Class of 2020 Endorsed Candidate: Niki Frenchko
Niki Frenchko, an eight-year Army Reserve Veteran and a single mother of four, is running for office with the goal of improving the culture of her local government and being an advocate for women in Trumbull County. Niki is committed to improving the financial health of her county. If elected, Niki will ensure that county employees and department heads will represent the demographics of Trumbull County and that there is equal representation of women laborers and skilled trades for government-contracted work.
In 2021, Niki Frenchko will serve as a Trumbull County Commissioner.
Meet The Candidate
1) In your interview with the Endorsement Committee, you shared a personal life experience that led you to the decision to run for office. Can you tell our members a little bit about your journey to filing as a candidate?
Being a single mother of four children (three daughters) I survived many adversities: poverty, domestic violence, and other personal & professional struggles. I was determined to give my children a better life and worked tirelessly to improve my situation. I was an Army Reservist, I obtained my Bachelors of Social Work Degree & License, my Masters of Public Administration Degree, I wanted to make a difference in my family, my community, and the world. More than anything, I wanted to set a good example for my daughters, and show them that their past does not have to dictate their future. That women are “overcomers.”
More specifically to public service, I served on a Sr. Levy council, where I saw misappropriation of funds, violation of Ohio Levy Law & dishonesty on a Federal Grant Application. I was asked to go along with schemes to help make good ole boy contractors millions and promptly stood up for the public, senior citizens, and the taxpayers. I learned that this was just the tip of the iceberg and that my background in Public Administration was needed to straighten my county out. The individual who asked me to go along with the inappropriate plans is my current opponent— an elected official since 1983. I possess the knowledge, education, and skill set to conduct county business better, so decided to win this election, and continue fighting systemic corruption in the Mahoning Valley.
2) Many of you cited a specific person whose strength was an inspiration to you. Can you tell me about a woman who has had a big influence on your life and inspired you to become a leader? What lessons did she teach you?
I did not cite a specific person whose strength inspired me. Education was not important to people in my immediate family, but I made it important to me. I was neither encouraged, nor nurtured— nor did I realize my full potential until later in life. Simply put, I just knew I wanted more for my life, so I did it.
3) Some of you are military veterans, some small business owners, some professionals, some mothers and grandmothers, some homemakers. How did one of these experiences shape who you are as a person and a leader?
Being a veteran is where I learned my leadership skills; I discovered my voice and strength. Running my small business, which is a male-dominated field, was also an opportunity to interface with the community, and demonstrate my prowess in the field, in which I was also praised by paying greater attention to detail, and had better problem-solving skills than my male counterparts. I grew in confidence relative to my abilities to lead and service clients with more attentiveness. As women and mothers, many who have, like me, struggled financially at times, we approach situations differently, we problem solve and think outside of the box; at times we have had to make something out of nothing, and find creative ways to finance “life,” delay gratification, and make do with effective, yet less costly alternatives (in business & in our personal lives). I believe all of these things shaped my leadership abilities.
4) The Matriots PAC has a bold goal to see 50% of all elected offices in Ohio held by women by 2028. What is your vision for Ohio in 2028?
I would like to see us exceed that number in the state of Ohio. I have been sharing Matriots statistics in speeches, and my vision is to win, represent and lead well, and groom other women for office, and teach them to run effective, winning grassroots campaigns like mine. We will be better organized as the years go on, and more and more Matriots hold office. I would also like to see more women in executive positions. In Trumbull County, of our nine countywide elected offices, the only one held by a woman is the Clerk of Courts. I have been encouraging women to participate in local government meetings, and apply for boards & county councils, as well.
5) Tip O’Neill famously said that “all politics is local.” What are the top-two issues your community faces today?
The culture of our county government- We must change the culture and image of the county government with ethical, transparent, and accountable leadership. People will be hired based on what they know, and their qualifications, rather than who they know, and which elected official they are connected to. We will implement an anti-nepotism policy, citizen oversight for hiring, and develop a rubric to appropriately rank applicants, and only interview the top tier. Women will be respected in MY Commissioners office, they will no longer be publicly called “the girls” and demanded to go to meetings as a proxy for my opponent, they will not be yelled at, or made work outside of their job descriptions to protect the image of elected officials who lack work ethic. Employees countywide will be respected, and no longer in fear of complaining. We will evaluate department heads annually, with subordinate feedback, and they will retain jobs with proof of good performance. The department heads have been a sore spot within the county. They are placed to carry out agendas, and often lack qualifications to manage. This will all be changed under my plan.
Lack of economic opportunity- We must create job opportunities with proactive and collaborative approaches to economic development. We will no longer have a “pay to play’ system, and the level of professionalism in the county will attract business. We will actively work with site selection firms, and diversify our economic base. We have agricultural land that would benefit if we had more service industries fro them, and industrial land that needs to be redeveloped. We also have a ready, willing, and able workforce. I have been working for three years to bring about fixed-route transportation, and to ensure stops at our trade school and Kent branch, and we will encourage education and tout our transit system. My plan includes using statutory economic development tools to attract industry and fund infrastructure improvements, such as Tax Increment Financing, Joint Economic Development Districts, and Cooperative Economic Development Areas. I will use my experience in marketing, networking, and development to bring about more jobs for our residents.
6) Now for fun: Tell us something personal about yourself. It can be a hobby, your favorite food, a funny pet story, something we might not know about you that you would like to share with our members.
I love Latin dancing, and have traveled and danced Salsa, Bachata, and Merengue all over, including Cleveland, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Washington DC, Dominican Republic & Puerto Rico (where my roots are). I love social dancing, dancing in general, and believe that it lifts your spirit, elevates your vibrations, is a healthy exercise, and releases hormones that overall increase your sense of well being. Couples dancing also reversed dementia, and I would like to integrate more dancing into our local Arts community. My children and I have also rescued fifteen cats, we have vetted them, and rehomed most of them, but still, have five in our family. We have a soft spot for furry friends and believe that cats are people, too.