After decisive primary victories, Hayes Nelson and Tinlin turn toward independent voters 

Mike Tinlin (left) and Geraldine Hayes Nelson, candidates for Portage County commissioner. Mike Tinlin submitted photo; Michael Indriolo/The Portager

Geraldine Hayes Nelson defeated Timothy Moon in the Democratic primary for Portage County commissioner, and Mike Tinlin overcame Ed Dean to secure the Republican nomination.

Hayes Nelson, the former president of the Portage County NAACP and a longtime Kent State executive, won with 4,839 votes to 2,878 in her first political campaign, according to unofficial results published Tuesday night. Moon is an investigator in the Portage County Prosecutor’s Office.

“I am grateful for everyone that got out and cast their vote,” she said. “Typically you see lower turnout for the primaries unless there’s big ticket things, but people got out and voted. To me that is a great sign because we want people to begin to engage in the democratic process.”

Hayes Nelson said through her time with the NAACP she already has experience with public service and thinks she can step into the commissioner’s office well.

“I think the transferable skills I bring [will be part] of the campaign,” she said. “There are skill sets from my background that I bring to the table, particularly my PhD and overall administration experience working with large groups.”

Hayes Nelson received a doctorate in higher education administration at Kent State and worked at the university for 20 years, rising to senior roles in the human resources department. She said her years of experience working both with the university and other groups have prepared her to deal with the problems of anyone in the community.

“One of the things I have seen [in government] is a lot of division,” Hayes Nelson said. “One of the things about me is I can work with both sides across the aisle. What’s important is getting the work done.”

Hayes Nelson also shared some of the issues she plans to focus on as she moves into the general election, based on conversations with residents and from attending county commissioner’s meetings.

“We are going to be looking at some different key points that I’ll be pushing for,” Hayes Nelson said. “Broadband, allocations of some monies that are going out, giving assistance to some areas across the county. There are going to be some improvements and I think that shows growth.”

Representing the Republican Party in the race for county commissioner will be Tinlin, who received the most votes Tuesday of any candidate in a contested race.

Tinlin, former police chief for the City of Aurora, defeated Dean, a longtime Deerfield Township Trustee, by a total of 7,549 to 4,942.

The Portage County Board of Elections reported less than 25% turnout among voters, but Tinlin was “very pleased” with his numbers.

“I’m feeling good. I’m already doing some strategizing not only for the next election, but for what I will do if I get in there,” Tinlin said.

Tinlin stressed his interest in listening to the people of Portage County, including his opponents, throughout the election process.

“It was good, everybody was very classy,” he said. “I didn’t have any problems with anyone. From the Republican side [or] the Democrat side, they were very nice people to be at functions with and just have engaging conversation. It was fun.”

He said the main thrust of his campaign is a desire and promise to speak with more residents and make sure they are more involved with and informed about the work of the board of county commissioners.

“I’ve talked to hundreds of residents, and I’m staying on my same mission that we’ve got to open up communication [between the] commissioners and the residents,” Tinlin said. “The main problem has been that nobody knows what’s going on. And quite frankly I don’t like it. [Residents are] paying us to do a good job and keep them informed, and I’d like to see that fulfilled.”

Tinlin said he is excited for the next steps of running for office.

“I think everything went well,” he said. “I’m going to give it my all and I just want to serve the residents. That’s all I’ve done all my life is public service.”

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Owen MacMillan is a reporter with the Collaborative News Lab @ Kent State University, producing local news coverage in partnership with The Portager.

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