Geauga County Juvenile and Probate Judge Timothy Grendell appointed Pat Preston, owner of Preston Superstore in Burton, to the Geauga Park District Board of Commissioners, swearing the new member in on Dec. 30, 2019.

Mr. Preston’s term commenced on Jan. 1 and will end Dec. 31, 2022. He took over for former Commissioner Andrej Lah, whose term ended on Dec. 31, 2019.

“I’ve known Pat Preston for 20 years,” Judge Grendell said in an interview about the new appointment. “He’s been a generous cheerleader of many good things in Geauga County.”

According to the press release, Mr. Preston has lived in Geauga County for almost 30 years and has supported several community organizations through his business, including the Cardinal Local School District, the Newbury bicentennial and Geauga County STARS for Autistic Children, among others.

Judge Grendell said he had talked to several other qualified residents throughout the year to see if anyone would be interested in serving on the board, noting that the process is “fluid” and that he is always looking to see who would be suitable to serve the county parks.

“After talking to [Mr. Preston], I kind of zeroed in on that he had both long-term association with the county and the business acumen to be a good board member,” the judge said. “A successful businessman like [Mr. Preston] understands the importance of spending money efficiently and effectively.”

Judge Grendell clarified that his decision to not reappoint Mr. Lah to the board had nothing to do with the former commissioner’s “off the cuff” comment regarding the possibility of purchasing leased park property from Russell Township.

The Geauga Park District is in a 15-year lease agreement to operate and maintain Russell Township Park District land.

During the board’s December meeting, Mr. Lah had posed the question as to whether the county district should look into purchasing the leased properties after the board approved the Modroo Property Improvement Plan.

“I’m just throwing it out there,” Mr. Lah said during the December meeting. “I don’t like putting money into something we don’t own.”

Judge Grendell clarified that, under the Ohio Revised Code, there could be no sale of the Russell Township park property without the approval from the probate court. He also stated that as long as he is the probate court judge, he would not approve any sale of the township’s taxpayer-paid park property to anyone, including the county park district.

Judge Grendell said Mr. Lah had not approached the judge about being reappointed to the park board.

“Traditionally, if somebody is interested in staying another term, they usually contact me and say they are [interested]. I did not receive such contact,” he said. Judge Grendell added that he appoints new members to the board because he likes to give other residents the opportunity to take part in the decision making of the county parks.

He explained that commissioners serve three-year terms and that while there are no limits to the number of terms commissioners can serve, he believes in turnover to provide opportunity to others.

“I think you should be able to give people who want to contribute to the good of the county opportunities,” Judge Grendell said. “I’m unlike my predecessors and some judges who put people there for essentially life.”

Both Mr. Preston and Mr. Lah did not immediately respond to requests for comments.

“I think what’s important is that we’re lucky to have people who are willing to voluntarily serve on boards like the park board like Mr. Preston. We’re fortunate to have his expertise,” Judge Grendell said.

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