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AKRON -- Summit County Executive Ilene Shapiro was sworn in to office Jan. 5, becoming the first female executive in the county's rich history.
The county will continue to offer its residents an array of services while seeking additional revenue streams, said the fifth Summit County executive since 1981.
"We have a lot of services we provide to the community, and we will continue to provide those," she said in a Jan. 10 phone interview.
Summit County has 31 separate communities, "each with its own needs and characteristics," Shapiro said.
"And we aim to work with them all," she said.
Maintaining stable financial position due to anticipated budget cuts will be a challenge, Shapiro said, adding she hoped that consolidations and regionalism can help the county maintain its financial footing.
Shapiro said she has been asking elected officials for ways to generate revenue "that wouldn't raise taxes and would not harm local business."
"When Mayor [Daniel] Horrigan [of Akron] was clerk of courts, I often asked him how we can generate revenue," she said. "He recommended offering passports. This generates about a quarter million in revenue for us yearly without hurting local business, and it offers a needed customer-friendly service."
The opioid epidemic remains a major problem, Shapiro said.
"The opioid issue is a major challenge," she said. "We need to look at rehabilitation, the court system ... we need to see if we can use some non-traditional services to help."
Shapiro said she felt the transition into office has gone smoothly since taking office in August following the unexpected death of Russ Pry.
"Given the circumstances how I came into office, it went well," Shapiro said. "Russ Pry was loved and respected. I am making sure that the transition is stable and caring. There was a grieving process everyone had to go through. Philosophically, Russ and I were pretty much aligned. I can't think of a time when we didn't agree one what was needed and how to do it. There's a different person, a different personality in here now, and there will be some adjustments."
Shapiro, who will make $131,661 per year in the position, previously served for three years as president of Summit County Council. She took over the executive position this past summer upon the death of former County Executive Russ Pry in July. She won her Council seat in the November election, defeating Republican challenger Bill Roemer.
As well as serving on County Council for nearly 10 years, Shapiro serves on The University of Akron Research Foundation Board; the Northeast Ohio Four County Regional Planning and Development Organization; and is a member of the Greater Akron Area ATHENA PowerLink governing body, according to information provided by the county. She is an alumnus of both Leadership America and Leadership Akron and is a past President of the Women's Network.
She is a founder of the Women's Endowment Fund of the Akron Community Foundation and was formerly the chairperson of the Summit County Green Task Force.
According to information provided by the county, Shapiro was awarded the U.S. Small Business Administration Women's Business Advocate for the State of Ohio and the Judith A. Resnick Woman of the Year Award for Inspiration. In 2015, she received the Harold Stubbs Award for Government.
Summit County is an area that supports innovation, said Shapiro, who has lived in the area since 1977.
"This is a community I am so fortunate to work with," she said.
County Councilman Jerry Feeman (D-6) of Tallmadge said he feels Shapiro's staff is "on the right track."
"Their goal is going to be economic development," Feeman said. "A lot of the emphasis had been on the city of Akron, but they want to look at the county as a whole. I think Ilene will do a nice job. Russ put us on the right track. I think they are moving in the right direction."
Councilman Tim Crawford (D-7) said he would "like to see a continued effort in business development, [in] which I think she will be excellent."
"I look at County Council and excluding myself I don't know anyone who could have filled the vacancy of Russ Pry better than Ilene Shapiro," Crawford said. "I think she will do an excellent job."
Ron Koehler (R-1), who was recently elected to County Council, said that he was "looking forward to working with Ms. Shapiro's administration in the new year."
John Schmidt (D-2) said he looked "forward to working with Ilene on bettering the life of Summit County citizens."
"I know she will do an excellent job in continuing the excellent stewardship that was the trademark of Russ Pry," Schmidt said.
Clair Dickinson (D-at large) said that Shapiro was the first county executive to have also served on County Council.
"I've enjoyed working with her so far, in the short time we've worked together," said Dickinson, who was appointed to Shapiro's Council seat when Shapiro went to the executive's office in August. "I look forward to working with her. I think she is well-qualified."