Brad Cromes, Portage County’s treasurer since 2015, has resigned his post, with one contingency.
In his Sept. 19 resignation letter, Cromes said he is joining Cuyahoga County Executive Chris Ronayne’s staff as his nominee for county treasurer. That post has been filled by an appointee since the office became vacant in April, Cromes said.
He stated that he is working with Portage County leaders to ensure that the process of selecting a new treasurer moves forward smoothly.
In an interview with The Portager, Cromes said his desire for a new challenge prompted him to run, as it turned out unsuccessfully, for county auditor in the November 2022 election.
“For me, it was an opportunity to do good work in a community that has interesting challenges. That’s always been the call for me in public service, is ‘Where can I do the most good?’ So when I learned the opportunity was there, I felt it was worth exploring,” he said.
Cromes was first appointed in 2015 to fill the treasurer’s post previously held by Vicki Kline, who won a seat as county commissioner. He was then elected in 2016 and has continued to run successfully ever since.
“This is not a decision I arrived at easily, but I believe ultimately it is the right one for this community, for my family, and for me,” he stated in his letter.
Cromes clarified reports published in the Plain Dealer and Record-Courier that indicated the Cuyahoga County executive initially reached out to him. Cromes said he saw the job posted on the county’s employment site in the spring, decided to apply, and responded to a request to be interviewed a couple weeks ago.
Pending confirmation by the Cuyahoga County Council, Cromes’ resignation is effective as of Nov. 1. Should the council choose not to confirm Cromes, he will remain as Portage County’s treasurer until his term expires on Dec. 31, 2024.
“I don’t anticipate that will be an issue. I don’t think they have had anybody who hasn’t been confirmed after an appointment, at least to the best of my knowledge. Should something go wrong, I would remain in office and keep doing the good work we’re doing,” he said.
Ohio law states that because Cromes was elected as a partisan candidate, the county central committee of the political party that nominated him must appoint his successor between five and 45 days after his resignation becomes effective. County commissioners may appoint an acting treasurer to serve until such time that the nominee qualifies and takes office.
Cromes was elected as a Democrat, so assuming that Cuyahoga Council confirms Cromes, he would notify Portage County Democratic Party Chairperson Denise Smith of his Nov. 1 resignation date in writing. After advertising for people interested in serving as the appointee, Democratic Party party officials would vet the applicants and choose a person to fill the remainder of the term, Smith said.
Anyone would be welcome to apply, but Smith said preference would be given to applicants who identify themselves as Democrats.
“I couldn’t see myself voting for anyone who wasn’t a Democrat,” she said.
The county Democratic Party remains viable despite losing Cromes, one of few elected Democratic county officials, Smith said.
“He understood the role of being a public servant, and putting that first and not himself first like so many others do,” Smith said. “There are many young people who will step up and people with credentials that will step up take his place, that will seek the roles, whether it’s as county treasurer or any other elected office.”
Candidates seeking a spot on the November 2024 general election ballot must make it past the March 2024 primary, Smith said. The deadline for candidacy in that election is Dec. 20, 2023.
Reflecting on his years as treasurer, Cromes said he is proud of “the work we’ve done to modernize the office and make it more convenient for taxpayers to interact with us by offering new and more payment streams, and also of the focus we’ve had here on financial literacy and financial wellness.”
“I think we’ve done a lot to build the conversation and then a movement around those things in Portage County and I’m hopeful that will be what continues, and the legacy of my tenure here,” he said.
As with any job, Cromes said dealing with the disparate ideas colleagues have can be complicated.
“We all bring different perspectives as to what the best way forward is, and navigating those personalities can be a challenge at times, but we are all in this work to do service and build a brighter future for the community we share,” Cromes said. “Keeping that focus is important, and is what’s helped me through those challenging times.”