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Summit County

Lifelong Peoa resident poised to become next Summit County Auditor

Cindy Keyes.JPG
Courtesy of Cindy Marchant Keyes
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Summit County Democrats at their convention Saturday selected Cindy Marchant Keyes to be the next county auditor. She defeated two-term incumbent Michael Howard.

Cindy Marchant Keyes, a fifth-generation Summit County resident and the health department’s business manager, will almost certainly be the next county auditor after a landslide win at the Democratic convention Saturday.

Shortly after noon Saturday, Cindy Marchant Keyes had done all the campaigning she could do to become the next Summit County Auditor. Now it was time to wait for the vote to come in from Democratic convention-goers.

Keyes was running against two-term incumbent Michael Howard and needed to win more than 60% of the delegate vote to avoid a primary election.

Katy Owens Hubler, chair of the Summit County Democratic Party, called Keyes in the early afternoon to tell her she’d done exactly that.

“Oh my gosh, I mean, I was overjoyed and I was very happy,” Keyes said. “And at the same time, very humbled, because I just had an outpouring of supporters and endorsements.”

No one else has filed to run for the position, so Keyes’ name will be the only one voters can select for auditor on November’s ballot. Barring a successful write-in campaign by another candidate, Keyes will be the next county auditor.

A county auditor is in charge of many aspects of a county’s finances, including signing payroll checks and ensuring that annual audits are performed. In 2019, Summit County changed the auditor’s responsibilities to focus less on accounting and finances and more on auditing county operations. That could mean looking at the building permit application process, for example, and then working to improve it.

The county recently released documents showing that change in responsibilities was done amid a botched payroll system transfer that Howard oversaw as auditor. It cost the county at least tens of thousands of dollars to fix, the documents show.

Howard has defended his record as auditor and said such mistakes are routine in software transitions of that size. He did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

Keyes lives in Peoa and her family has lived in Summit County for five generations. As business manager for the Summit County Health Department, Keyes handles a budget of around $11 million.

Health Director Phil Bondurant said staffers were enthusiastic and supportive when they heard Keyes had won.

“Tough for the health department, but absolutely fantastic for the county,” Bondurant told the Board of Health on Monday.

Summit County Councilor Roger Armstrong, who endorsed Keyes and is on the Board of Health, said the health department should look to hire a replacement soon because Keyes is integral to the department’s operations.

“We will miss her profoundly at the health department. But I can't tell you how grateful I am that she's willing to serve as the Summit County Auditor,” Armstrong said.

Keyes said that once she’s in office, she’ll focus on being present and responsive to requests from citizens and county department heads. She said updating the office’s procedures and ensuring the county is meeting statutory requirements would likely consume most of the first year. But she said many of the auditor’s responsibilities, especially the financial ones, would be natural extensions of her work at the health department, and that she’d be working with many of the same people.

She was confident she’d be able to perform the auditor’s duties, and other local officials apparently shared that confidence. Keyes was endorsed by the majority of the Summit County Council and all of the county’s other elected department heads.

“I'm excited. I mean, I think there's lots to do. But I 100% know I can do it,” she said. “And especially with the support group I still have, if I have any questions or need anything, I've got a community of people to go to, to draw support from.”

The general election is Tuesday, Nov. 8, with newly elected officials taking office at the beginning of 2023.

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