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Public gets look at commissioner candidates; one to be picked Sunday

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    Lorain County Commissioner candidates Joel Arredondo, Doug Messer, Ronnie Rimbert, Mary Siwierka, Sharon Sweda and Niki Smiley Wilson speak during a community forum panel on Thursday evening, February 7 at the Courtyard by Marriott Cleveland Elyria. The Elyria Democratic Party and the Lorain Democratic Party hosted a meeting for the candidates to speak and answer questions posed by those in attendance. The candidates are running to fill the vacancy left by former commissioner Ted Kalo.

    KRISTIN BAUER / CHRONICLE

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    Members of the public listen to a forum for Lorain County Commissioners candidate at the Courtyard by Marriott in Elyria on Thursday.

    KRISTIN BAUER / CHRONICLE

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ELYRIA — The six candidates looking to fill the open Lorain County Commissioner seat answered questions in a packed conference room Thursday evening.

The Lorain and Elyria Democratic parties hosted the forum at the Courtyard by Marriott in Elyria.

Candidates Joel Arredondo, Doug Messer, Ronnie Rimbert, Mary Siwierka, Sharon Sweda and Niki Smiley Wilson are hoping to fill Ted Kalo’s unexpired term, left vacant in January after he was appointed Lorain clerk of courts.

Board of Elections Director Paul Adams announced Former Sheffield Lake Mayor John Piskura withdrew from the running.

The night’s first question set the tone for the rest of the evening: what each candidate’s personal goal was if appointed.

Messer plans to focus on maintaining a strong financial position in the county and increase infrastructure, including transportation. Rimbert said he wants to bring a new culture to Lorain County, focusing on inclusivity and “taking care of each other.” Siwierka said she would align with the other two commissioners and work together to spend money wisely while implementing firm policies to meet the needs of the county.

Sweda’s goal would be to bring more jobs and opportunities in the county, as wages have stagnated while companies are more productive. “We’re just not seeing that translate to dollars for workers,” she said. Smiley’s goal was based on her work as a health care provider — to help grow and expand the industry in the county.

Arredondo, similarly to Siwierka, said he would collaborate with other commissioners.

Other questions focused on Recovery One — a one-stop facility providing counseling and recovery services to combat the opioid crisis — and union jobs.

All of the candidates were in support of Recovery One, a tax levy for which was rejected by voters in November. Since the initial setback, the question asked if the new commissioner would put another levy on the ballot.

Some candidates said that a levy would not be their first choice. Sweda and Messer said they would look to additional grant money or recovering local dollars from the state to fund the initiative, with a new levy as a last resort.

Similarly, all six candidates support organized labor, many having ties to the auto industry in the area.

Messer, whose father was part of the printers union in Dayton, said he has had experience as a manager and on the other side of collective bargaining. He is strongly pro-union, he said, and values the position they have in the workplace. Siwierka, who was a member of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union for nine years, also has worked on the management side of the collective bargaining table. She said she would approach the job with the perspective that “there’s a little bit of truth from both sides.”

Members of the Democratic Party Central Committee will appoint the new commissioner 5 p.m. Sunday at the new Bricklayers Union Hall at state routes 113 and 58 in Amherst Township. The meeting is open to the public.

Contact Carissa Woytach at (440) 329-7245 or cwoytach@chroniclet.com.


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