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Portage County Commissioner Term Comm. 1-3-2021

Responsibilities: To exercise financial control of County expenditures; to authorize public works; to purchase land and buildings; to let contracts; to plan and administer welfare. The Board of County Commissioners also appoints other officials to operate various departments. Term: 4 years.

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    Sabrina K. Christian-Bennett

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    John Kennedy

Biographical Information

What challenges do counties have that citizens might not realize are your responsibility and how do you address them?

What are the most significant problems facing Portage County in the next four years? What ideas do you have to deal with and fund them?

Age 50
Education Bachelors of Business Administration KSU '94 Alumni of Leadership Portage County '05 Alumni of Leadership Institute Candidates Sch
Training & Experience Portage County Commissioner, ‘14 and ‘17-Present Owner/President of Bennett Land Title Agency, LLC with offices in Brimfield and Ravenna
The challenges that most citizens may not realize are the 80-90% of statutory mandates placed upon the Board of Commissioners budget and finding the necessary revenue to pay for all the services that county government performs, and citizens expect.

Some of the examples of unfunded mandates are the county jail, medical treatment of prisoners,providing for solid waste collection and disposal, providing legal representation to citizens accused of crimes that cannot afford their own representation and providing Prosecutor services for political subdivisions within the county for capital crime cases.

Most of the statutory mandates are unfunded making it important that the Commissioners be fiscally responsible and proactive as possible to control expenses to maintain services.
The most significant problems facing Portage County in the upcoming years will be the unknown financial impact of Covid-19 on the loss of revenues, the drug epidemic and mental health services.

As the economy works it way back to some sense of normalcy, the Board of Commissioners will try and meet the mandates and services in the most efficient way possible with limited funds.
Age 54
Education Master of Arts, University of Colorado Denver Bachelor of Arts, Regis University
The Commissioners recently voted 2-0 (one abstained) in support of a resolution declaring racism a public health crisis, which is the right thing to do, especially given the disproportionate number of Black residents impacted by COVID-19. Portage County now joins four other counties in Ohio – Summit, Franklin, Cuyahoga, and Hamilton – in making similar resolutions. Across the country, more than 50 counties have made such a declaration. Publicly acknowledging and declaring racism as a key determinant of the health and well-being of Black residents in our community is not only the morally right thing to do, it is a clear example of local leadership rising to meet this moment. Making such declarations is an important job of being an elected official that many citizens may not be aware of. Resolutions can help inform the public about important issues, and can serve as a mission statement that helps to lay out next steps and goals for addressing the problem.
The top problems we face are: Poverty; Economy; Access to Health Care. In Portage County, we had a poverty problem before the pandemic -- 100% of students in Windham and Ravenna City schools are low-income and eligible for the free school lunch program and 30% of the population is at or below the 200% poverty level. But as a result of the pandemic, our needs are even greater. We need to come together and work with our great community-based organizations to help ensure that we can continue to meet the growing demand. We need a strong economic development plan, one that leverages existing assets and our talented, hard-working residents to bring good, sustainable jobs into the county, jobs that pay a fair wage and provide excellent health care. As for health care, we need to ensure that everyone who needs a doctor has access to one; everyone who needs a prescription filled or is running low on medically urgent medicine (like insulin) knows who to call and how to get what they need.