By Peter H. Milliken
Mahoning County Commissioner David N. Ludt said improvements to the county’s water supply, sanitary sewer and bridge infrastructure are the accomplishments he is most proud of during his 12 years as a county commissioner.
Ludt, of Poland, who will be retiring from his county post today, will be succeeded by Carol Rimedio-Righetti, of Youngstown, who has just resigned as 4th Ward city councilwoman.
“If you look and see the construction and the infrastructure of Mahoning County in the last 12 years, I’m very proud of what I’ve done. I’m very proud of the people I’ve worked with,” Ludt said.
Among the sanitary-sewer projects were those at Diehl Lake and Damascus. Lake Milton and Petersburg got water-supply and sanitary-sewer installations.
“The development you see going on out there would never have happened unless water and sewer were run out there,” Ludt said of Lake Milton.
All 14 of the county’s townships benefited during his time in office, Ludt said, noting that Lake Milton got a new fire station, and Jackson and Green townships got new administration buildings.
The Center Street, state Route 616, Jacobs Road and Fallen Firefighters Memorial bridges were refurbished or replaced, Ludt observed.
New buildings were built in downtown Youngstown to house the county’s Children Services Board and the 7th District Court of Appeals, he noted.
Ludt said he believes he “absolutely” got more accomplished by quietly solving problems behind the scenes, rather than making lots of public statements.
“People get up, and they like to talk before the camera, and they tell you what they’re going to do. I think action speaks louder than words,” Ludt observed. “People saw what I had done, and I really think that that’s the key to being in government — being a public servant, not a show-off,” he added.
Ludt said he benefited from knowing many of the county workers, “knowing who to go to and knowing how to get things done.”
Known for his plain- spoken, common-sense approach to county government, Ludt added: “I talk to you straightforwardly. I tell you the truth.”
Ludt’s campaigns for public office were based primarily on in-person appearances, rather than on advertising.
“We did a little bit of advertising, but not a great deal. I feel that personal contact, one-on-one, or with small groups of people, is more effective, especially in a community like Mahoning County. This is a small community,” he said.
Ludt said his Democratic primary loss to Rimedio-Righetti stemmed from his being opposed by those who didn’t like the county’s purchase of Oakhill Renaissance Place and from the Democratic Party’s endorsement of Rimedio-Righetti in her campaign against him.
Calling Oakhill a benefit to the city and a “one-stop shop” for services from county and other agencies, Ludt said he has no regrets about the county’s 2006 purchase of Oakhill, which is the former Forum Health Southside Medical Center.
Ludt said his darkest hours as a commissioner were the times he had to lay off county employees during the on-again, off-again sales-tax period several years ago and as a result of the economic recession that began in 2008.
Despite his defeat, Ludt expressed no bitterness toward Rimedio-Righetti. “I hope that Carol does a great job. If she does as well as I did, I’ll be happy for her, and I hope she does better than I did,” Ludt said.
“He was very dedicated to the job,” Anthony T. Traficanti, chairman of the county commissioners, said of Ludt. “Dave was a stickler about returning every phone call that he would receive from constituents.”
“He was actually my mentor when I came into office,” in January 2005, amid a financial crisis brought on by a sales-tax failure at the polls, Traficanti said. “He schooled me on things that dealt with the history of the county.”
“He made us feel welcome. He had things organized for us,” Traficanti said of the time in January 2005 when he and Commissioner John A. McNally IV took office.
Ludt “served with distinction. I think one of his strong points was he followed up on the details,” said George J. Tablack, county administrator and budget director. “Regularly, he would take citizen phone calls. Dave has the habit of following up until it’s done,” concerning resolution of any problem, Tablack added.
“I think he brought his business experience to the job every day,” Tablack said. “Dave struck me as an astute businessman.”
Although he won’t have any vote in the matter next year, Ludt urged the commissioners to retain Tablack because of his knowledge of county finances and of the bond market and his accurate financial forecasts.
After he leaves office, Ludt said the first thing he’ll do is take a vacation at his Daytona Beach, Fla., condominium.
Then he’ll re-connect with family and friends and address issues that he has long neglected during his political career that included 20 years as a Poland Township trustee before he became a county commissioner.
Having sold his towing business 12 years ago, Ludt said he’d probably retain his condominium and commercial properties and might open a used-car dealership.
Asked whether he’d consider another run for political office, Ludt said: “I’m 71. I think it’s my time to stay out of politics. I think I’ve turned the page.”
Some major events in David N. Ludt’s pursuit of a Mahoning County commissioner’s seat and his 12 years of service as a commissioner:
Ranks in fourth place in the five-candidate May 1984 Democratic primary won by Leonard Yurcho, who goes on to win that November’s election for commissioner.
Wins an upset victory over incumbent Commissioner Edward Reese by just 354 votes in the May 1998 Democratic primary and defeats Republican Patrick R. Strange by more than a 2-1 margin that November.
Begins his first of three terms as a Mahoning County commissioner in January 1999.
Defeats Democratic primary challengers Joseph Naples and M. Mike McNair in May 2002 and easily wins re-election that November.
Asks reluctant county common pleas court judges in October 2004 to use nearly $250,000 worth of video-arraignment equipment the county bought.
Is joined by newly elected county Commissioners Anthony T. Traficanti and John A. McNally IV in January 2005 in the midst of a financial crisis brought on by on-again, off-again sales taxes.
Decisively defeats former Youngstown Mayor George McKelvey in the May 2006 Democratic primary and joins Commissioner Anthony T. Traficanti in the decision to buy Oakhill Renaissance Place before overwhelmingly winning a third term in November 2006.
Loses the May 2010 Democratic primary to Carol Rimedio-Righetti after she receives the local Democratic Party endorsement, but the half-percent county sales tax he campaigned for is renewed for five years.
Source: Vindicator files