Longest serving auditor in Medina County history
Mike Kovack retired as Medina County Auditor today, ending the longest run in the position in Medina County history. He will leave behind a remarkable record of accomplishment and community interaction, complete with state, national and international recognition.
Kovack first became auditor in January of 1993 when then Auditor Ferris Brown was elected to a position as Medina County Commissioner. He had to be appointed to the position by a vote of the county’s central committee, a group of 130 people. “I was the underdog for that race,” Kovack said. “In fact, when I got the appointment they had to immediately create a signature block for county checks for me…because they had created one for my opponent instead!”
Kovack’s appointment continued a long line of highly qualified individuals filling the post, a sort of “Golden Era” for Medina County Auditors. Beginning with Ralph Berry in 1982, two attorneys (Berry & Jeff Kehnle) and two individuals with master’s degrees in public administration/public finance (Brown & Kovack) filled the post. “Most people don’t understand what a highly complex and technical position county auditor is,” Kovack said. “Having people with those kind of qualifications overseeing our finances was a boon for Medina County and definitely burnished the reputation of the county throughout the region.”
Auditor Kovack was held in very high regard by his fellow auditors. He served four terms as president of the Northeast Ohio Auditors Association (NEOAA) as well as president of the statewide County Auditors Association of Ohio (CAAO) and was a regular presenter to his fellow auditors at statewide conferences due to his expertise. “The fraternity of county auditors is vital,” Kovack said. “Because what we do is unique and demanding, having the willing expertise of 87 other people trying to navigate the same complex challenges we do has been a lifesaver many, many times.”
Kovack leaves an incredible string of accomplishments in his wake as he departs. His office chalked up 30 straight years of clean, unmodified annual audits by the Ohio Auditor of State, the longest string in the state. His office had also been recognized for 30 straight years by the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) for Excellence in Accounting. His office twice had the lowest reappraisal cost per parcel in the entire state and his office ran, without question, the tightest budget in the entire county. Kovack's 2022 budget was only 3% more than his department's budget in 1992 - the year before he came into office. During that same time frame, the county's overall budget almost tripled in size! “We always ran a very, very tight ship,” Kovack said. “People don’t realize it, but that saved them a lot of money!”
But excellence in carrying out the duties of auditor is only one of Mike Kovack’s legacies. Perhaps even more so, he left a tremendous impact on the county through his community service. Kovack helped start the Red Cross Chocolate Festival, the Family-A-Fair event, Pet Adoptathon/Pet-Tacular and served as a board member/volunteer for just about every non-profit in the county, often serving as emcee for fundraising events. He will continue to chair the Kovack Family Community Fund non-profit.
The community showed its appreciation for Kovack time and again. He was honored with the Board of Realtors Excellence in Community Service Award, named to the Wadsworth Older Adults Foundation Hall of Fame, received the Red Cross’ Heartland Hero Award, the Medina Township Association’s Outstanding Local Official Award, the Medina Jaycees Distinguished Service Award for Outstanding Leadership and was twice named Medina Kiwanian of the Year.
His impact was more than awards, though. For 21 years he ran the Kiwanis Student of the Month program, monthly recognizing 16 students from the eight county school districts as well a Student of the Year from each school. He has handed out over 100 scholarships to Medina County high school seniors through the Mike Kovack Community Fund, totaling more than $50,000 in assistance. When the Great Recession hit in 2007, Kovack created a unique partnership with a Cleveland non-profit that helped funnel more than twelve million dollars into the county to keep hundreds of Medina County residents in their homes. It is one of the reasons Medina County weathered the recession better than the rest of northeast Ohio. The activity Kovack may most be known for, though, is his “Weekend Update.”
“I can’t remember now where the idea came from,” Kovack said. “But I was keeping all these county events on my calendar, because I attended so many of them. And, at some point, we just decided to share them with everyone else.” Auditor Kovack’s Weekend Update has been a wonderful resource for county residents for well over 15 years. In the beginning, Kovack put the entire thing together himself. Over the years staff assisted him, but Kovack always reviewed each edition, putting county accomplishments in, and was the one to send it out each week, often late at night or early in the morning. Sadly, the last Weekend Update went out at the end of December. “Getting ready to turn the office over, with all the other demands, I just couldn’t keep up with it anymore,” Kovack said. Depending on the next chapter in his life, he said he may reincarnate the Weekend Update at a later time.
And what are Auditor Kovack’s plans at this point? “I wish I knew,” he said. He has already turned down full-time job offers in Florida, North Carolina and Virginia and has been amazed at the reaction to his retirement. “It’s nice to feel wanted,” he said. “Especially at 60 years of age! But Medina County has always been my home, and it’s tough to think of living anywhere else – except in the winter!”
He said, more than likely, he will continue to work in real estate with his sister, Michele Boyd, broker at Berkshire Hathaway/Stouffer Realty in Medina and do a little bit of teaching. He has held his real estate license since he was 21 years old, but has never sold real estate in Medina County while auditor, to avoid any conflict of interest. “But I’m pretty certain few people know Medina County’s real estate market as well as I do!,” he said.
Whatever the future holds for Kovack, he has definitely left his mark on the county. He knows that with his excellent staff, the auditor’s office should be in good hands when he leaves, and, with his fiance’ Soehnke Hasselhof, he is looking forward to more exciting challenges and adventures in the days ahead. Best of luck, Auditor Kovack! You’ll be missed!