Commissioners not rushing to fill position

LISBON – Columbiana County commissioners are apparently taking their time filling a vacant position on the county Port Authority board.

Rob Johnson’s seat on the board expired at the end of 2013 and commissioners have yet to decide whether to reappoint him or choose a replacement.

“I don’t anticipate anything happening for a while. I don’t see this as a pressing issue that would hamper the port’s ability to function” since there are four other board members, said Commission Chairman Mike Halleck.

Commissioners have sometimes waited until January to fill the position after a port authority member’s term has expired. That is what they did in January 2010 with Johnson, but it is usually done early in the month and prior to the port authority’s monthly meeting, which this year is scheduled for Jan. 13.

The son of county Democratic Party Chairman Dennis Johnson, Rob Johnson was appointed to the board by a 2-1 vote, with Republican Jim Hoppel and Democrat Penny Traina voting in favor. Dan Bing, a Democrat, voted no because he supported another Democrat for the appointment.

Johnson replaced former Republican state legislator Charles Blasdel, whose reappointment had become problematic because the Democrats were in the majority on the board of commissioners in 2010. The majority shifted back to Republicans, who currently hold all three seats.

Halleck said he has yet to receive any formal applications, although Johnson has indicated he is interested in being reappointed. Halleck said commissioners may follow the same approach taken the past two years, when they recruited people to fill the positions rather than rely solely on applications.

“It’s kind of been our priority in recent years to look at people with experience beyond political experience who can make a contribution to the board,” he said.

Last year, commissioners appointed former commissioner Traina and retired Columbiana Village Manager Keith Chamberlin to the two port authority positions, and in the process replaced long-time member Steve Cooper.

The positions pay a base annual salary of $7,020 per year, plus health insurance coverage if the member so desires.