RAVENNA -- People have been asking if she enjoys being back. She does. Though, it's not for the title, the responsibility or long hours. It's because she believes she can make a difference.
Sabrina Christian-Bennett, a Republican, ran for Portage County commissioner last year because she had a bit of experience with the job, having taken over when Tommie Jo Brode (Marsilio) resigned in 2014.
"I never get involved with things for the recognition or to put my name on the letterhead. I get involved because I want to be there and have an impact on the community," Christian-Bennett said. "I ran this time knowing the limitations of the office. I had a more realistic view of how much I could get done."
She now sits on the board between her counterparts, Maureen Frederick and Vicki Kline. During her campaign, she ran on two promises: Addressing the heroin epidemic and promoting the county more.
"I want this county to be more proactive. We tend to be reactive to things, and that's not necessarily the best policy to have," she said. Instead of waiting for something to happen or for funding to come to the county, Christian-Bennett said she thinks the county should be reaching out to the state and even federal government for resources.
"Most people don't realize how much heroin affects almost every level of the county administration, the people of the county and mostly the children involved," she said. When faced with children being placed in the foster care system because their parents are addicts, she said it's heartbreaking.
As for promoting the county, Christian-Bennett recently applied for and was appointed to the Jobs, Economic Development and Infrastructure Committee of the County Commissioners Association of Ohio.
She will be exposed to infrastructure, workforce development, solid waste and energy, land use regulations, building permits and transportation pro-jects across Ohio, bringing that knowledge back to the county.
Having graduated from Kent State University with a business degree and worked in banking industry, Christian-Bennett said she brings an outside perspective to the board.
"There's a difference between someone who comes up through the ranks in politics -- I'm involved with the [county] party, though not as involved as other have been -- and someone like me from the private sector. It's a different mindset and skillset," she said. "I've always been progressive in my career paths."
She left banking for real estate, founding Bennett Land Title, which she owns. At 23, she bought her first rental property in Akron. She still owns it.
Being involved with real estate meant dealing with multiple areas of the market, from lawyers and agents to homeowners and renters. From those relationships, she began getting involved with area chambers of commerce and boards.
"Knowledge is power; collaboration is power. I believe that. And I plan to do my best to get things done," she said. "They say it's lonely at the top and that's especially true here. But I'm responsible for everyone under me, and everything that comes across our desks as commissioners."
She said that with more than 300 people on the county payroll, being fiscally responsible is one aspect. But the larger role comes with relying on the top directors to manage the staff members under them so the board of commissioners doesn't have to.
What she specializes in is bridging the gap between people, bringing together different aspects of a project in order to best serve the community in its outcome.
Christian-Bennett has taken on some of the mantras of her fellow commissioners, including "The buck stops here" from Frederick, and "On any given day I can make five people happy and another 20 hate me, but it's the job," from Kline.
"Every decision we make, we have to think about who it will impact. I'm very analytical. I think the best commissioner is an informed one, not one who makes a rash decision based on what they've heard about something," she said.
"People always tell me 'You could be making more money doing titles and real estate.' But for me, it's not about the money. I want to help the community directly and I just can't do that in the private sector.
"I no longer work for the Republican Party. I work for everyone in this county. And I have great opes for this board and this year."
Phone: 330-541-9400 ext. 4156