After a recount last week by the Geauga County Board of Elections, Kristina Port was declared the winner of the Russell Township trustee race on Nov. 5 against incumbent Justin Madden by a margin of one vote.
Ms. Port received 589 votes and Mr. Madden received 588 votes in the official count, according to the elections board. The one-vote margin results followed an extensive recount of the ballots. Only one seat on the three-member board of trustees was up for election during this year’s general election.
Ms. Port will be sworn into office on Jan. 1. She will be serving on the present board of trustees with Gary Gabram and Jim Mueller.
“This is an instance that makes it clear that one vote can make a big difference,” Mr. Mueller said.
Of the close vote, Ms. Port said, “Winning by one vote is better than winning by a coin toss.” She previously served a term as a Russell Trustee from 2008 to 2012. She has lived in the township 35 years.
Mr. Madden, who is concluding his second four-year term as a trustee, said this may not be over. “I am consulting with legal counsel as to the options at this time.”
Mr. Madden has said during the election campaign that his number-one priority for the past eight years and for the future is to keep Russell Township green, and to preserve large-lot zoning to maintain the township as the very special community it has always been.
The trustees watch issues affecting zoning and respond accordingly, he said. “I worked closely with former Fiscal Officer Chuck Walder and now present Fiscal Officer Karen Walder to reduce where possible our cost of operations.
“This includes consolidating the roads and maintenance operations,” he said. The road department over the last three years has reduced expenses by almost $1 million.
“We are happy this fall there are no levies on the ballot,” he said. He added “I work regularly with township department heads to be sure we are meeting the residents’ needs and are delivering the quality of service they deserve.”
Looking ahead, Ms. Port, 65, who is the owner of a business in neuro-diagnostics, said she is looking forward to getting started. As a trustee, she wants to see what other townships have as agenda items and to see if there is any unfinished business to follow up on in Russell.
“I will be working on communication and engaging the community more,” she said, possibly holding town halls or office hours with the purpose of meeting with residents. She wants to post more on the township website, and to find out if residents want updates on what is happening in the township.
“I think I’d like a strategy plan for the township properties,” Ms. Port said. There is a property next to the police station on Chillicothe Road (Route 306) and it is not being used, “and we paid money for it,” she said, noting it was $210,000.
“If you own something you should have a purpose for it,” she said. “We’re not supposed to be taking land off the tax duplicate. There are so many parcels the township owns.
“There are parcels of land owned by the township and what’s the benefit to the community?” she said. She would also like to see central planning of the township center at Route 306 and Kinsman Road (Route 87) “for better government services.”
She would like a consultant to review the buildings to centralize things and consolidate them for cost efficiency.
She would also like to engage residents to find out what services they want and need. People have ideas and trustees need to be open and receptive to such discussions, Ms. Port said. “We have to continue to look out for the best interests of Russell.”
She wants to be a watch dog to be sure money is spent well and the township is doing things that are cost effective and following best practices, Ms. Port said.