After the deaths of public servants, Aurora and Garrettsville install interim office holders

Photo of the front of aurora's town hall building with bright purple flowers around the sign in the front lawn.
Lyndsey Brennan/The Portager

Updated Feb. 22 to include two other recent deaths in Hiram and Randolph

When a loved one dies, family and friends are left with an irreplaceable loss, an empty chair at the kitchen table. When the deceased is also a public servant, the absence ripples through the entire community.

That’s the situation in four Portage County communities — Aurora, Garrettsville, Hiram and Randolph — that are now tasked to fill three sudden vacancies after two council members and a school board president died in January.

In Aurora, Ward 5 City Council Member Kathi Grandillo lost her battle with cancer on Jan. 18. And Aurora Board of Education President Gerald Kohansky died Jan. 24. In Garrettsville, Village Council Member Tom Collins died on Jan. 26 from Covid. 

In December, Hiram Township lost Fiscal Officer Diane Rodhe, and Randolph mourned the passing of Trustee Roger Klodt, who also served on the fire department.

Aurora City Council

Meeting in special session Wednesday, Aurora City Council appointed Sarah Gilmor to fill the seat previously occupied by Grandillo, 61, who was first appointed to council in December 2012 and was re-elected in 2013 and 2017.

In her application letter for the city council post, Gilmor lauded Grandillo as “an incredible councilwoman, mentor and friend.”

Gilmor, an Aurora resident for 34 years, said Aurora’s challenge is to balance the city’s current growth with conservation of what it was in past years: “a sleepy little town where everybody knew one another.”

No stranger to community service, Gilmor will have to step down from her six-year seat as citizen representative on the city’s Planning Commission, leaving Mayor Ann Womer Benjamin to fill that seat.

She has also served as a Discover the Palm Beaches Client Advisory Board member for six years and as a Family Advisory Board member for Cleveland Clinic’s Hillcrest Hospital since 2012.

She is employed as manager of registration, housing and sourcing for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

Gilmor said she looks forward to meeting with more Ward 5 residents, to encourage positive working relationships with the ward’s homeowners associations, to communicate city and ward updates, and to maintain an open-door policy.

Council also interviewed Aurora resident Brad Rosselot for the post. Two additional candidates, Dr. Daisy Alfred-Smith and Edward Basta, withdrew their names from consideration.

Aurora school board

Also in Aurora, the city’s board of education recently named Michael Acomb as its newest member. Former Vice President Pam Mehallis was appointed president, filling Kohanski’s seat.

Acomb is a veteran of the Solon City School District, where he is Director of Business and Personnel. He previously served as an elementary and middle school principal for Solon schools for almost 15 years and as a middle school assistant principal for Solon for just over two years.

No stranger to Aurora’s educational leadership, Acomb was first appointed to the board of education in January 2020 to fill a seat vacated after Zena Elliott’s resignation. He served for two years before losing his bid for a four-year term in 2021. Acomb will now serve for two more years, the remainder of Kohanski’s term.

Acomb said he is “dedicated to the long-term success” of the Aurora system.”

“I want to offer my knowledge, experience and success as an educational leader as the district works to navigate future growth while maintaining excellence in educating our children,” he said.

Garrettsville Village Council

Garrettsviille is considering candidates to fill Collins’ position. Mayor Rick Patrick said he has selected a prospective candidate for council’s consideration in March, but he declined to identify the person.

Randolph Township

Randolph Township lost a long-time leader when Klodt, 68, died Dec. 11. Klodt was first elected as a trustee in 2006 and was also a member of the Randolph Fire Department.

Klodt had health problems for years and had spoken with Trustee Sue White about his wishes in the event he became unable to serve. On Dec. 16, she and Trustee John Lampe appointed Randolph firefighter Nick Reynolds — whom Klodt had recommended as his successor — to fill the vacant post.

“Roger always wanted someone from the fire department to take his place,” White said.

Klodt’s term was to end Dec. 31, 2021, but as he had been elected for another term that would have ended Dec. 31, 2026, Reynolds was appointed to two years of that term as well. The November 2023 general election will include candidates for the remaining two years. Reynolds says he is considering a run.

Hiram Township

Hiram Township lost Rodhe, 62, on Dec. 8. Later that month, township trustees appointed Shalersville Township Fiscal Officer Jill Corbett to temporarily fill Rodhe’s post.

They appointed Eric Hankinson, a software developer, to take the position in January.

Rodhe first served Hiram Township as fiscal officer when she was appointed in 2011. She lost her November 2011 bid for election to that position, to Stanley Carlisle, but was reappointed when he resigned in 2014. She has served continuously since then, Trustee Jack Groselle said.

Corbett’s willingness to help continues.

Rodhe and Corbett “were friends, and Jill’s been helping Eric out as well,” Trustee Jack Groselle said.

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Wendy DiAlesandro is a former Record Publishing Co. reporter and contributing writer for The Portager.