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Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Roger Sustar is a superb pick to the Lakeland Community College board

I’d like to underscore two starkly different ways of conducting the government’s business. Example No. 1 comes from Washington, D.C. Example No. 2 comes from Painesville, Ohio, the seat of government for Lake County.
The subject is cooperation and the ability of the two parties to get along with each other, even when there may be disagreement, because mere stubbornness and unwillingness to get along is ugly, unwholesome and totally unproductive.
Example No. 1, the Washington Way, is easily dismissed, because there is virtually no cooperation between the parties. Zero. Nada. They agree on almost nothing – unless you believe that the time to begin the cocktail hour is a vital issue facing the country. That, I am sure, they do agree on.
Now let me take you to Painesville, where an issue of some importance was resolved the other day even though it involved political disparity.
At issue was the appointment of a trustee to the board of Lakeland Community College, where the term of Ray McGuinness had expired.
Ray, who didn’t seek reappointment, was a fine and dependable trustee for many years. He was also a lifelong Democrat. The county commissioners, Dan Troy, Bob Aufuldish and Judy Moran are all Democrats.
Naturally, they would appoint a Democrat to replace Ray. There is no shortage of qualified Democrats for the position. So let’s find one, right?
But there was also a candidate who was so highly qualified that his appointment virtually cried out for consideration.
His name is Roger Sustar, and he is the CEO of Fredon Corp. in Mentor. Fredon is part and parcel of the kind of cooperation that should exist between the college and a local business.
Fredon hires exactly the kind of students who graduate from Lakeland with two-year degrees. Roger knows precisely what a technical education is all about.
Matter of fact, Roger was a Lakeland trustee several years ago, but was not reappointed when his term was up. Blame that on a previous board of commissioners.
This time the commissioners took a closer look at Roger, and especially his credentials. They found a man who, along with his wife and two children, are pillars of the community (his daughter, Alyson, is president of Fredon). Roger spends most of his waking hours thinking about manufacturing on a local as well as a global basis.
I know. I get his emails. A day does not pass that he doesn’t have something to say about manufacturing in America. He is, in a word, a promoter – a relentless promoter.
He is exactly the kind of promoter of the American Dream that can make a vital and important contribution to the college. His appointment to the board was a slam dunk, if you care to suffer yet another sports analogy that is somewhat tired from overuse.
He has been accorded a multitude of honors for his community involvement, including Distinguished Citizen awards in both Mentor and Willoughby.
If you look him up on the internet, you will find more honors and accolades than most good citizens are accorded in a dozen lifetimes.
But Roger is a Republican, and the three appointing commissioners are all Democrats. How could he possibly even be considered, let alone chosen?
But in the immortal words of the late Edward Kennedy Ellington, things ain’t what they used to be. I can remember a time when the commissioners made some abominable appointments purely on the basis of political affiliation and because of fund-raising efforts by those who sought the non-paying office.
There was a time when a good friend of mine was named to the board simply because he supplied so many baseball tickets to a commissioner.
When he was not reappointed, he called me and said, “Jim, that’s nothing but politics.” I said to him, (I won’t mention his name because he is the only trustee who had that first name), “That is exactly how you got appointed in the first place.”
I won’t say that political party affiliation will never be a consideration again when appointments are made, but in this instance I would like to thank Dan Troy for the leadership he showed and Bob Aufuldish and Judy Moran for their willingness to set politics aside and join together in making a superb appointment to the Lakeland board.
I once wrote that Dan (along with Bill Stanton and Jack Platz) were the three best county commissioners of all time.
That is still true. And Bob and Judy took a large step forward on my personal Hall of Fame list for recognizing that there are considerations for appointment that outrank political affiliation.
For choosing Roger Sustar, all three commissioners get gold stars in my book.
My book may not be the most important one in the world, but it’s all mine, so I am the only one who says what goes into it.

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