The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Local News

May 1, 2014

Ashtabula County commissioner vacancy attracts lots of candidates

JEFFERSON — There’s no shortage of suitors for the seat on the Ashtabula County Board of Commissioners that becomes available at the start of the year.

Long-time commissioner Joe Moroski is not seeking another term. Five Democrats — all but one from Conneaut — and four Republicans are on Tuesday’s primary election ballot, each hoping to be their party’s standard-bearer in the November general election.

The Democrats are Conneaut residents Jacob Chicatelli, Phil Garcia, Jon Kozesky and Neil LaRusch, as well as Stephen McClure of Ashtabula Township. The Republicans are Anthony L. Delia II of Saybrook Township, Gary M. Himes of Geneva-on-the-Lake, Dennis Huey of Kingsville Township and Casey Kozlowski of Pierpont Township.

DEMOCRATS

• Jacob Chicatelli is making his second attempt at a commissioner’s seat. He ran in the 2012 primary against incumbent Peggy Carlo.

Chicatelli, an employee at the Conneaut Telephone Company, served 16 years as an at-large councilman in Conneaut, losing his seat in the November 2009 election.

His top priority if elected is to “bring livable wages to the county.”

“I helped do it for Conneaut,” he said. “We retained hundreds of jobs and brought new jobs.”

Tax revenue doubled during Chicatelli’s tenure on council, he said. Government expertise will help Chicatelli secure funding and grants for the county, he said.

• Phil Garcia, who operates a catering business, represents Ward 2 on Conneaut City Council and just began his second term. Garcia said he decided to seek county office because “I care about our county.”

A positive attitude and ability to listen are strong points, Garcia said. Columbus needs to give Ashtabula County its due, he said, adding he would work to create jobs while remaining mindful of the employers already here.

“We have to make sure nothing leaves us,” Garcia said. “We have to promote what we have.”

• Jon Thomas Kozesky is making his first attempt at an elected office. Kozesky has said he wants to make the county into a region that “grows and fosters small business.”

“I subscribe to a vision for a stronger, prosperous county supporting entrepreneurship and small business owners, encouraging business incubation for the growth and development of the entire county and increasing job opportunities in the agricultural and manufacturing sectors by tirelessly lobbying for additional federal and state incentives to assist existing Ashtabula County businesses,” he said.

Kozesky is president of Jon Thomas Consulting.

• Neil LaRusch is a former Conneaut councilman appointed to an at-large seat in December 2010. He did not seek re-election in November.

LaRusch, owner of a Geneva-on-the-Lake restaurant, has said his priorities as commissioner would be job creation and job retention.

“I love this county and I want to see it thrive,” he said. “Families in Ashtabula County are having a difficult time making ends meet. They are often forced to live in and around substandard and unsafe housing. Their children have little hope of success within county lines. I will work as hard as I can to bring in new jobs, clean up the dilapidated housing nightmare and foster opportunities for our youth right here at home.”

• Stephen McClure has been an Ashtabula Township trustee for 12 years. Prior to that, he spent six years on the Ashtabula Board of Education.

McClure, director of operations at the Ashtabula County Board of Develop-mental Disabilities, has said he is running because “I want to create a better future for all Ashtabula County residents.” Experience makes him the most qualified candidate, he said.

“I understand the challenges many (county) citizens are facing and I am determined to be part of the solution,” he said. “I have worked hard to improve the lives of the people who live, work and raise their families in Ashtabula Township.”

REPUBLICANS

• Anthony L. Delia II, is hoping to return to the public sector for the first time in many years. He served one term on the Geneva-on-the-Lake council about 10 years ago.

“I’ve always been interested in getting back into politics, and intended to do so at the county level,” Delia said. “This is an opportune time to do it.”

Drug abuse is rampant in the county, Delia said, and if elected would work with courts, law enforcement and mental health agencies to attack the problem. Delia said his history with government and business budgets, as well as grant-writing experience, would be beneficial to the county.

He works as a department manager at Fox and Hound.

• Gary M. Himes said his experience working around the county helps gives him insight into the region other candidates lack.

“The role of a county commissioner is both a huge responsibility and a great honor,” he has said. “Having either worked as a probation officer, coach or educator in almost every community in Ashtabula County, I have a unique perspective into the problems and potential of our home area. Having worked with the youth of this county for over 30 years, I would like to help create a place which is part of our children’s future, not just their past.”

Himes is a member of the original steering committee for the Ashtabula County Continuing Educational Support Services, and sits on the ACCESS executive board.

• Dennis Huey, a Kingsville Township trustee for 13 years, describes himself as an “Ashtabula County native who has raised a family, started a business and made a life here.”

A real estate and personal property appraiser for 37 years, he has owned an appraisal business since 1989 and has testified as an expert witness in that capacity in courts across northeast Ohio. Huey said his “experience in business operations, civic work and government management of employees and operations” make him “uniquely” qualify him to serve as a county commissioner.

• Casey Kozlowski is a former state representative who served one term between 2011-2012. He also was a member of the Pymatuning Valley Board of Education.

“I have spent my entire adult life serving the people of Ashtabula County,” he has said. ‘I am most familiar with the problems the people (of the county) face. I feel becoming (a commissioner) is the best place for me to use my knowledge and contacts I have forged in government and business to help better Ashtabula County and make it a better place to live, work and raise a family.”

Kozlowski works as a media and campaign consultant.

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