Dems pick retired educator for ballot

LISBON — Raymond A. Wagner Jr., a retired educator from Columbiana, is making a move into politics as a standing room only crowd of Democrats selected him on Thursday in a run for county commissioner in November.

Wagner is replacing Keith Merriman, who withdrew his name from the ballot citing an inability to put the time in needed. Merriman had been the Democrat party’s choice in the primary to run against Republican Commissioner Mike Halleck this fall.

Party Chairman Nick Barborak pointed out currently there is one-party rule in the county commissioners’ office and anytime that is the case it can be “disastrous.”

“It’s high time we have some balance in the county courthouse and have someone who can raise some dissent when it is warranted,” Barborak said while commenting about Wagner’s intelligence and experience as an educator.

Wagner spent most of his career in the Columbiana school district, serving as an elementary school teacher and then as a middle school principal. He served as president of the Columbiana Education Association and told local Democrats he has experience negotiating contracts from both sides, serving on the negotiating team for both the CEA and the administration at different times during his career.

Wagner spoke about his skills as a negotiator. He said he is a person willing to listen and taking the time to consider a situation first. Wagner talked about the important skills of remaining calm and even tempered, even when people are not saying what you want to hear.

Wagner said he has needed patience and these skills while dealing with children through the years, especially those going through the difficult middle school age.

Although Wagner did not speak about the issues on Thursday, he told the crowd he was honored to be their selection as a candidate.

Besides his career in Columbiana, Wagner has served as a substitute teacher in Leetonia for the past five years and is a member of the Stambaugh Chorus, where he is a baritone soloist.

At Good Hope Lutheran Church in North Lima, he has served as president of the church council and as the choir director.

As an educator, Wagner received several awards such as the Martha Holden Jennings Award in 1990, the Star Teacher Award in 2007 and was twice honored by Heads Above the Rest recipients in 2016 and 2017.

Prior to the vote, Patty Colian asked for a motion to add some additional members to the rolls of the Democrat Central Committee: Ron Zellers, Jennifer Angle, Bret Apple and Wagner. The motion passed unanimously by voice vote.

There were a few heated words by others as they tried to get their members ready to support all their candidates, including John Dyce, who is running for state representative against Tim Ginter.

Dyce talked about school funding, local government funding, police and safe drinking water as some of the issues “near and dear to everyone” in Columbiana County.

“We have to get people to understand, we can’t continue to go down the same path we’ve been going down the last four years,” Dyce said, while admitting some good things have been happening, he said he believes there are a lot more good things which could be happening.

While Dyce said people say Ginter is a good man, “he has failed the people of Columbiana County and that was the job he was elected to do.”