Two incumbent Perry Township trustees, a former trustee who also served as Salem mayor, and two current Salem City Council officeholders will vie for votes in the non-partisan race for two Perry Township trustee seats this fall.
The five candidates for the Nov. 5 general election include Vice Chairman Trustee Don Rudibaugh, Trustee and zoning officer Don Kendrick, former trustee and former mayor Jerry Wolford, Salem First Ward Councilman Dave Nestic and Salem Council President Mickey Cope Weaver.
All five list experience in both the public and private sectors and in serving area residents. The job they're seeking pays about $943 per month by state statute based on the township's annual budget and will include health insurance coverage if they choose to take it.
Rudibaugh, 72, and Kendrick, 68, are both seeking re-election, with Kendrick seeking his first full four-year term after serving three years as trustee. He was appointed to the seat and then won election unopposed for an unexpired term. He's also been serving four years as the zoning officer. Rudibaugh is seeking a second four-year term.
Wolford, 74, is trying to return after a two-year absence from public service. He lost in 2011 in his bid for a second term as mayor and previously served 13 years as a Perry Township trustee and six years as a city councilman. Nestic, 54, is seeking to jump to the township while in the middle of his second term on council. Weaver, 71, chose to run for township trustee instead of seeking a second term as council president.
Kendrick and Rudibaugh both live outside the city in the township, while Nestic, Weaver and Wolford all live in the city, which is part of the township.
Wolford said he thought he was done with public service, but started getting that yearning again to serve. Less than a year ago, he started thinking about his experience and how he has served both the township and the city, which could help forge a closer working relationship between the two entities. He also said he has the time to serve and would be responsive to the public and be proactive - a catalyst for things to happen.
Weaver said she loves being involved in the community and the township is part of the community. She said she's issue and people-based and could be of help in the township due to her administrative experience on council and her work with all the various departments, which she could also do at the township level. She said she'll be a full-time trustee and wants to continue working for the community.
Rudibaugh said he wants to continue serving the residents of the township and there's a good mix of people on the board now working together. He spends time in Florida during the winter, but flies back for township meetings at his own expense. According to Rudibaugh it hasn't caused any problems and if he needs to return for an emergency or something that's needed he can. Plus he's available via cell phone, email and text. When firefighters picked up the new fire truck last winter, he traveled the six hours one way with them to check the truck and then bring it home in a snowstorm from Jim Thorpe, Pa.
Nestic said Salem government is in a good position now and he feels there needs to be a good link between the township and the city management. He noted the city is involved in economic development efforts and the township should be involved, too, as part of the community. He would like to see an increase in township involvement in economic development and could help facilitate the two entities working together more because of his relationships on the city side.
Kendrick said the knowledge he's gained the past four years as zoning officer and three years as trustee have helped him get to know the problems in the township. He said his business experience has helped him find ways to solve those problems. He said he's a full-time trustee and wants to keep the township the way it is, without annexations. He always returns calls. He has lived in either the city or the township for 60 years, with the past 33 years in the township.
Kendrick identified the loss of state funds and rising healthcare costs as the biggest issues facing the township. In 2010, the township received $100,000 from the Local Government Fund. Now it's down to $40,000. The estate tax brought $100,000 into the township this year, but it's being eliminated. In order to try to keep health insurance costs in check, he said they're looking at renewing the policy early to keep the rates the same. The last couple years they raised the deductibles in an effort to reduce the costs. He doesn't take the health benefits, saving the township about $10,000. He also receives no compensation as zoning officer.
In order to offset the loss of state funds, Kendrick said the township put up a police levy as a replacement last year instead of a renewal, bringing the values from 1982 up to 2012 property values. They're also saving money by doing more chip & seal instead of paving roads since it costs less. According to Kendrick, it's $100,000 to blacktop a mile and $25,000 a mile for chip & seal. Applying for more grants is also an option they're trying.
Nestic answered the question about issues by asking how the township can take advantage of the potential economic boom from the oil and gas industry and stressed the need for more economic development efforts by the township. He said the township needs to look at its assets, such as land, and find a way to leverage resources with the city to increase services to residents.
When asked for more explanation, he said it could involve infrastructure or services such as police and fire. Nestic said no question should ever be considered "off the table" because parameters change and everything must be constantly reviewed.
His reason for running for city council was for the city to have active economic development efforts, which has been accomplished. Now he wants to see the same happen for the township.
