Newcomer seeks to knock out incumbent treasurer

WARREN — A true political novice is seeking to unseat a 15-year veteran of the Trumbull County Treasurer’s office who started a program that has helped bring millions of demolition dollars into the county.

Syreana Harris, 39, of Girard, a Republican, who is making her first run for elected office, said she is seeking to establish an office that provides excellent customer service.

Incumbent Treasurer Sam Lamancusa, 60, has worked his way from a clerk’s position to being elected treasurer in 2007. He has made and continues to make changes that have made it easier for customers doing business with the county.

“It is important that officeholders be accountable for the work of those within their offices,” Harris said.

She is a 2016 graduate of DeVry University with a business degree in information system technologies and also is a 2014 graduate of ETI Technical College with a business information management degree. She also has a degree in early childhood education.

Harris works as an instructor at ETI and also volunteers with MYCAP in Youngstown to  teach mostly older residents to work with computers.

She previously worked as an intern in the county auditor’s office.

“Improvements I would like to make include updating the website to make it easier for customers to navigate,” Harris said. “Overall, I believe the office is running well, but I believe I can make it more efficient.”

Harris said her primary experience with the treasurer’s office has been making sure her father’s property taxes have been paid and researching foreclosure procedures for an acquaintance.

“I don’t know what effect having Donald Trump as the Republican party’s presidential nominee will have on the down ticket candidates,” Harris said. “I know there are voters looking for something different than what has been.”

Lamancusa, also of Girard, is looking to develop a plan for residents to view their bills online and eventually enable customer to pay their tax bills online.

“We are looking at a variety of options, including a touch-screen kiosk system in which kiosks will be placed at various locations across the county,” Lamancusa said. “We’ve been looking at ways of doing an online bill pay system for about a year.”

There are 141,000 real estate parcels in Trumbull County.

One of the hold-ups to doing a kiosk system is most residents pay their property taxes through their bank loan agreements and those that do not only deal with his office no more than twice a year. Lamancusa is working with other county offices, such as the county water, sewer and dog license, to determine if they would be interested in working to make the system more cost effective.

Describing himself as a hands-on office manager, Lamancusa often is seen working the counter.

The department had 20 employees when Lamancusa began working for the county in 2001. Today, primarily through attrition, the department has 11 employees, plus Lamancusa.

“We’re much smaller, but efficient,” he said.

“We’ve started doing a remote capture of check program, which allows us capture an image of the check given to the office and withdraw the  funds without taking the checks to the bank,” Lamancusa said.

Since he became auditor, Lamancusa established a new bill format that provides customers more detailed information about what is owed.

“We also can produce the bill at a much lower price,” Lamancusa said.

As treasurer, Lamancusa in 2009 was instrumental in the creation of the Trumbull County Land Bank.

“We were the third county in the state — behind Cuyahoga and Lucas — to start a land bank,” Lamancusa said. “When a property is foreclosed on and not purchased, it could end up in the land bank.”

Having a landbank enabled the county to qualify for the hardest hit fund, a program established by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine to deal with the foreclosure crisis.

“We’ve had contact with 1,300 properties in the land bank since October 2009,” he said.

While Lamancusa is the land bank’s founder and is president of Trumbull County’s Land Reutilization program, the land bank’s day-to-day operation has been contracted out to Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership.

“The landbank’s mission is not only to demolish foreclosed properties, but, when possible, to identify those that may be rehabilitated,” Lamancusa said.

Lamancusa said he would like to get more commercial properties into the land bank.

“I have filed more foreclosures in one year than my two predecessors combined,” Lamancusa said. “We average 650 foreclosures per year.”