Submitted by Dan Best
Many good things are indeed going on in Geauga Park District, well deserving of the votes cast this past November to pass the park levy.
However, I take issue with claims by Probate Judge Tim Grendell and Executive Director John Oros that Geauga Park District is greater than ever.
I retired this past fall after almost 33 years with Geauga Park District. During the first 26 years of my tenure, Geauga Park District evolved into one of the best park systems in Ohio, well respected by park professionals statewide and beyond.
The untimely tragic death of Geauga County Probate Judge Chip Henry, a man of great integrity, had far-reaching consequences in Geauga County, including the appointment of Timothy Grendell as Judge Henry’s replacement.
During Judge Henry’s years, Geauga Park District was unmolested by politics, its progress guided by the visionary leadership of park commissioners committed to the stewardship of Geauga’s natural heritage for the life-enriching benefits that nature holds for people. Under capable directors, the development of park facilities, management of parklands to protect Geauga’s rich biological diversity, creation of appropriate recreation opportunities and diversified educational programming proceeded with a skilled, dedicated and motivated staff aided, in many ways, by devoted volunteers.
Leadership starts with the probate judge who appoints park board members. Park commissioners should possess a well-informed conservation ethic, familiarity with Geauga Park District’s formative years and a true understanding of the park district’s role and responsibility for preserving, protecting and fostering appreciation for Geauga’s natural features — qualities lacking in many of Grendell’s choices of park commissioners.
Park board appointments seem more of a means of gaining or elevating political allies. Under Tim Grendell, park board membership has been a revolving door, a new mix every year with shifting priorities that stymies long-range strategic planning.
I have found it particularly offensive that Judge Grendell has co-opted Geauga Park District as a vehicle for self-promotion — under the guise of park promotion — at taxpayer expense. Virtually every piece of park district print media, ostensibly to highlight and promote park offerings, features the judge’s image, name and title. The park board and director are included to somehow make it less obvious that it’s not all about the judge.
The most blatant example is a billboard on U.S. 322 in the hamlet of Fowler’s Mills prominently featuring the judge during his re-election campaign.
I firmly believe that Matt Rambo, as Geauga County Probate judge, is the person to get Geauga Park District back on the right path to achieving its greater potential and higher calling to regain and retain its reputation of being among the finest park systems in the Great Lakes Region.
For those of you voting Republican in the Ohio primary election, please give Matt Rambo your vote for probate judge in the March 17 primary. It’s the only opportunity to unseat incumbent Grendell for another six years. With his appetite for controversy and conflict so amply demonstrated in so many aspects of his judgeship, it’s time for him to turn in his robe.
Retired Naturalist, Geauga Park District
City of Chardon