Aurora -- Ann Womer Benjamin, a Republican who served eight years in the Ohio House of Representatives, announced her bid for mayor of Aurora on Aug. 15. She filed her petitions with the Portage County Board of Elections earlier in the day, and unveiled her plans to her supporters during an evening reception at the Walden Barn.
She joins John Kudley, John Monroe and Tom Plunkett in the race for mayor. The deadline to file petitions is Aug. 22.
Womer Benjamin was elected an at-large member of Aurora City Council in 2011. In 1994, she was elected representative of the 75th House District, which included most of Portage County. She saw 20 of her bills, dealing with welfare and finance reforms and crime victims' reparations, become law.
Womer Benjamin, an attorney and a 28-year resident of Aurora, said she wants to use her experience to better the city.
"I have enjoyed being on Council, but I want to extend my service by being mayor of a great community that I think has a great future but needs a visionary who has government experience," she said.
Womer Benjamin said her plans are to preserve the neighborhoods while capitalizing on the commercial potential of Aurora.
"We have some commercial development opportunities in Aurora that we haven't yet taken advantage of," Womer Benjamin said. "We need to do that because that broadens the tax base and will help us financially with our future. On the other hand, we have some of the most wonderful neighborhoods in the area. You can't sacrifice those neighborhoods for economic development."
Portage County Auditor Janet Esposito said at the reception Womer Benjamin understands how to manage budgets but also understands the people, which will help the community grow "whether with things or in morale."
WOMER Benjamin said with her experience, she understands how to serve the public while working in a sometimes challenging governmental setting.
"People know that I will defend them, that I am in government for them," she said. "When I was a state representative for Portage County, I represented everybody. ... I worked for them. I worked with them."
After serving in the state Legislature, she was named the first female director of the Ohio Department of Insurance in 2002 and received Ohio University's Phillips Medal of Public Service in 2004 because of her work to stabilize Ohio's medical malpractice market.
Her department received U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' commendation in 2006 for the department's implementation of Medicare Part D, the federal prescription drug program for seniors, in Ohio.
In 1994, she defeated longtime state Rep. Paul Jones, a Democrat. She oversaw four state budgets as a member of the House finance committee.
Since 2006, Womer Benjamin has headed the higher education/business alliance or the Northeast Ohio Council on Higher Education, where she has promote the importance of college completion for economic advancement, and supported the importance of experiential learning through NEOintern.
She was an at-large member of the State Board of Education for four years, serving as vice president, and was appointed last year by Gov.. John Kasich to the Ohio Tuition Trust Authority.
Womer Benjamin and her husband David, also an attorney, have two grown daughters and a granddaughter.