A leader of the grassroots organization Coalition to Reroute NEXUS will challenge Medina County Commissioner Pat Geissman in the 2016 Republican primary election to be held March 15.
Paul Gierosky, of York Township, filed to run Wednesday at the Medina County Board of Elections before the 4 p.m. deadline. The filing won’t be certified by the board until Tuesday.
“I decided to run at the urging of a number of people who feel that their views and their concerns are not being adequately represented by the county commissioners, and I feel the same way,” Gierosky told The Gazette on Wednesday.
Gierosky, 64, was one of a few people to start the CORN group in opposition to the proposed route of the NEXUS Gas Transmission pipeline, a 36-inch natural gas pipeline slated to run from Columbiana County through Medina County to Michigan and into an energy hub in Ontario, Canada.
Being one of many property owners in the county whose land would be affected by the pipeline, Gierosky has attended commissioners meetings since August of last year, trying to convince them to support his cause to have the pipeline rerouted to less populated counties.
Gierosky, 64, is a businessman who for 30 years has co-owned, as lead investor, 23 different companies.
“I call myself a private-equity investor,” he said. “I’m a turnaround guy.”
The only company he currently shares ownership for is Monarch Lathes, a metal-cutting machinery manufacturer based in Sidney, Ohio.
In the past year, Gierosky said he’s taken on another day job — researching NEXUS and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and trying to stop the pipeline from coming through the county.
“For the last 15 months, I’ve put my life on hold to dig into this issue of the NEXUS pipeline,” he said. “I never thought about getting into politics, but I just see a glaring need for something to change here.”
He said that would be the main issue he’s running on because he recently made up his mind to run and hasn’t spent much time looking at other issues the county is facing.
“My focus has been on this NEXUS project, but there will be plenty of time to look at other aspects of Medina County operations should I prevail and be elected,” he said. “Medina County’s running fine, but there’s always room for improvement and that’s what I want to do.”
Though he’s never run for public office before, Gierosky said he decided to enter the race because he didn’t want Geissman to run unopposed.
“I just decided that checks and balances are an effective way of policing complacency, corruption and the abuse of power,” he said. “Elections, I view as one of those checks, and since Pat was running unopposed, I just figured I’d give people a choice.
“She’s been in her position for nearly a quarter of a century and it’s only natural for people to become complacent over time.”
Geissman, 75, of Lodi, is running for her seventh term. She’s been a commissioner for 23 years — the longest-serving commissioner in Medina County.
“I’ve been told that I’m the longest-serving female commissioner in the state of Ohio,” she told The Gazette on Wednesday. “I love what I do and I love helping people.”
In the past year, she’s listened to Gierosky’s complaints about NEXUS at the commissioners meetings and said she has done all she can, as a commissioner, for his cause.
“I’ve had a lot of respect for him,” she said. “It is not an issue that commissioners have any authority over. I don’t know what he expects us to do.
“If he’s running for that purpose, he will find out that if he is elected, there isn’t anything he can do other than what we’ve already done.”
Geissman said she’s heard opinions on both sides of the pipeline issue and needs to represent all Medina County’s residents, not just those in opposition to the route. She also said there are many other issues commissioners have to address other than the pipeline.
“Paul is probably a one-issue candidate, but commissioners have many issues that we have to deal with,” she said. “Since I’ve been a commissioner, I’ve focused on quality-of-life issues and I know I’ve made a difference.”
Five years ago, Geissman helped start Feeding Medina County, an initiative to feed families and children in need. She still serves on the board of directors for the organization.
In 2003, she started a railroad safety taskforce, which looked at each of the 106 railroad crossings in the county to determine how safe they were, Geissman said.
If re-elected, she said her main priority would be “resolving the trash issue.”
The county’s contract with Cleveland-based Envision Waste, the company that used to operate the recycling center in Westfield Township, ended in January. Two months before that, commissioners voted 2-1, with Geissman in the minority, to dismiss two bids to continue operating the county recycling center as a mixed-waste processing facility.
Since the bids were rejected, more than 100 community drop-off recycling bins were placed across the county, and the county’s Solid Waste Policy Committee is in the process of creating a new plan for the county.
“We have such a mess now, in my opinion,” Geissman said. “We don’t know what we’re doing or what the end goal is, and I would like to see recycling continue.”
Geissman said she doesn’t believe the community bins will bring in the same amount of recycling as the county did previously when the processing facility handled mixed waste.
“I just don’t know what the answer is yet, but to me, it’s the No. 1 priority,” she said.
Her second priority is the renovation of the county courthouse that was put on hold in 2009 during the economic recession.
“It’s an issue that I’d like to work on and find the money for,” she said. “I don’t think we can put that off too much longer.”
She said she wants to work with county Administrator Scott Miller to find funds to move forward on renovating the building, which has roof and plumbing problems.
Geissman also said she’s supportive of drug addiction treatment agencies opening in Medina County to help with the heroin epidemic.
“It’s a personal thing for me,” she said. “I have a very dear friend who lost her daughter to heroin last year right before Christmas.”