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Hamilton County Has Its First All-Female, Majority African American County Commission

2020 hamilton county commissioners
Howard Wilkinson, Tana Weingartner
/
WVXU
Hamilton County commissioners, from left, Victoria Parks, Denise Driehaus and Stephanie Summerow Dumas.

Former county commissioner Todd Portune got what he wanted from the Hamilton County Democratic Party's central committee Saturday morning – the appointment of his former chief of staff, Victoria Parks, to serve out the remainder of his term.

Parks' appointment, which runs through the end of 2020, marks the first time in the history of Hamilton County that all three county commissioners are women. It also is the first time the majority of the commission is African American. Parks joins fellow Democrats Denise Driehaus and Stephanie Dumas on commission.

By appointing Parks to the remainder of Portune's term, the party basically told the two leading Democratic candidates on the March 17 ballot, former state representatives Alicia Reece and Connie Pillich, that they do not expect Parks to resign after the primary so that the winner could run this fall as an incumbent county commissioner.

Hamilton County Democratic Party chair Gwen McFarlin ran a tight ship at the meeting Saturday in the Laborers Union Hall in Evanston.

There was very little discussion of the nomination of Parks and the voice of the more than 100 Democratic precinct executives was unanimous.

Moments after the vote, Common Pleas Court Judge Thomas Beridon came up to the podium and administered the oath of office to Parks.

She thanked the committee and her former boss, Portune, who resigned from the commission after more than 20 years in office because of his battle with cancer.

"Todd is my hero,'' Parks told the precinct executives in a short acceptance speech. "I will continue to build bridges. Most of all I will look for the humanity in each person I encounter."

Parks said she will continue the work of Portune on the county commission, saying, in effect, that Portune's agenda will be her agenda.

Parks can not be a candidate for a four-year term in the November election, because the deadline for candidates passed last month.

After the meeting, both Reece and Pillich said they now expect Parks to continue serving through the rest of this year.

"She can step down anytime she wants; it's up to Victoria,'' said Pillich, who has Portune's endorsement to become his permanent replacement. "But I think it is likely that Victoria will be the commissioner for the rest of the year."

Parks told WVXU she has not had any discussions with the party or other candidates about stepping aside after the primary and is assuming her appointment will be for the rest of Portune's term.

Asked if she would discuss stepping aside after the primary to give the winner the advantage of incumbency, Parks said "I can't answer that."

 

Howard Wilkinson joined the WVXU News Team after 30 years of covering local and state politics for The Cincinnati Enquirer. A native of Dayton, Ohio, Wilkinson has covered every Ohio governor’s race since 1974 as well as 12 presidential nominating conventions. His streak continued by covering both the 2012 Republican and Democratic conventions for 91.7 WVXU. Along with politics, Wilkinson also covered the 2001 Cincinnati race riots; the Lucasville Prison riot in 1993; the Air Canada plane crash at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport in 1983; and the 1997 Ohio River flooding. The Cincinnati Reds are his passion. "I've been listening to WVXU and public radio for many years, and I couldn't be more pleased at the opportunity to be part of it,” he says.