MANSFIELD -- Cliff Mears was so interested in becoming the next Richland County commissioner that he gave up his weekly Wednesday tennis night.
All kidding aside, the Mansfield City Council president -- and a well-known avid tennis player -- has demonstrated his interest in the position for almost a year.
Mears -- the overwhelming choice Wednesday by Richland County Republican Party Central Committee members to replace new state Rep. Marilyn John -- attended bi-weekly county commissioner meetings throughout 2020 after John announced her decision to run for the state legislature.
The 67-year-old Mears topped a 10-candidate field, earning 33 of the 45 votes cast (73 percent). He will resign from City Council and could be sworn in for his new role as early as Thursday morning to complete the final two years of John's term.
He will join fellow Republicans Darrell Banks of Bellville and Tony Vero of Lexington, both of whom voted for their new colleague on Wednesday. Republicans will have to meet to replace Mears on City Council.
Weller Township Trustee Dale Hulit, who ran unsuccessfully for the commissioners' office in 2018, received nine votes on Wednesday. Three other candidates had one vote each, including former Lexington Mayor Eugene Parkison.
After the party meeting and vote at the Dan Lew Exchange downtown, Mears said his eight years of experience on City Council helped prepare him for the county commissioners board.
"It's so similar to being president of council. You are a legislative/executive blend. And they are, too. And (commissioners) have the same components .. roads, waste treatment, safety .. it's just representing more people.
"I think the fact you have three commissioners, instead of nine council members, it's more nimble. You can make decisions more rapidly," Mears said.
During his career, Mears worked in a variety of capacities, many of them involving finance and data, for R.R. Donnelley & Sons in Willard, Ideal-Southeast Technologies/General Motors in Mansfield and Skybox Packaging, LLC, in Mansfield.
He has a bachelor of arts degree in communication from the University of Toledo and earned credit hours toward an MBA at UT and also Ashland University.
In 2012, Mears was appointed by Republicans to fill an unexpired term in a Mansfield City Council at-large seat. He was elected to that same seat in 2013 and re-elected in 2017. Mears was elected council president in 2019.
Active in local party politics, Mears has also actively campaigned for many local Republicans in the last eight years, going door-to-door, walking in parades and making phone calls.
That effort on behalf of other party members resonated in Wednesday's vote, as did Mears' chance of retaining the seat in two years.
"I have spent a lot of time campaigning for other candidates when I am not running. I have knocked on a lot of doors. I enjoy doing that because you meet such cool people. It helps the candidate, but it makes you more visible, as well.
"It's name recognition. It's hustling. It's being known in the community and the people get to know the kind of work you do for the party," Mears said.
In his acceptance speech, the Bigelow Road resident said Republicans must support each other.
"Whether you're on the ballot or not, you've got to be out there everyday," he said. "And (as) Marilyn always says 'ABC, always be campaigning,' whether it's for you or somebody else. We've got to maintain a conservative movement and that's my plan," Mears said.
In addition to electing Mears on Wednesday, the party's Executive Committee elected Megan Whatman for the county's four-person board of elections.
The chair of the Central Committee and active in local party politics, Whatman will replace Karen Browning, who has opted not to seek re-election in March.