YSU employee to run for Ohio House seat

Michelle Lepore-Hagan, Youngstown State University’s director of the Performing Arts Series, is running as a Democrat for the 58th Ohio House District seat in fall 2014.

“It was humbling because I was encouraged by a lot of people,” Hagan said. “I realized that I have a lot of passions for a lot of issues, and I felt like our state government is failing.”

Hagan, a YSU employee of 27 years, puts the state’s treatment of public education on the top of her list of issues that need to be confronted and resolved.

“I think we need to renew our commitment to public education at every level,” Hagan said. “I have dealt with budgets for the whole 27 years. So I have watched the allocation of money from the state level, which has completely flip-flopped. When I started 27 years ago, the majority of the money that we work with in higher education came from state-funded support, and now it has flipped around to where it is on the backs of students.”

Hagan said that she will also focus on cutting-edge technology and resources that will give Ohio an advantage as the country’s landscape changes.

“I want to make sure we have natural gas resources. I want to make sure that when it is extracted, it is done safely and it generates good paying, Ohio jobs. I want to invest in high tech. I think that is the new way of the future,” Hagan said.

Over the next year, Hagan will launch a campaign across the district to bolster support and familiarize herself with the mood and wants of her district.

“I really think I can make a difference in the lives of the people in Ohio and in this area. I plan on meeting as many people as I can,” Hagan said. “I want to hear what people think are the issues that need to be dealt with at the state level.”

If elected, Hagan will replace her husband, Rep. Robert Hagan, who will reach his two-term limit at the end of 2014. Hagan said that by observing and participating in her husband’s campaign and office time, she has grown experienced in the world of politics.

“I have had a front row seat to everything that he has been involved in. I have always been involved in his issues with him, and I have worked on his campaigns for the entire time,” Hagan said.

Hagan said she will not be merely a carbon copy of her husband, and her experiences both as a woman and an educator distinguish her ideologically.

“I’ll take a different approach because I am a woman and in education,” Hagan said. “I think that a woman’s perspective in the legislator is very important right now…extremists want to drown out woman’s voices at the state level. Right now women need a strong voice to defend issues that concern women’s health.”

Though her workload will increase once her campaign begins, Hagan will continue working three-quarter time at the university. She does not know if she will continue at YSU if she is elected.

Kevin Reynolds, chief human resources officer, said he is unaware of any official rule or policy that would prevent her from continuing to work at YSU.

Harry Meshel, former Ohio Senator and board of trustees member, said that Hagan could continue to work at YSU during campaigning, but it is unlikely, due to time restraint, that Hagan can continue to work at YSU and serve as a representative simultaneously.

“Coming out of a political background and wanting anybody to run who wants to run, I don’t have a problem with allowing people who work in a public institution to run for public office,” Meshel said. “I don’t think she can continue to work there [if she were to win a seat].”