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Published: Friday, 6/20/2014 - Updated: 4 months ago

Hill picked for elections board

Selection by Democrats aims to bring fresh outlook to Lucas Co.

BY STEPHEN GRUBER-MILLER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Editor's note: This article has been updated to include that Ms. Hill was elected treasurer of the Lucas County Democratic party June 9.

Hill Hill
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Lucas County Democrats nominated Brenda Hill to fill a seat on the Lucas County Board of Elections Thursday, to replace former party Chairman Ron Rothenbuhler who was removed from office by the Ohio secretary of state.

Ms. Hill, 66, of Toledo, is a former Toledo Board of Education president and a teacher of 35 years. She received the unanimous vote of the 82 members of the Democratic Party Executive Committee present at the meeting, according to Chairman and City Councilman Steven Steel.

Ms. Hill was elected treasurer of the Lucas County Democratic Party June 9 as part of the new party leadership slate with Mr. Steel as chairman. Ms. Hill submitted her resignation of the position at Thursday‘‍s meeting after her nomination because of a conflict. The elections board reviews the campaign finance reports submitted by the treasurers of the political parties.

Mr. Steel said the committee discussed other candidates, but in the end, there was no contest.

“I can’t imagine looking at Brenda Hill ... and say[ing], ‘‍Oh no, this isn’t the right candidate,’‍ ” he said.

Ms. Hill said her time on the board of education has given her experience in working with people holding a variety of viewpoints.

“We disagreed as adults and we always reached consensus,” she said. In addition to running smooth elections, Ms. Hill said she aims to “improve morale and work as a team,” with the other board of elections members.

Ms. Hill’s attitude is one of cautious optimism. She thinks her presence as a fresh face on the board will be a positive change.

Steel Steel
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“I’ve never worked with any of them, which is probably a good thing because I’‍m not going in there with any preconceived ideas,” Ms. Hill said of the other board members.

Meanwhile, the Lucas County Republican Party’s picks for its two elections board vacancies received a chilly reaction from Secretary of State Jon Husted. Husted spokesman Matt McClellan said that, “the secretary is disappointed that the two new nominees have ties to the failures of the past.” Mr. McClellan did not detail Mr. Husted’s reservations.

The Republican Party executive committee on Wednesday nominated Ben Roberts and Kelly Bensman, both close political associates of party chairman Jon Stainbrook, to take the two GOP seats on the board.

Mr. Roberts, 45, of Maumee was the director of the board of elections from July to December, 2011. He left abruptly, saying that it was a “caustic” environment. Ms. Bensman, 37, of Toledo, had a long-running lawsuit against the elections board for public records requests that she said were never filled.

Under state law, the secretary of state must appoint the nominees of the local party executive committee for the four board seats — two for each major party — unless he explains in writing how they are “incompetent.”

“Putting people on that know the process is the first step to getting the board of elections turned around,” Mr. Stainbrook said. “Kelly’s not tied to the problems of the past, and neither is Ben. I’m disappointed that he left John Irish on there.”

Mr. Irish, a former Democratic party chairman and longtime party operative, is the only one of the four board members who remains on the job. Mr. Irish was the only board member who tried to implement a 2013 report from Mr. Husted advocating changes in personnel and policy on the Lucas County board. Mr. Stainbrook, Mr. Rothenbuhler, and Republican board member Tony DeGidio were removed by Mr. Husted on June 5 after hearings disclosed neglect of duty and a culture of dysfunction.

Politics writer Tom Troy contributed to this report.

Contact Stephen Gruber-Miller at: smiller@theblade.com, 419-724-6050, or on Twitter @sgrubermiller.



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