Incumbent will face Republican

WARREN – When it comes to serving Trumbull County residents, Commissioner Mauro Cantalamessa said he goes by the mantra: “To find yourself, you have to lose yourself in the service of others.”

The man who stands in the way of Cantalamessa’s new four-year term, Republican Jim Priester of Hubbard, said he has joined the fray because he was away from Trumbull County for decades and when he returned six years ago from Kansas, “things haven’t changed much.”

The Democrat, who was elected two years ago to fill the unexpired term of the late Paul Heltzel said a lot of good things have been happening in the county and likes the direction county government is going.

“In the western part of the county, people are excited about the potential development that will come with the Blueprint to Prosperity project,” Cantalamessa said about the proposed waterline that will link Braceville with West Farmington, bringing thousands safe drinking water from the Newton Falls system.

However, Priester said he has been talking to people who have been discouraged by the status quo.

“The morale of the people has been discouraged by things not getting better,” Priester said. “This area has too many resources, both environmentally and human, to not be progressing.”

Priester, who has been active in local Republican politics, said the resources include a “fabulous” road system, abundant water and land, and people who are willing to work. He said if elected, he would work closely with the Youngstown Warren Regional Chamber of Commerce to help attract new businesses to the area.

Priester said the recent drug problem could be preventing potential businesses and industries from moving here.

“It is tough to find workers when you have many who fail drug tests. We got to get these people off their drugs,” he said.

Cantalamessa talked about the progress the county land bank and Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership is making in razing dilapidated properties in the city of Warren and revamping and resuscitating inner city neighborhoods.

Since 2006, the county has helped install some $65 million in new sanitary sewers.

Cantalamessa said he also was happy about the lifting of a consent decree that burdened septic system owners with extra financial obligations or forced them to tie into sanitary sewers when their septic systems were operating legally.

“Now these financial burdens have been lifted,” he said.

Priester said he still hears from some that the county Health Department is still making it tough on home owners.

“I would like to see some of these regulations not necessarily affecting the environment, going away,” he said.

As for possibly raising the sales tax, Cantalamessa said he will try to hold the line despite the potential loss in revenue because the federal government will not allow sales tax on managed Medicaid care after July 1, 2017, which could be a loss of up to $3 million.

“We have been fortunate to hold the line because of savings through excesses in the self-insurance fund from 2011 to 2017,” Cantalamessa said. “With the new human resource director coming on (in October), we look to be pro-active with consolidating positions and looking at not replacing some who retire.”

Priester, who unsuccessfully made a bid for Hubbard City Council last year, said he will not raise taxes without a vote of the people.

Cantalamessa is hoping the Shop Trumbull campaign that urges residents to make their purchases here also will boost sale tax receipts. Cantalamessa noted a 2 percent increase in sale tax revenue this year, but can’t directly attribute the hike to the Shop Trumbull campaign.

“We are trying to impress the message on children through classrooms and Scout troops. Hopefully they can get their parents to shop Trumbull,” said Cantalamessa.

As for controversy in politicizing county hiring practices, Cantalamessa said he has tried to curb that talk by bringing a “committee-style” approach when interviewing candidates to management positions, like the comptroller in the sanitary sewer office and the new Human Resource director.

Priester said as a commissioner, he would never handle a resume and likes the committee-style approach to hiring all jobs.

“You have to have the trust of your elected officials. If not, the public just gives up,” Priester said.

gvogrin@tribtoday.com