By BOBBY WARREN Staff Writer Published:
WOOSTER — The Wayne County Republican Party elected its first woman to lead the group: Sue Smail.
Both the Republican and Democratic parties elected their respective leaders in organizational meetings in June. Betsy Sheets will again lead the Democrats.
Smail’s husband, Jim, led the party for five years before stepping down a year ago. He had said he would serve five years and then let someone else run the party. Prosecutor Dan Lutz stepped up to provide leadership this past year, but he favored someone else leading the party and asked Sue Smail to consider the post.
After being elected, Smail’s first congratulatory call came from Commissioner Jim Carmichael, who said she will do a good job. The second came from U.S. Sen. Rob Portman.
Sheets had been elected a couple of years ago to serve out the final two years of David Broehl’s term, and then Sheets was elected to her first four-year term.
Smail’s immediate goals are to unite the party and keep people engaged.
There has been some division within the GOP, as seen in the Ohio Senate primary race between incumbent Frank LaRose and Caleb Davenport, a more conservative challenger who had been described as a TEA Party candidate. Though Davenport narrowly won Wayne County, LaRose won the party’s nomination on the strength of his showing in portions of Summit and Stark counties that are part of the 27th District.
For Sheets, her focus will be on electing statewide candidates, a congressman (Pete Crossland, a Democrat, is running against incumbent Jim Renacci, a Republican) and a state senator (Wooster Democrat George Rusiska is facing LaRose).
Sheets’ long-term goals include looking out for good, solid Democrats to run for local and regional offices and bringing out the Democratic Party name, what it stands for and to let people know it’s OK to be a Democrat in Wayne County.
While Republicans hold 15 of the 16 elected county seats, Smail has a similar goal as Sheets, namely to raise the visibility of the Republican Party.
“I don’t take anything for granted,” Smail said. “We will be more visible in our locations.”
The GOP recently had to move its headquarters, and right now it is in the Newberry Building at the corner of East Liberty and Buckeye streets. The party is scheduled to move into a location next to Jimmy John’s in September.
Smail wants to use the office more regularly than just around election time. People will be in the headquarters during the cruise-in and Festa Italiana.
Smail gets her love of politics from her father, Richard Rudy. When she was five-years-old, her dad ran for Wayne County Clerk of Courts and won. She remembers campaigning with him. Unfortunately, he died 13 months after taking office.
“I thought I wanted to run for Clerk of Courts,” but the party always had someone qualified running for the office, Smail said. “It never worked out.”
After enrolling and completing the eight-month program at the Jo Ann Davidson Ohio Leadership Institute, Smail said she felt it was time to put into practice what she learned.
As Smail embarks on her journey as leader of the GOP, Sheets offered some advice, namely, “It takes a lot of work. It requires volunteers. You can’t do it by yourself.”
A goal of Smail’s will be to get more people involved in the party and to recruit precinct captains.
“It’s a lot of work if you do the job right,” Sheets said. “There are tough decisions to make. I can be blunt sometimes, so you have to think before you speak.
“You can’t fire volunteers, and when you get a good one, treat them well. Let them know you appreciate them.”
A party leader can get pulled in a lot of directions, especially from the state and national parties and candidates, Sheets said. As she sees it, her responsibility is to do the best she can for the county.
“You have to build connections in the (state) capital and nationally,” Sheets said. The Democratic Party has an organization of county chairmen, and she has found it helpful to be active in the group. “Sometimes it is comforting to know you are not experiencing things alone.”
During the organizational meeting, the Democrats elected Jim Bird as first vice chairman; Rusiska as second vice chairman; Brad Gowins as third vice chairman; Gail Woosley is secretary; Wendy Cioffi is treasurer.
For the Republicans, Mike Agnoni is vice chairman; Julie Leathers is secretary; David Tschantz is treasurer.
Reporter Bobby Warren can be reached at 330-287-1639 or email@example.com. He is @BobbyWarrenTDR on Twitter.