Brookfield Trustee Ron Haun’s seat is not up for election, but it might seem as it is. Two of three candidates for two open seats invoke his name by asking voters to re-elect them so the three sitting trustees can continue working together.
“I’m very content with the other two trustees, I work very good with Dion (Magestro) and Ronnie,” said Trustee Gary Lees, who is seeking a sixth term. “We have different skills that we add to each other and help each other in.”
Magestro, who is seeking a second term, speaks along the same lines as Lees.
“We don’t want people to come in and basically throw water on a fire that we think we have got going as far as taking Brookfield in the right direction,” Magestro said. “We feel very comfortable together. We’ve grown professionally attached and we want to continue it that way.”
Candidate Dan Suttles spent 30 years throwing water on fires as a member of the Warren Fire Department, retiring as assistant chief. He said he has no personal animosity against Magestro and Lees — “I think they’re good guys.” – but thinks the trustees have lost touch with the community. He is calling for a customer-friendly approach to governance in which the trustees hold events around the township to get resident input, and the township departments follow up with people they come in contact with to get a sense of whether people were satisfied with their service.
“Generally, the public shows their dissatisfaction when they vote against your levy,” Suttles said. “You might not know why they voted for or against it.”
Candidate: Gary Lees
Address: 8164 W. Lorain St.
Political affiliation: Democrat
Experience: Completing fifth term as Brookfield trustee.
Occupation: retired; former Trumbull County probation officer.
Quotable: “I feel I’ve always had a heart for this township and the school that I went to school (at). I have always taken pride in the community. My grandfather used to say, when we’d go up the West Hill and hit that dip there, he used to say, ‘Gary, can you smell the fresh air.’”
Candidate: Dion Magestro
Address: 1956 Custer Orangeville Road
Political affiliation: Independent
Experience: Completing first term as Brookfield trustee.
Occupation: Business owner.
Quotable: “We’re going to be working on continuously to avoid dissension among the trustees and remain professional and civilized with no agendas other than the well-being and betterment of the community.”
Candidate: Dan Suttles
Address: 7481 Oakwood Drive
Political affiliation: Democrat.
Political experience: None.
Occupation: Retired Warren city firefighter.
Quotable: “I don’t care what your affiliation is. I’m going to help you. I’m going to do what I can to help you.”
Suttles said there have been decisions by the trustees in recent years — some of which predate Magestro — that he disagreed with, including the imposition of the license plate tax without a voter referendum; the placement of multiple levy questions on the same ballot; and the use of estate tax proceeds for improving the green in Brookfield Center.
“I think it’s nice when you drive through our community , or for people that live here,” Suttles said of the green. “But, I believe that money could have been better spent somewhere else.”
When Lees and Magestro speak of their accomplishments over the last four years they offer many of the same ones: completing a comprehensive plan for the township; securing a 15-percent reduction in electric rates for residents, beginning in March, with Aspen Energy; sprucing up Brookfield Township Park with the Brookfield Youth Association; and using the code enforcement office to get people to clean up their properties and tear down a handful of dilapidated, vacant structures.
Lees talked about his First Book program, in which newborns are given a book, and his daily attention to township business.
Magestro noted his business approach to cutting costs while maintaining service; changing billing for the ambulance service, which increased revenues; and negotiating more money from Hartford Township for the fire department.
Together, they pledged to work to expand utility services in the township; continue the fight against blight and injection wells; work with county officials and those in other townships to further programs that impact them all; and look for ways to cooperate with the school district.
Suttles said he had budget experience as an assistant fire chief. He was training officer and had to work within the training budget, he said. He also has managed the purchase of fire trucks and worked within the requirements of a grant for one of them, he said.
“I’m a big believer the public dictates the level of service that they get,” Suttles said.
Suttles said he wants to bring back the senior watch program and have volunteers check up on enrolled seniors.
“As a trustee, I’d like that to be my project,” Suttles said. “We have a pretty good elderly population in Brookfield. We can’t forget them.”
Lees said he introduced the senior watch program but it died due to lack of response.
Whether the senior watch program comes back or not, Magestro said senior issues are important.
“Things we’re going to look at are a possible senior center, separate activities, their well-being and their transportation that they may need in correlation with our senior citizens van,” he said.
The trustees will be working with the police department to combat the drug trade, Magestro said.
Suttles said he agreed that more work needs to be done to address blight, and would like to pursue sharing services with other townships.
“I think, in my lifetime, there’s going to be some form of consolidation in all three departments,” Suttles said.
In terms of the zoning resolution that will share space on the ballot with the trustees race, all three candidates are for it.
The trustees are paid $68.06 a day for up to 200 days of work a year, a total of $13,612 a year, said township Fiscal Officer Dena McMullin. The trustees also can access the township’s healthcare plan.