Both Republican candidates for the office of Medina County clerk of courts say the signals they have seen tell them their campaigns are doing well.
Louis A. Tagliaferro, 60, is challenging incumbent Dave Wadsworth, 57, in Tuesday’s Republican primary.
Wadsworth is running for his second full term. Tagliaferro has never held public office but previously ran unsuccessfully for a Medina Board of Education seat.
The primary winner will face Democratic Party candidate J.R. Russell, of Medina, in November.
“I think (my campaign is going) very well,” Wadsworth said. “I’m looking forward to the 15th.
“You never know. Anyone that thinks they are going to win is (foolish).”
Tagliaferro’s campaign has made references to issues in Wadsworth’s past.
“It is all in the past,” Wadsworth said. “I’m trying to stay positive and above the mudslinging. I won’t go there. People want a clean campaign. The voters in Medina County are very intelligent.
“I’m going on what I’ve accomplished and the good rapport I have with my employees.”
Tagliaferro said he doesn’t know Wadsworth personally.
“I’ve never met him,” he said. “He’s been plagued by one controversy after another. I don’t think the citizens of Medina County want someone carrying around that baggage.”
Tagliaferro said he can’t get a peep out of anyone who works in the Medina County Courthouse about Wadsworth.
“They are afraid for their jobs,” he alleged. “You shouldn’t have to worry about your job.”
Wadsworth said his office is all about technology, efficiency and customer service.
“My employees love their jobs,” he said. “I’m sorry I had to terminate some people. That’s just the way it goes sometimes.”
In 2011, shortly after Wadsworth was appointed to the clerk position, a member of his 2012 election campaign sent a letter to clerk office employees urging them to help the campaign because they could lose their jobs if he was not retained.
In 2013, after he was elected, Wadsworth’s former chief deputy Julie Kauffman sued him in federal court on allegations that he fired her in retaliation after she told the county prosecutor’s office that Wadsworth had misused public funds during his campaign.
Wadsworth said he’s not allowed to discuss the out-of-court settlement with Kauffman.
“I signed a confidential settlement,” he said.
In 2013, Wadsworth was charged in Medina Municipal Court with misusing public funds during his campaign. He completed a yearlong first offender’s rehabilitation program and the case was dismissed last year. The records have been sealed.
Wadsworth was appointed by the Medina County Republican Central Committee on Jan. 8, 2011, to complete the unexpired term of Kathy Fortney, who retired.
In November 2012, he was elected by voters to a four-year term.
He said he runs the office like a business.
“I keep costs down and maintain a high level of customer service,” Wadsworth said. “People are greeted with a smile and helped right away.”
Tagliaferro said he’s known for having a long, Italian name and wearing his signature bow tie. He also wants people to know he’s not running for Nancy Abbott’s job as clerk of Medina Municipal Court.
He also said his campaign is going well.
“I’m getting a lot of feedback from people on the street,” Tagliaferro said. “If that feedback is any indication, it seems like it’s going well.”
While Tagliaferro was putting in a yard sign the other day, he said a police cruiser stopped and the officer had a question.
“‘Are you the dude running against Dave Wadsworth?’ ” Tagliaferro said the officer asked. “‘I wanted to let you know my partner and I are both voting for you.’
“I’d never seen him before in my life. They stopped me on street to tell me. Maybe the message in the street is getting out,” Tagliaferro said.
He’s still a little worried about the election.
“Maybe it’s the pessimist in me,” Tagliaferro said. “Have I done enough?”
Tagliaferro is a sales manager for AT&T.
“I’ve been in retail all my life,” he said. “I’ve worked for Kmart, Toys R Us and Children’s Palace.
“Management is management. There are certain management skill sets you have to have.”
He said if he does become clerk of courts, he’d sit down and talk to the employees about ways to improve the office.
“If you’re afraid for your job, you’ll worry about flying under the radar and not ticking anyone off. Ideas will always be bottled up in there. There’s a whole gamut of training that hasn’t been done in that office for a long time.”
That charge rubbed Wadsworth the wrong way.
“It’s insulting to say we don’t have training,” he said. “I came up with a detailed PowerPoint training program for each division in our legal office. Everyone has gone through that. We’re all on the same page.”
The clerk of courts office serves as the business office of the common pleas courts, domestic relations court and the Ohio Court of Appeals in Medina County. The clerk creates and maintains the court files.
Wadsworth said he actually runs two businesses under the clerk of courts umbrella — auto title bureaus in the cities of Medina, Brunswick and Wadsworth, and the business of the court.
“First of all, I’ve successfully run the office the last five years,” he said.
He said his budget is $2.2 million and his office has 40 employees. He operates seven divisions in four locations.
Wadsworth said he is proud of being able to double the size of the parking lot at the Medina Title Office, 976 N. Court St., next to Buehler’s Fresh Foods.
“It was flat-out dangerous,” Wadsworth said. “We had my office, the (Department of Motor Vehicles) and the Ohio State Highway Patrol’s testing office. It was very congested.
“To me, it was a very big deal,” he said.
Wadsworth said he has modernized the case management system at the courthouse.
“My primary goal is to protect all that data,” he said. “We store everything we can.”
Next on the agenda is revamping the clerk of court’s website.
“We want it to be more user-friendly,” he said. “We have to keep the data safe.”
Surplus revenue generated from auto title fees is transferred to the county’s general fund. He said that has generated $1.3 million since he’s been in office.
Before becoming clerk, he spent nine years as a Brunswick city councilman. He also served as vice mayor in Brunswick.
He said he loves being a public servant.
“I have a passion for it,” Wadsworth said. “I need to be involved in our community.
“I’ve always loved public service. I’m a multitasker. I do the work. I get the job done.”
His 30th wedding anniversary is coming up in August. He and his wife, Barbara, have three daughters — Meghan, Margie and Victoria — and reside in Brunswick. He graduated from Cleveland State University.
Tagliaferro is banking on voters wanting a new face.
He said if people still want to vote for Wadsworth after all his baggage, “then God bless you. I would be embarrassed (by his past). Again, that’s me.
“We’ll see what happens on the 15th. If the message got out, I might be in good shape.”
The Medina resident graduated from John Marshall High School in Cleveland and Cleveland State University and served in the U.S. Marine Corps.
Tagliaferro and his wife, Lorri, have four children, Dave, Jenna, Steven and Hilary.