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Lucas County commissioners decline White House invite

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    Officials from 60 Ohio counties will be represented Tuesday for a meeting at the White House with the Trump administration to discuss concerns and priorities, but none of the Lucas County commissioners will attend.

    ASSOCIATED PRESS

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    Lucas County Commission President Pete Gerken.

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    Lucas County commissioners Carol Contrada, left, and Tina Skeldon Wozniak.

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About 60 Ohio counties will be represented Tuesday for a meeting at the White House with the Trump Administration to discuss concerns and priorities, but none of the Lucas County commissioners will attend.

Of the 82 Ohio commissioners who RSVP’d to the White House invitation, eight are Democrats.

West-Wing-Facelift-Photo-Gallery

Officials from 60 Ohio counties will be represented Tuesday for a meeting at the White House with the Trump administration to discuss concerns and priorities, but none of the Lucas County commissioners will attend.

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The meeting for county commissioners to spend the day at the White House will include time with several Cabinet members, including Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. They will be greeted by presidential adviser Kellyanne Conway.

The focus of the conference is to “develop and promote relationships between the administration and the influential leaders of local communities,” according to a White House email.

Lucas County commissioners Carol Contrada, Pete Gerken, and Tina Skeldon Wozniak declined the invitation from the Trump Administration. All three commissioners are Democrats.

Mr. Gerken, president of the county board, said the meeting is not a priority and the timing interferes with the commissioner’s normal meeting day on Tuesday. The board did not meet Aug. 15 and they are not scheduled to meet Sept. 5.

“I think we can make better use of taxpayers’ money by staying in Lucas County and working on our core issues of criminal justice reform, balancing our budget, water quality in Lake Erie, and building a new county correctional facility,” he said.

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Lucas County Commission President Pete Gerken.

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Invitations for the event were sent to county commissioners in early August and they were asked to register before Aug. 15.

The list provided by the White House said commissioners committing to the tour and conference include Ottawa County Commissioner James Sass, who is a Democrat. However, Mr. Sass told The Blade that he backed out of the trip because he underwent knee surgery about a week ago.

Mr. Sass’ colleagues on the board, Mark Stahl and Mark Coppeler, both Republicans, are in Washington for the event, a spokesman for the county commissioners said.

Mr. Sass said he is hoping the commissioners will talk with administration officials to address issues with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on water quality in the western Lake Erie basin and having the lake declared impaired.

“I think it will be interesting to hear from the folks to learn about what they are doing and possibly make contacts that could be helpful down the road,” he said.

Henry County Commissioner Glenn Miller, a Republican, said his two commissioner colleagues agreed that he would go to the White House meeting and they would stay home to conduct commissioner business.

“It’s a rare event that you get invited to the White House. The information I’ve been given is that the White House staff wants to create relationships more with local government,” Mr. Miller said.

“This gives us the opportunity to meet people in Washington either at the White House senior staff level or cabinet level. As in anything, relationships are important,” Mr. Miller said.

He said his airfare, meals, and two hotel nights will cost the county about $800.

He attributed the small Democratic showing to politics.

“It appears that way,” Mr. Miller said. “Whether we had received the invitation when Barack Obama was president, I would have gone.” He said he does not see the event as Democrat versus Republican.

He said the day starts at 9:30 a.m. with a tour of the White House and then a meeting at 11 a.m. with Mr. Perdue. He said he still hopes to see President Trump but is aware that the President is to be in Texas Tuesday.

Mr. Miller said he was told a previous meeting for Florida county commissioners went into the evening. He said the National Association of Counties was to host a dinner Monday night.

Mr. Gerken criticized the organizers of the White House conference for not including staffs of the County Commissioners of Ohio and the National Association of Counties.

“There is an unwillingness to work with both our state and national associations. As members of the associations we try to coordinate agendas and work together on issues,” he said.

Politics Writer Tom Troy contributed to this report.

Contact Mark Reiter at markreiter@theblade.com or 419-724-6199.

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