With U.S. Sen. George V. Voinovich's decision not to seek a third term in 2010, the region loses one of its most experienced political leaders.
The Cleveland Republican began his career in the 1960s an assistant attorney general, before becoming a state representative later in the decade.
Voinovich eventually served as a county auditor, lieutenant governor and then became Cleveland’s mayor defeating incumbent Dennis Kucinich.
In 1990, he became Ohio governor serving two terms before he was term-limited and sought election to the U.S. Senate, where he has served since 1998.
It will be interesting to see who ultimately succeeds Voinovich in the U.S. Senate.
But politics aside, it’s the man himself that many people grew to love and respect.
Lake County GOP chairman Dale Fellows said that Voinovich has always had a fondness for Lake County, which in a way, helped to launch the senator’s career.
Fellows cited several early Lake County ties to the senator.
“One of his first campaign volunteers was Joe Fakult of Willowick, one of the Lake County Republican Party’s great champions, who held a meeting at his home to help start George’s political career,” Fellows said. “Former Lake County GOP Chairman Elden Spencer was one of the Senator’s favorite county chairs when he was Governor.”
Voinovich and his wife Janet were frequent attendee’s of the annual Lincoln Day Dinner and he was the keynote speaker several times over the years, the county GOP chairman said.
Fellows said Voinovich was also instrumental in his political career and he looks forward to his and Janet Voinovich’s continued counsel and support for many years.
“I will always be grateful for his personal counsel to me over the years starting with my time in the Young Republicans (an organization that he and Janet felt very strongly about as that was where they met), my tenure as an elected official and my current role as Lake County Republican Party Chairman,” Fellows said.
Voinovich also loves to visit the county to take advantage of recreational opportunities.
The News-Herald’s Outdoors Writer Jeffrey L. Frischkorn has had the luxury of casting a few fishing lines with the senator
and former governor.
“One thing that won’t change with Voinovich’s retirement is an open invitation by me for the senator to go fishing,” Frischkorn said. “I’ve had the distinct pleasure of ‘guiding’ him for steelhead in the Grand River watershed and also for largemouth bass and panfish in farm ponds.
“While not the most knowledgeable bass/bluegill angler when using spin-fishing gear, Voinovich knows his way around a fly rod and needs minimum instruction to cast for stream trout. I’ve always enjoy our fishing outings and look forward to more of them.”
Jim Collins, The News-Herald’s Editor Emeritus, recalled a time when he interviewed Voinovich during an hour-long gubernatorial campaign interview at Lakeland Community College in Kirtland.
“The governor was doodling and scribbling pictures on a piece of paper and a few words on there to remind him of things to say,” Collins said. “After it was over there was a paper sitting there and I picked it up and took it home. I thought some day I’d auction this off as Voinovich’s doodling from when he was running for his second term as governor.
“I still have it because I don’t throw things away," Collins added. “I thought I’d put it under glass and take it to a fundraiser to see what it would get. That's one of my items of memorabilia of a great governor and a great senator and super great mayor."
— John Arthur Hutchison