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Athens County Treasurer Ric Wasserman speaks to fellow Democratic Party supporters at the The Pigskin Bar and Grille on Tuesday, November 5, 2019.

Incumbent county treasurer being challenged from within his own party

Ric Wasserman, the incumbent Athens County treasurer, is being challenged for his seat by another Democrat, Athens City Councilman Peter Kotses, D-At Large.

Back in April 2018, former treasurer Bill Bias announced his retirement and resignation from the position about halfway through his four-year term. This caused the Athens County Democratic Party’s Central Committee to hold a vote to see who would succeed him. The candidates at the time were Wasserman and Kotses.

During this vote, it came down to a 12-12 stalemate. The two drew cards as a tiebreaker. Wasserman drew a king, and Kotses drew a 4, making Wasserman the next treasurer.

Wasserman went on to participate in a special election against Republican Gary Van Meter, who was then defeated 62% to 38%, a margin of 5,000 votes.

Wasserman took office soon after he won against Van Meter in 2018, performing duties outlined in the Ohio Revised Code as well as some new duties not yet implemented into the Athens County position.

Kotses said he is running because he thinks he can do a better job, and he would like to hold Wasserman accountable for the job he is doing.

“Do you wait for power to be relinquished, or do you continue to make a challenge?” Kotses said. “If I hadn’t collected my signatures and put my name on the ballot, I’d be waiting four more years.”

Kotses said he believes people deserve a choice and that it is unfortunate so many races run uncontested.

Currently, there are no Republican or Independent challengers for the Athens County treasurer race.

When he took office, Wasserman focused on the land bank, a tool used to address blighted and abandoned properties that incur taxes and lower nearby property values, which was not used by the previous treasurer.

Both Kotses and Wasserman said utilizing the land bank would be a main priority for their time in office. So far since 2018, Wasserman has been able to begin the implementation of the land bank.

“All the work done on the land bank so far has been me and my partner Chris Chmiel, the county commissioner,” Wassserman said. “We have a five-person board, but we’re the actual worker bees who do all the stuff.”

Kotses said he wants to expand the responsibilities of the county treasurer, especially with the land bank, to work more with other county agencies such as the Athens City-County Health Department.

“Really, when it comes down to it, it's figuring out what leadership style you want in your (elected officials) and who you want to support, which way you want the process to get done in a better, more impactful manner,” Kotses said.

Wasserman’s knew over a year ago that Kotses was going to challenge him but hopes voters recognize what he views as a job well done.

“I don’t feel like I have any right not to be challenged. I feel like I have a really good base of experience to run on. I feel like I have a lot to say on this position, and I’m happy to go out there and make my case,” Wasserman said.

Not all Democrats are excited about Kotses’ challenge. John Haseley, the chairman of the Athens County Democratic Party, said he was “disappointed” in the city councilman’s decision.

“Peter is obviously a talented public servant,” Haseley said. “I encouraged him to run for a different office and not challenge an incumbent in the primary.”

Haseley said he believes both Kotses and Wasserman do a good job in their respective positions and that he is not alone in this view.

“I think that most Democrats like Peter Kotses and like Ric Wasserman and wish that there wasn’t a race between the two of them right now,” Haseley said.

The Democratic Primary on March 17 will decide who goes on to become the Democratic nominee for the November general election.

Kotses said voters will have opportunities to hear from him and Wasserman in the coming months with forums organized by the League of Women Voters in communities around the county.


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