On the Democrat ballot, both contenders are making their second try for the county commission.
Vicki Kline won the party primary four years ago, defeating long-time commissioner Chuck Keiper. But Kline lost a tight race in the general election to Tommie Jo Marsilio, who was swept into office on the Tea Party-led Republican tide. Marsilio resigned in December to take a job with the Ohio Turnpike Commission.
Kline went on to be named county treasurer to succeed Steve Shanafelt, who resigned. Kline won election to a four-year term as treasurer in 2012.
Angelo Battaglia of Ravenna Township ran in the 2012 primary but lost to long-time county official Maureen T. Frederick. Battaglia scored 37.5 percent of the vote in his first political race.
Kline, a certified public accountant and a certified financial planner, said her training and her budget experience from serving on the County Budget Commission, give her a strong understanding of county finances.
She said when she started this current race, it was against Marsilio. When Marsilio resigned in December, she said she reconsidered why she was running.
“This is the best position in the building,” Kline said of being treasurer. “You can do some good for people.” She also likes being involved with the new Portage Land Bank, where she is board chair.
She said she believes the land bank “is going to be a real plus for the people of Portage County.”
She said she decided to run for commissioner because she believes she can make a difference. She said she believes a commissioner needs a firm foundation in finance, needs people and leadership skills, all of which she has.
“I’m a firm believer the tone starts at the top.” She said she can work with others. “I don’t have to be the star, but I want to be part of the process.”
“You also need a sense of humor up there,” in the commissioners’ top floor offices, she said.
And, “if you get new information, you need to be unafraid to change your decision,” she said.
“I’m glad I was treasurer first,” Kline said. “I think it’s prepared me to be a better commissioner.”
Kline said budget appropriations are the heart of the job. She said the county needs a capital improvements budget and stick with it over the long term.
Commissioners also need to prioritize how it handles department requests for additional funds. “If the money’s not there, it’s not there, she said.
In his campaign appearances, Battaglia says he’s not running against Vicki Kline, but is running for the opportunity to make a contribution.
“I’d just like the opportunity to show what I can do,” he said.
Battaglia is the owner of Battaglia Construction. He said his construction experience gives him the expertise to make sure county bid packages and contracts have all the pieces to prevent costly add-ons.
He said at the League of Women Voters candidate night a woman asked if he was “set in his ways when he decides something.”
“I said absolutely not. I’ve learned in my construction company, I’m always willing to look and learn and adjust and change what we have to do,” Battaglia said.
At work, he said he encourages people to suggest new ideas, new ways of doing things.
“When a person thinks they know everything, that’s when they’re making their biggest mistake. You need to keep learning, to change your ideas.”
Battaglia said, as commissioner, he would like to spend time with each department under commissioners to learn how the department ran.
“Then I could make a good decision. I would want to go through and see what everybody does.”
On the campaign trail, Battaglia said he’s getting questions about fracking and the prospect of a missile base at the old Ravenna arsenal.
“I think (fracking) is going to bring a lot of money into the county. Do I think it’s safe? You know, I don’t know. They say they’ve been having earthquakes because of that. I think there should be something addressed with the roads if the oil companies come in and beat the roads to death. And I think injecting that water into the wells, if it’s toxic water, that’s ridiculous,” Battaglia said.
He said he wants to see about bringing more jobs into the county, looking at alternative energy in county buildings to save money, and in seeing more security in schools.
If he wins the primary and a four-year term in November, Battaglia said he is prepared to step away from his construction business to devote full time to the commissioner’s post. He said his son, Nick, is ready to step in and run the business.
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