(Columbus, Ohio - Wednesday, August 12, 2009 8:42 PM) - Local Republicans chose a young lawyer and Gulf War veteran as the new Franklin County auditor tonight, saying he represents a new generation of party leadership.
Clarence Mingo, 37, competed in 2008 against Democrat Maryellen O'Shaughnessy for Franklin County Clerk of Court. He lost, but his party took notice of what Mingo said is a sincere desire to serve.
"For some, these offices are political prizes. For me, it is nothing but a privilege," he said. His wife, Angela, and parents watched as he was selected by unanimous vote for the appointment.
Mingo promised "dignified conduct You will have the absolute best I have to offer."
Longtime Auditor Joe Testa, who retired July 31, had endorsed Mingo after meeting with a handful of other candidates to succeed him. The county GOP got to name his successor because Testa is a Republican.
"I would be proud to hand over the keys to the Franklin County auditor's office to him," Testa wrote his fellow party members.
Testa said Mingo is both competent and electable.
Mingo said he plans no major shakeups and that the office is well-run. But he hopes to forge closer relationships with auditors in surrounding counties and to use new technology to streamline the appraisal process.
Mingo will have to defend the office in the 2010 election. William A. Anthony Jr., chairman of the Franklin County Democratic Party, said it intends to put up a strong candidate and retake the office.
"The only problem with Mingo is that he's a Republican," Anthony said.
The auditor's office sets valuations that determine property taxes, issues dog licenses and serves as a watchdog to check scales and meters in groceries and gasoline stations.
Mingo, who recovered from a near paralyzing illness caused by Gulf War Syndrome, served in the Army in Iraq and Kuwait in 1991. A father of two young daughters, he becomes the first black person to hold the auditor's office.