Rudibaugh agreed with Kendrick that the biggest issue for the township is the reduced state funding, which requires them to look for ways to continue providing the services the township residents need. He said they need to continue to upgrade equipment so employees can continue doing a great job for the residents.
As a banker, he worked with a lot of the townships and municipalities and became aware of a lot of the needs of the township and how to go about fulfilling those needs. He had a lot of praise for the township employees in road maintenance, the fire department and the police, noting how the fire personnel, all volunteers, put their lives on the line.
He was glad they were able to get a new fire truck this year because it was really needed. They're also in the process of getting a new police cruiser and got a new back hoe for the road crew. The township has to spend money to maintain services and know when to replace equipment.
Weaver saw several isses for the township, including continuing budget concerns, the challenges to township roads that could come from the impending influx of shale operations and a lack of visibility, which she attributed to a need for more communication with the public on what's happening at meetings ahead of time. As president of council, she's used her administrative skills to improve communication and would like to do the same for the township with a website.
She said the township needs promoted just as much as the city when people come into the area looking to relocate, either for residential, commercial or industrial.
In talking about budget concerns, she said it might be time to look at whether trustees should give up their hospitalization, pointing out that Green Township trustees did it recently to save money.
Weaver said that they have to be good stewards of taxpayer money. Having run her own businesses and spearheaded various projects, along with her work in city government, she said she could be of help to the township.
Wolford saw the ongoing drug issue in the area as an issue for the township, saying if it's being done in Salem, they're not stopping at the city line. He questioned whether the township was coordinating efforts with the city and the Columbiana County Drug Task Force for better drug enforcement.
Another issue he saw was a need to prepare for the shale industry and what it could mean for township roads once companies start coming. He said the township needs to be proactive in that area and in the area of economic development. He said the first responder program for the fire department needs looked at again, too.
Wolford prides himself on the fact that he was elected by both township and city voters. He said the first priority has to be the governing of the township and keeping in good fiscal shape, but also being responsible and proactive in some areas, such as economic development.
When asked about ways the city and township could work together, both Nestic and Wolford suggested a joint economic development district (JEDD) could be beneficial for both sides. Wolford said the city has resources and the township has land and the two should be working together more. He stressed that any cooperative project has to be fair for both sides. He said he won't be part of any initiative for a fire district or merger. Maybe the two entities could buy equipment together.
Nestic said that with the citizens of Salem a major part of the township, it only makes sense that the two sides work together to leverage resources. He said that all ways of doing that should be considered and reconsidered as conditions change over time. With the budgets and economy changing, he said "the job of trustee can't be business as usual."
"If we shy away from questions because of emotional issues of the past, we're doing a disservice to the voters," he said.
Weaver said the city and township can work more closely together, noting that the city is part of the township and can't be separated from it. She said the township should have input on the Salem Area Industrial Development Corporation She would still attend some city meetings to keep an eye out for items of significance for the township. One way the two sides could work together is through cooperative buying of equipment.
Rudibaugh said there are probably some ways the two sides could work together and said they're already working together with mutual aid agreements for both fire and police. There's always ways to improve how things are done.
He said he would be in favor of the two sides working together more if it's feasible for both parties, but stressed "I think the township needs to stay the township."
Kendrick kind of echoed that sentiment, saying he wants to keep the township the way it is. As for working with the city, he said they just signed the mutual aid agreement for the police. He explained that the township already works with Beaver and Green townships in Mahoning County on road projects by sharing equipment and labor.
"We help them out, they help us out. That keeps some of our costs down," he said.
Kendrick said his business experience helps him in working with the employees and keeping the budget on track. He said he feels the residents are happy with the services they receive, such as the spring cleanup, leaf pickup, road maintenance, good police and good firefighters.
"I'm there for the residents of the township and if I don't know the answer, I find out for them," he said.
Rudibaugh said he learned a lot in four years and wants to continue working for the residents as a full-time trustee.
"I appreciate them voting for me four years ago. Hopefully they'll vote for me again," he said.
Weaver pledged to be a full-time trustee and concern herself with learning the concerns of the residents, communicating with them and looking at the budgetary constraints.
"I hope people will look at my involvement in various things in the community, see the commitment I've made to the area and know that represents my character," she said.
Wolford said he loved being a public servant and enjoys doing things that end up helping somebody. He also said he won't force things on the people, but will bring issues to them to consider.
"I'll be there to serve people as they need it," he said.
Nestic said he's proud of the work he's done on city council. He said he can bring to the township a good working relationship with city leaders and "a record of devising creative solutions to complicated issues."