Aurora Mayor Ann Womer Benjamin, one of our most talented public servants, said she owes much of her early success at the polls to the advice of her husband, Attorney David Benjamin.
Describing herself as more introvert than extrovert, Ann told Kent Rotarians recently that she began campaigning in 1994 to become Portage County's representative to the Ohio legislature by attending many functions, but stayed quiet, hoping her presence might be noted.
Her husband soon told her, "Hey, if that's the way you're going to campaign, count me out!"
"What do you mean?" she asked. He explained she had to circulate and introduce herself so people would get to know her. "It didn't feel comfortable at first, but I did it," she recalled.
A call from the incumbent governor, George Voinovich, helped, too.
"Portage County leans Democratic and I was not sure I even had a chance, but then one morning out of the blue, the phone rang and when I picked it up, I heard, 'Ann, this is George Voinovich.'"
She realized the Republicans were serious about Portage County.
Ann did a wonderful job representing Portage County in the Ohio House for eight years before being term-limited out. She then was director of the Ohio Department of Insurance, where she tackled the malpractice issue that was driving doctors out of state.
She later served as executive director of the Northeast Ohio Council on Higher Education.
For now, she has no plans for further public service beyond the office of Aurora mayor. A Republican, she said her parents taught her to respect the office regardless of whether a Republican or Democrat holds it.
The Internet has made running for office more difficult, she said, because the courts have ruled no one can be held accountable for comments on the Internet even if they are deliberate untruths.
"One hopes common sense can prevail against that," she said.