As elections heat up, commissioner looks to keep seat

Nicole Stempak

Chuck Keiper

Portage County Commissioner Chuck Keiper has several projects in the works, and he would like to see them through. Keiper is running in the Democratic primary to keep his commissioner seat.

Keiper helped found the Portage Development Board, which will work to keep business in and attract business to Portage County. The group will also work with Kent State University and Hiram College to develop and improve local manufacturing.

These institutions are an untapped resource, he said. They are part of creating economic opportunities.

Keiper has said the county needs to have a five-year budget plan since he was first appointed in 1993. The plan three years ago showed the county would be under, even before the economic fallout, if changes weren’t made to the budget. They did, and Keiper said it is because of the work he did that Portage County is still in the green.

He said the county commissioners were forced to look at ways they could change or reduce future debt and save citizens money. Those changes have helped the county continue to operate without massive layoffs.

“Keeping the government afloat without asking for more money is no small task,” he said. “Portage County has fared better than almost all of our neighbors, not because of magic, but because of the work I’ve done and the business approach I’ve taken to running county government.”

Keiper was appointed as a commissioner in 1993. He serves on a number of community and regional boards. These boards are not part of his job description but are part of what he feels is his commitment to his economic vision.

“I tell people I have 25 years of experience, and I could make three to four times this much money elsewhere,” he said. “I do this because I believe in this community.”

Vicki Kline

Vicki Kline said she wants to break up the clique of county commissioners currently in office, and she’s knocking on doors every day to make that happen.

Kline said she is running for county commissioner because she thinks Portage County needs a change.

“If we’re not moving forward, we’re moving backwards,” she said, adding the board of commissioners hasn’t changed in quite awhile.

Kline, of Franklin Township, is a certified public accountant with experience working with taxes. She works as a financial planner and investment adviser.

She said her job has given her the experience to serve for office because the commissioners budget and allocate the county’s funds.

“I think my education and credentials speak for themselves; I’m really running on my character,” she said, adding she thinks qualities such as accountability, integrity, transparency and truth telling are equally important to the office.

Kline decided to run after she received phone calls from people urging her to. She said she hadn’t thought of running for office again after she lost the primary bid to run for county treasurer in 2004.

“When I started doing some research, I thought ‘I do need to do this and let the voters speak,’” she said.

Tommie Jo Marsilio

Tommie Jo Marsilio is tired of the one-party control on the board of commissioners. All three members of the board are Democrats.

Marsilio is running unopposed for the Republican primary bid for county commissioner.

She said it was clear to her the county needs a change of leadership. Her experience in the public and private sector makes her most qualified to be commissioner, she said.

She works at a private law practice in Garrettsville and served as an assistant prosecutor for Portage County.

“I know the challenges; I know the climate,” Marsilio said. “I know how to best use our resources for the citizens.”

She ran and lost in last year’s general election for a Portage County Municipal judge seat.

If elected, she said her first priority would be to make sure law enforcement has the funds it needs to keep people safe.

“I’m not convinced all the fat has been cut out of the Portage County budget,” she said, adding that law enforcement is what citizens’ demand from government and is the most legitimate use of government spending.

Contact public affairs reporter Nicole Stempak

at [email protected].