Democratic candidates bring experience to position

Sara Macho

Voters will have two Democrat candidates to consider when they vote for county commissioner in the primary election May 2. Incumbent Chuck Keiper, 45, of Franklin Township, is being challenged by William McDowell, 60, of Freedom Township.

Either candidate could bring several years of political and business experience to Portage County.

Keiper has served on the board for 13 years. He has worked to negotiate the purchasing of water for Portage County from Cleveland.

Keiper also has extended experience with higher education. He has a master’s degree in finance from Kent State and is a certified economic finance professional.

McDowell, who has taken courses at Kent State, said having a college degree is not necessary.

“It doesn’t make the core of you a perfect person,” he said.

Along with holding a master’s degree, Keiper has a lot of experience serving on various regional boards.

McDowell, who has been a resident of Portage County for 53 years, has been a township trustee for 11 years.

Keiper brings a different perspective to the table, said fellow County Commissioner Chris Smeiles.

Smeiles, who has been a commissioner for 17 years, said Keiper introduced various programs to improve the county.

Keiper started a policy at the Portage County Nursing Home to help reduce the number of employees applying for workers compensation due to back injuries. Keiper and colleagues installed a lift system above each bed. This reduced the number of back injuries and more than paid for the system, Smeiles said.

If Keiper is re-elected, he wants to continue making economic development a top priority. He also wants to maintain a positive budget balance and continue to bring more jobs to Portage County.

McDowell, who began his own kitchen remodeling business McDowell’s Mc-Fix-It in 1999, has a lot of business experience.

He also owned Garrettsville Main Street Market and started the first meat-processing bus service in 1970, McDowell’s Custom Butchery and Meat Processing on Wheels.

As part of his campaign promises, McDowell said he wants to identify with the working-class citizen. He also has a deep attachment to “bringing the township back into county government.”

McDowell said he wants to improve the building department to make it more user-friendly and improve leadership.

Keiper said the department is an area of reform, but since he has been in office, the department has adopted a committee to hear grievances and changed officials to allow operations to run more smoothly.

McDowell said he hopes to improve the Administration Building’s hours of operation of 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. to 8:30 a.m. to 7 or 7:30 p.m. to accommodate the working-class citizen. He also wants a commissioner to be present at the building at all times, an area where Keiper and Smeiles are lacking, McDowell said.

“I’m a hands-on person,” he said. “If I’m elected, I promise to return phone calls within 24 hours and make an appearance at township meetings.”

McDowell also hopes to alter the meeting times of the commissioners to include one meeting a week.

Contact public affairs reporter Sara Macho at [email protected].