Democrat Kathleen Chandler and Republican Chris Solak vie for open Portage County Commissioner seat

Portage County Commissioner Chris Smeiles did not run for reelection, ending his 24-year tenure. Democrat Kathleen Chandler and Republican Larry Solak are competing for his seat in Tuesday’s election.

Solak is currently serving as a Shalersville Township trustee and president of the Portage County Township Association. Solak is also the self-employed owner of Solak’s Automotive.

This is Solak’s fourth bid for county commissioner. He said he has not changed his views from previous campaigns for office.

“My beliefs are still the same,” Solak said.

One issue Solak wants to examine as a county commissioner is government spending. He said government spending shouldn’t necessarily include creating jobs.

“Part of the reason we have an economic problem is the economy,” Solak said. “The government cannot create jobs unless we have people creating situations for themselves.”

He also said Kent State plays an important role in education and the county’s economy.

“In the past, the university has been a source to help keep costs down,” Solak said. “The county has used Kent State University as a consultant for higher education in some way.”

Overall, Solak sees his bid for commissioner as a necessary step to help his country.

“I’m running because I love my country and I think we need to make some changes into it,” he said.

Chandler is the former mayor of Kent and represented the 68th Ohio House District until 2012. She has previously served as a county commissioner in Portage County.

“I’ve enjoyed each one of the political positions I’ve held,” Chandler said. “In every case, I was with citizens, and I was privileged to serve in an elected office assisting citizens with their concerns.”

Chandler said government can best help people by looking at issues from a regional perspective.

“I like working with others to improve the lives of citizens,” she said. “I find it to be challenging and important work.”

Two of Chandler’s main concerns are fracking and increasing employment in Portage County.

“The economy has improved but I’m still concerned about unemployment and under employment,” Chandler said.

Chandler also sees potential for the county to become an economic powerhouse.

“You see what’s happening downtown. We have a strong work force, we have a centralized location, we’re close to two big cities, we have three big airports,” Chandler said. “We have network of transportation, a great educational institution, and I think we can continue to grow in a positive way.”

Voters will decide to elect Chandler, Solak or write-in candidate Michael Muldowney when the polls open Nov. 6.

Contact Walter Doerschuk at [email protected].

Contact Edward DeTomaso at [email protected].