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Portune, still facing 'biggest fight of his life,' to retire at the end of the year

Posted: 7:17 PM, Oct 31, 2019
Updated: 2019-10-31 22:51:34-04
Todd Portune says he's doing great after surgery to remove cancer

Longtime Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune will retire at the end of 2019, allowing a successor appointed by the Hamilton County Democratic Party to serve out the remainder of his final term as he focuses on his ongoing struggle with cancer.

Reached via phone Thursday night, Portune said he had submitted his resignation to the board of commissioners and would officially leave his position in December. He declined a request for further comment, saying he had nothing else to add.

His imminent departure from a decades-long career in Hamilton County politics had already been announced in September, when he confirmed he would not seek re-election in 2020.

“The fact of the matter is, the chemotherapy has not worked, and my cancer has spread. And so having learned that, I’m now in a spot where I’ve got the biggest fight of my life ahead of me,” he said then.

At the time of his emotional news conference, Portune said he still planned to finish out his fifth term on the board. He did not clarify Thursday why he had chosen to move his retirement date forward.

Portune’s public cancer battle has been nearly as long as his time on the board of commissioners — he was elected in 2000 and diagnosed in 2003. His spinal tumors would rupture later that year, paralyzing his legs, and his left leg would be amputated in 2018.

But he had been a powerful voice in Cincinnati before any of it. Portune won election to Cincinnati City Council in 1993 and won four subsequent re-election bids.

Portune has also variously served as chair of the Hamilton County Transportation Improvement District, president of the County’s Emergency Management Agency’s Executive Committee, and he chaired the Hamilton County Homeland Security Commission. He is past president and county delegate to the OKI Regional Council of Governments Board of Trustees. He has also served as president of the county’s Family and Children First Council and has chaired the county’s Solid Waste Management District Policy Committee for 15 years.

On the day he first announced his retirement, Portune’s colleagues across the city and county lauded him as a tireless leader for the entire Cincinnati region.

“He fought for gay rights before it was popular, against police brutality before it was popular, for harm reduction and addiction help before it was popular, for all minorities and for those who had no voice,” Mayor John Cranley wrote on Twitter. “That’s the legacy his kids will know and I will trumpet. It’s the legacy that has inspired all of us, myself included.”

Speaking at his retirement announcement, Portune thanked Cincinnati for letting him be a part of its political landscape for so long.

“There’s no job that I love more than the job I have now,” he said. “It’s what I am, it’s what I’ve been about.”