Commissioners opt for Traina, Chamberlin

LISBON – Columbiana County commissioners chose one of their own to replace the last of the longtime Columbiana County Port Authority members.

Former commissioner Penny Traina was selected Wednesday by commissioners to replace Steve Cooper, whose term on the Port Authority board expired at the end of the 2012.

Cooper, who served as board president as well as fiscal officer, had asked to be reappointed.

Commissioners also picked recently retired Columbiana city manager Keith Chamberlin to replace Tim Weigle on the Port Authority board. Weigle stepped down from the board following his election as county commissioner in the November 2012 election.

The appointments were made without comment during the meeting, but afterwards commissioners said they believed Traina and Chamberlin would be great assets because of their wealth of experience.

“I think we appointed two very qualified people to those positions,” said Commissioner Jim Hoppel.

“I think both of the people we appointed today will be very capable board members, and I look forward to working with them,” Weigle said.

Commission Chairman Mike Halleck estimated they received 10 informal requests from people asking for the Port Authority appointments, in addition to written applications from Cooper, Traina, Chamberlin and former commissioner and state representative John Wargo.

“These are never easy decisions,” Halleck said, adding, “These are one of the few appointments commissioners have that can be somewhat contentious.”

In past years, commissioners have sometimes clashed along party lines over Port Authority appointments, but that was not the case this time. For one thing, all three commissioners are Republicans. Although Cooper is a registered Democrat, so is Traina, who served with Hoppel and Halleck before resigning in 2011 to take a job in the private sector. Chamberlin is a Republican.

“I served with Steve, and I certainly appreciate his years of service to the Port Authority,” said Halleck, a one-time Port Authority member.

Cooper served on the Port Authority since 1987. “It’s been a honor to serve the county for the past 25 years, and I appreciate the support of commissioners over those years,” he said.

Cooper described Traina and Chamberlin as excellent choices who he expects will continue the Port Authority’s work as an engine for economic development in the county, which he believes began in earnest with their decision to hire Port Authority CEO Tracy Drake in the 1990s.

“What a difference that has made for the county … I think the Port Authority and Tracy Drake’s batting average is very much in favor of the county when it comes to bringing in new businesses and helping existing businesses in the county,” he said.

The other Port Authority members are Charles Presley, Rob Johnson and Don Crane, all of whom have been appointed in more recent years. The position pays $7,200 a year, and board members are also entitled to health insurance and enrollment in the Public Employee Retirement System.

In other action, commissioners appointed Wargo to the five-member Elkton sewage treatment plant board, replacing Tim Dickey, who resigned as one of the commissioners’ two representatives on the board.

The treatment plant was built in the 1990s to serve Lisbon and the federal prison in Elkton. “Having worked with John during the period when we tried to land the federal prison, I can tell you John was a pivotal reason why that prison is here,” Halleck said.

The board meets quarterly and its members receive no compensation.