In celebration of Leadership Geauga’s 25th Anniversary Year, we thought you’d enjoy reading about a few of the many alumni whose Leadership Geauga experience is helping them make a positive difference in our community. Last February, the Class of 2020 participated in Government Day, so we’ve chosen for our profile a passionate community leader who has been deeply engaged in local government for nearly 30 years. Meet Lorrie Sass Benza, an alumnus of the Class of 2018. Written by Joanne Durante
Committed to Open and Transparent Government
When Lorrie attended a Leadership Geauga Meet and Greet in the spring of 2017, everyone she ran into assumed she was a fellow alumnus. As she recalls, “I hung my head in shame because I knew just about everyone there and I had never gone through the program.”
She decided then and there to become a member of Melanie Scanlon’s first ‘best class,’ the Class of 2018, but admits she was still not 100 percent convinced of the program’s value. Lorrie recalls, “I thought I knew just about everything there was to know about the County.”
Who can blame her? At that time, having followed in the footsteps of her father, who had been a Chester Township Trustee for 12 years, Lorrie was serving the second of what would eventually become three terms as a Bainbridge Township trustee.
As a practicing attorney and a former Geauga County Chief Assistant Prosecutor in then Prosecutor David Joyce’s Civil Division, Lorrie has served in a variety of public service roles including membership in the Bainbridge Township Zoning Appeals, as secretary/treasurer of the Geauga County Planning Commission, and as an executive committee member for the Coalition of Large Ohio Urban Townships.
Lorrie is a life-long resident of Geauga County and is currently president of the Geauga County Township Association, in addition to serving her third term as a Bainbridge Township trustee. So how could a year with the Leadership Program and her continued involvement as an active alumnus possibly benefit her?
She explains, “I love Geauga County. Little did I suspect I would come way from that year having learned anything new; but I was wrong. The connections I made with the business components and the cultural establishment, which serve this County in a different but critical way, were on full display in Leadership. The opportunity to meet and connect with people and programs that contribute to the fundamental character of who we are in Geauga County was invaluable.
“Just recently I was approached by someone who wants to explore bridging the gap between the Amish and the non-Amish communities. I immediately thought of someone who was in my class who had close connections with the Amish and could open those doors.”
As an active participant in the County’s political landscape, Lorrie is also finding value in remaining involved in Leadership Geauga events. She reports, “I am in the political spectrum, and being involved as an alum gives me exposure to political candidates and to the many elected representatives who also volunteer and work with Leadership Geauga.”
Lorrie is particularly excited to have been recently selected to participate in updating Geauga County’s Master Plan as a member of that steering committee. She believes “awareness” of what is going on in our communities is critical to each and every county resident. “Go to your local meetings, the Board of Education meetings, the township trustee meetings. Yes, we are, all of us ‘too busy,’ but a public body speaks through its minutes. Go to your community website, find the meeting minutes, learn what they are talking about, what decisions they are making.
“In the end, our communities are nothing but a reflection of ourselves. We all have to be more aware. It’s more important now than ever because of the divisive character of our politics. We have an obligation to become more informed consumers of community life. We should all expect open and transparent government; but it is our obligation not only to expect it – but to make sure those of us in public service are actually doing it.”