New commissioner will join Hamilton County board

Posted at 11:30 AM, Dec 22, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-22 17:31:12-05

CINCINNATI -- A new face will join the Hamilton County Commission in 2016.

Greg Hartmann, a Republican and the board’s current president, announced that he will step down Monday after serving nearly seven years as a county commissioner.

The move will allow the Hamilton County Republican Party's executive committee to name his successor -- likely to be Colerain Township Trustee Dennis Deters, who's the only Republican running to fill Hartmann's seat.

Hartmann, who stunned the local political sphere late last month when he announced he wouldn’t seek re-election, told WCPO he was motivated to step down from his seat early once he learned Deters would be running for the job.Hartmann has referred to Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters -- Dennis' older brother -- a mentor and friend.

“I couldn’t think of someone better to fill my spot,” Hartmann said of his seat, which comes with a $87,075 yearly paycheck. “I think that he’s exactly what Hamilton County needs.”

This is a big power play for the GOP, which now enjoys a party majority on the three-member county board. The county board is an important elected office for Republicans to maintain control of because it oversees a roughly $1.1 billion budget, as well as vital programming in offices such as the county job and family services agency. 

Under state law, the Hamilton County Republican Party is allowed to pick Hartmann’s replacement. 

If the party picks Deters for the job, that will give him almost a full year in office to gain experience and build name recognition before Election Day. Keeping the Republican majority will not be an easy feat next November as Democrat Denise Driehaus, a well-known statehouse representative, will face off against Deters for the seat.

"Regardless of who I’ll be running against – an elected incumbent, an appointed incumbent or a traditional Republican – I'm going to work passionately to win my fellow Hamilton County residents' vote," Driehaus said in a statement. "There's too much at stake to get distracted by the backroom deal-making on the Republican side." 

GOP Chairman Alex Triantafilou said Tuesday that the party’s executive committee will meet within 45 days of Hartmann’s resignation date to name the new commissioner.

Deters told WCPO in an interview last week he wants to continue fiscal conservative policymaking at the county level. 

“The specter of what could be if the county is controlled by the Democrats … that story is enough for people to want to support me,” Deters said.

Hartmann, a Cincinnati attorney, said in a phone interview Tuesday that he is looking forward to spending time in the private sector.

It’s been a volatile week for county leadership, with Hartmann’s announcement and news that County Administrator Christian Sigman is interviewing for a job in Virginia Beach.