ELYRIA — When he ran for election in 2010, Lorain County Commissioner Tom Williams promised he wouldn’t spend county money to put his name on county buildings, but he’s not standing in the way of a group of citizens raising money to put his name up.
The group has collected enough money to get three signs with Williams’ name put up at the Lorain County Dog Kennel and for one side of the sign in front of the county Board of Elections building in Sheffield Township.
“He’s done a great job,” Geri Cahill-Miller, one of the people behind the effort, said. “We just wanted him on the signs.”
County Special Projects Director Karen Davis said the signs at the kennel, which went up in the fall, cost $230, while the sign that will appear at the elections board will cost $275. She said she has not yet placed the order.
Williams said he thinks that’s a lot of money and taxpayers shouldn’t be footing the bill so his name can appear on county signs.
“That is a lot of money when you think about $275 for a small sign to hang out there,” he said. “I thought it was outrageous for taxpayers to pay for it.”
The names of Williams’ fellow commissioners, Ted Kalo and Lori Kokoski, both Democrats, have appeared on the signs for years, while the place where Williams’ name would appear remained blank.
The Board of Elections sign will go up as Williams, a Republican, is seeking re-election. He is unopposed in his party’s May primary but will face a challenge from term-limited state Rep. Matt Lundy, D-Elyria, in the fall.
Williams said he isn’t certain if having his names on a few county buildings will make much of a difference in election-year politics.
“I don’t really know how much people pay attention to those signs,” he said.
Williams said he would prefer if the signs used the generic “Lorain County Board of Commissioners” rather than having individual names so they don’t have to be replaced when people leave office.
He said he never sought out private funding to cover the cost of putting his name up.
“It’s a very nice gesture for the individuals to do it, but my focus isn’t on getting my name on buildings,” Williams said. “If that was the case, I would have followed the status quo and had my name put on all the buildings when I took office in 2011.”
Cahill-Miller also said her group, which is comprised of animal rescue and other nonprofit organizations, doesn’t view their efforts as political.
She said they still need more than $1,000 to get Williams name up on a few other signs in the county, including the other side of the elections board sign as well as signs at the Lorain County Regional Airport and at the county Department of Job and Family Services building.
“As we can pick them off, we’re going to do them,” she said.