veteran director looks back on 12 years of service at Bainbridge | Bainbridge
For Bainbridge Township Administrator Lorrie Sass Benza, township form of government holds a special place in her heart. She is completing her 12th year as a trustee in the township where she and her husband Michael Benza, a criminal defense lawyer, and their three children have lived for 21 years.
Her post on the board is due for re-election in November and she has made the decision not to run again. Thinking back to her role as Township Administrator, Ms. Benza said: “It has truly been one of the best years of my life, working with people in the community and addressing their concerns or concerns. problems.”
Now is a chance for another person with new ideas to step in and contribute to the township, she said of her decision not to run again.
The board of directors is made up of three directors as well as a fiscal agent from the canton. The Bainbridge Trustees who currently sit on the Board with Ms. Benza are Jeff Markley and Kristina O’Brien. Janice Sugarman is the finance manager. Mr Markley’s post is also up for re-election and he has withdrawn petitions and re-nominated. The deadline for submission was August 4. Mr. Markley has served four terms. The terms of the trustees are four years each.
Ms. Benza, who holds a law degree from Pepperdine University Law School, served as Geauga County Deputy Attorney before being elected Township Trustee.
She recalled how the inhabitants of the canton had contacted her in 2008 and 2009 to present themselves as administrator. She was reluctant at first, but then decided to go, she said.
There were a number of issues in the township when she ran for her first term on the board. One of them included the demolition of the Kenston Early Learning Center school which was next to Bainbridge Town Hall on Chillicothe Road (Route 306). Many were opposed to the demolition and the case needed further investigation, she said.
The school was eventually withdrawn and the land is now the site of the township heritage park. There were also ongoing lawsuits at the time and several residents contacted Ms Benza, urging her to run as a trustee, which she did and succeeded in 2009, starting her first term in 2010.
His interest in townships is deep. His father William Sass served as administrator of the Township of Chester for 12 years. Meanwhile, she said: “I have seen with my own eyes what public service is. It really takes a love of the community to do this. She is also currently president of the Geauga County Township Association.
“I love the townships,” said Ms Benza, noting that she has lived in the townships most of her life. “I know townships are the most efficient and basic form of local government. We [trustees] are directly related to people. In a village or town, an inhabitant has to go through the village or town council to reach higher levels of government such as the mayor.
“In a township, residents deal directly with the trustees,” Benza said. “It takes a special commitment to be a township administrator and I am fortunate to have worked with some of the best township administrators, not only in Bainbridge, but in Geauga County. It has been incredible.
As the former head of the Civil Division of the Geauga County Prosecutor’s Office, she also represented the 16 communes of Geauga County and the county government departments.
Ms Benza credited Forrest Burt, former Geauga County Deputy District Attorney, with his help and advice over the years. He then served as a judge at the Geauga County Court of Common Pleas. “I had the huge advantage of learning from Forrest,” she said. He is now retired.
Prior to being elected a director, Ms. Benza served on the Township of Bainbridge Zoning Commission and the Township Zoning Appeal Board. She was also a member of the Geauga County Planning Commission.
She worked with many other public servants, including Bill Repke, who started as an administrator for the Township of Bainbridge and later became Geauga County Commissioner, as well as David Dietrich, former Geauga County Planning Director. .
And there was Anita Stocker, who was Director of Community and Economic Development, Dale Wedge, former Director of Geauga County Emergency Management Services, Tracy Jemison, former Geauga County Auditor and later County Commissioner, and late Geauga County Sheriff Dan McClelland, “plus others too many to mention,” she said.
“I have been so blessed to have worked with these people,” said Ms. Benza. “It was an opportunity like no other. I was fortunate to have learned about public and legal representation and to have been associated with those in Geauga County who were the best.
During her tenure as a director of Bainbridge, she has worked with the Board of Directors and the residents on a number of issues, “to address the issues and concerns they have,” said Ms. Benza. .
Currently, some of the issues include road and zoning issues as well as ongoing flooding issues in the Cedar and South Street area near the Chagrin Valley Roller Rink.
The ability to connect with people and help when needed brings great satisfaction to administrators, she said. In addition, there is also the business of advancing the township, for example with economic development opportunities.
This is where trustee Jeff Markley is so valuable, Ms. Benza said. He examines the areas where the township’s real estate is stagnant and he looks for ways for them to serve the public. “He is brilliant when it comes to exploring economic opportunities,” she said.
As for the time spent on work, she said: “Sometimes there are a lot of meetings and it depends on the needs of the municipality and the public.”
During Ms. Benza’s tenure years, in addition to meeting the needs of residents, administrators conducted a complete rewrite of the township’s zoning and established five-year plans for all township departments. They also completed projects funded by Frohing’s $ 15 million property tax.
Projects using the Frohring funds included total renovations for Centerville Mills Park, which involved dining room upgrades, removing dangerous and dilapidated structures and creating a dog park, Ms. Benza said. The township also used the money for walking trails in the parks, renovating the Town Hall and expanding the Bainbridge Fire Department. They built Heritage Park with the funds and also used them to extend the life of many municipal taxes, she said.
In other projects, Bainbridge administrators in 2012 created the township’s first service department, which was previously a roads department, appointing James Stanek as director. “We have also reorganized the fire department in our township,” said Ms. Benza.
More recently, the trustees carried out a complete update of the township’s zoning resolution. “All projects take time because all government actions have to take place in public meetings and hearings with public notice,” she said. “Public meetings are held because government needs to be open and transparent.
“Geauga Lake has been a great project,” she said of the former Geauga Lake Park amusement park which is slated for mixed-use development. Much time had been spent negotiating terms with the current owner Industrial Commercial Properties LLC of Solon.
“This is about revitalizing a huge chunk of land that has been lying fallow in the community for far too long,” she said of the 320-acre site. An adjoining property in the town of Aurora which was once the parking lot for Sea World is currently being developed for homes.
Serving as a township trustee gave her the opportunity to also work with “the best employees I have ever worked with,” she said of the over 100 employees at Bainbridge.
“The township has the best employees who really care about the public service,” added Benza. They include Bainbridge Police Chief Jon Bokovitz and Bainbridge Fire Chief Lou Ann Metz as well as Highway Superintendent John Brett, Bainbridge Zoning Inspector Karen Endres and Service Manager Jim Stanek.
Although she has decided not to run as a township administrator, Benza said she is still figuring out what the future holds for her.
“I still have a lot of favors to render and it’s time to serve in another capacity,” said Benza. She added that her involvement in the township government will always go first and foremost in her life, with precious memories. “It was an opportunity like no other. “