would in­clude a pub­lic em­ployee health-care plan of all pub­lic en­ti­ties in the county in­clud­ing cit­ies, schools, town­ships, TARTA, and the Toledo Zoo.

“I'm go­ing to make sure we work hard to use ev­ery re­source in the most cost-ef­fec­tive way pos­si­ble,” he said.

Mr. McCor­mack, the Re­pub­li­can can­di­date in the race, did not re­turn calls seek­ing com­ment.

In the race for the other com­mis­sioner's seat, Mr. Gerken said in his term in of­fice he has worked to bal­ance the county's bud­get, us­ing re­serve funds only spar­ingly, worked with county em­ploy­ees to set­tle union con­tracts, and down­sized county gov­ern­ment while main­tain­ing ser­vices. He also cites the Hun­ting­ton Center, the down­town arena the county built, as a high­light of his ten­ure dur­ing the last four years.

“We're do­ing more with less, just like most folks in Lu­cas County do,” he said.

Mr. Mar­shall, 59, said his cam­paign pledge is that he will fo­cus on bring­ing jobs to the county.

Mr. Mar­shall be­lieves Lu­cas County man­u­fac­tur­ing can ben­e­fit from the shale gas boom in east­ern Ohio. “I would be more ag­gres­sive [in pur­su­ing jobs]. I'm very in tune with the chang­ing of in­dus­tries. My main goal is jobs, num­ber one, pe­riod. I will set up a jobs task force,” he said.

Mr. Mar­shall briefly worked as a su­per­vi­sor at Jeep dur­ing a time when Mr. Gerken was a union stew­ard at the plant.

“He [Mr. Gerken] was my in­tro­duc­tion to the UAW,” Mr. Mar­shall said.

The other com­mis­sioner's seat, held by Com­mis­sioner Carol Con­trada, is not up for re-elec­tion this year; Mrs. Con­trada took of­fice in Jan­u­ary, 2011.

Con­tact Kate Giam­marise at: kgiam­marise@the­blade.com or 419-724-6091, or on Twit­ter @KateGiam­marise.