Summit County Executive Candidates Differ on Top Priority
Republican Bill Roemer and Democrat Ilene Shapiro, the candidates for Summit County executive, held their first and only debate today at Quaker Station in Akron. They’re running in the first election since Democratic County Executive Russ Pry died this past summer.
About 300 people gathered in the ballroom to hear the candidates' positions.
Ilene Shapiro, who was County Council president until being appointed to fill Pry’s term, told them fiscal responsibility is the county government’s most important function. She says it impacts everything the county does.
Opponent Bill Roemer, a former county council member, says fiscal responsibility is important, but safety is the top priority. On the issue of job creation, he says the county must do a better job of working with businesses.
“As a certified public accountant I was director of sales for Ameritech, now AT&T. I talked to business owners on a daily basis. One of the things I heard is that it’s difficult sometimes to deal with the county. I proposed, especially from a small-business perspective, adding a small-business ombudsman. That’s a person who would help small business navigate the myriad of regulations and permits that are needed. It’s those types of things that will generate additional jobs.”
Shapiro, a former small-business owner and First Merit executive, says she would tweak existing county economic-development programs.
“And for those of you who know me, you know I work on economic development with small- and medium-sized businesses all the time. We have resources here in the county, and we’ll be taking a look at how we retool, restructure and re-innovate the offerings we have here in Summit County and how we operate. We’ve done a good job, the county itself could be more proactive. And I intend to do that on day one.”
Both candidates say they would not push for tax increases at this time, and they agree that combining county government with the City of Akron is not a good idea, supporting, instead, more cooperation and sharing of services between the county and the more than 30 communities within its border.