Unsung Heroes in Columbus

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COLUMBUS – Anybody who is retired, or has free time, especially us old guys, normally meet some friends every morning for coffee, telling lies, and generally having fun. I do this at A & B coffee, except on Fridays when I meet “the Breakfast Club” at the M &M diner. It is always interesting conversation, and a lot of laughs, and I thoroughly enjoy everyone’s company at both places. Plus, the coffee is really good! We usually end up with the latest gossip and such, but every once in a while, something constructive or informative accidentally comes up!

A couple of Fridays ago, at “the Breakfast Club”, Gaylen Blosser, Dale Musser, Jim Anderson and a few others were there, and Gaylen asked me if I missed being Commissioner. I said only the people because I trust Matt, Larry, and Marshall to continue Darke County growth. He asked about the people in Columbus, and one thing led to another and we decided I should let everyone know how important the C.C.A.O. is to the counties.

So, now that I am a respected(?) journalist(?) I decided to let everyone know about these people, the Directors, who do so much for Ohio’s 88 Counties. The County Commissioners Association of Ohio (C.C.A.O.) was actually founded in 1880 to “promote the best policies and practices in the administration of county government for the benefit of Ohio residents.” They provide informational material and legislative advocacy for County Commissioners. Since that time, the association has grown and helped Ohio counties prosper, and have a voice, in Ohio government. It isa vital source for Ohio counties to help affect the running of Ohio and to give the Legislature our views and needs on policy to protect the people of our counties.

On Monday January 23rd, Gaylen and I went to Columbus to talk to the people who have become my friends, and the people I looked to for help when I was Commissioner. They are a diverse group with one purpose in mind: to help Ohio’s counties become stronger and more user friendly for its residents. Everyone there is my friend, they all do great work, but I will give you a capsule glimpse of the Directors.

Mike Stegall and Nedra Benson, administrative support, CCAO service corp. liaison, CCC-EAP liaison, and webinar coordinator. (Gaylen Blosser photo)

Gaylen will do individual stories later so you can get to know them all better! As you walk in the door at 209 East State Street, two blocks from the Capitol, the first person you meet is Nedra Benson. Nedra has the perfect personality for the job of Administrative Professional; smiling, friendly, and a big help for those who need it.

Nedra is a former resident of Cuyahoga County who gives administrative support, is the CCAO service corp. liaison, CCC-EAP liaison, and webinar coordinator. She is one of my favorite people, and it was nice to get a big hug from her as we walked in. Nedra is the glue that holds things together, as most administrative people are. She makes a great first impression for the CCAO!

Mike Stegall and John Brownlee, Managing Director for CORSA. (Gaylen Blosser photo)

After a short chat, Gaylen and I first met John Brownlee, who is the Managing Director for CORSA (County Risk Sharing Authority). They are Darke County’s property and casualty insurer, along with 76 other counties. By pooling together, John and CORSA have saved the County millions in premiums, and are very responsive when they are needed.

John works with the vendor partners, and recommends and reviews investment strategies with the Board of Directors. John is a native of Defiance County, attended Bowling Green University, and has been at CORSA since 2004. John is a good guy, and he and I hit it off right away the first time we met! I value his friendship, and his commitment to the Counties.

Next, we met the one guy that every business needs; the guy that keeps everybody smiling, always encouraging, and knows his job very well, John Leutz. John is the Assistant Director of CCAO, manages the CCAO service corp., does legislative advocacy for member services in law enforcement, courts and corrections, other criminal justice issues, and land use, plus is liaison for the justice and public safety committee. John is a busy man, who once met, is never forgotten! I love the guy. We seem to be very compatible, and John, for all his joking around, gets an awful lot done.

Mike Stegall and John Leutz, Assistant Director of CCAO, manages the CCAO service corp. (Gaylen Blosser photo)

John is also a softball umpire, and does a lot for the youth of his hometown of Grandview Heights. John was former mayor there, was a lobbyist for the Ohio Township Association for 20 years, worked in the Ohio senate for 8 years, and has been at CCAO since 2000. He has an awful lot on his plate, but with his happy attitude, seems to get it all done, and I know of no one who doesn’t smile when they hear his name. John can always be counted on for anything you ask him. He is one of the best people I know, and I miss seeing him regularly. Again, we hit it off right away, mainly because we are both goofy!

One of the boards I was on was the CEBCO (County Employees Benefit Consortium) Board. This is the county’s health insurance provider. I am proud of the work we did in keeping premiums to a minimum for about 50 counties in the State. We had a great board, and it was led by Mike Kindell, the Managing Director. Mike is a quiet guy who really understands health insurance. He does a tremendous job of working with our vendors, and for Mike’s quiet demeanor, he is not afraid to challenge our vendors for better services and pricing. Because they respect him, they usually listen!

Mike Stegall and Mike Kindell, Managing Director, CEBCO Board. (Gaylen Blosser photo)

Mike was born in Mercer County, grew up in Miami County, and got a B.S. in marketing from Miami University. He has over 30 years in the Health insurance industry. He uses that experience very wisely, and is one of the smartest people I know when it comes to insurance. He is invaluable to the counties that are with CEBCO, and under his leadership, more counties are being added all the time and that means more buying power for the counties. Mike is another guy who I really like, is a genuine friend whom I respect and admire. He does a valuable service for Darke County!

Finally, The Executive Director of the CCAO is Darke County’s own Cheryl Subler. Cheryl is responsible to ride herd over guys like John Leutz (which usually doesn’t work!), and who has overall management of strategic planning and management of CCAO operations. She coordinates the CCAO legislative program, is liaison for the general government and operations committee, and is President of the service corporation. She has a Bachelor’s Degree from Miami University, she addressed governmental regulations and publications at the Ohio Township Association, was a legislative aide, Ohio house and page, for the Ohio Senate, and past president of the Ohio Lobbying Association. Cheryl started in 1996.

Mike Stegall and Cheryl Subler, Executive Director of the CCAO. (Gaylen Blosser photo)

Cheryl is a genuine, kind, and thoughtful executive director. She is respected by everyone, in CCAO and the Ohio Legislature. She is a real sweetheart! On our first meeting, again, we hit it off right away, probably because we are direct opposites. She is quiet, thoughtful, sensible, and extremely cute……and I am not! The perfect match! Cheryl has a tough and demanding job, and does it expertly, and holds it all together for the counties. She is truly an invaluable source for the Counties, and her demeanor hides her desire to do what’s best for all. I always look forward to a big hug from her!

As you can tell, I am extremely proud of the people at CCAO. They were invaluable colleagues, resources, and protectors of what counties needed to do our jobs. They all work hard, and I mean that. Working with the Legislatures, vendors, and County Commissioners can be a real challenge. They can’t make everyone happy, but they are damn close to it! The main thing that I saw from them was their dedication to us, the people of our great State. It is not fake, they really do try to do the best for all ofus. I hope the CCAO can continue in their mission, and grow and prosper for years to come. Not only are they great people, most of all for me, they are true lifelong friends! I love them all! So, as you can see, every once in a while, something constructive and informative happens that we think up and talk about…….at the Coffee Shop!

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