A new judge will take the bench in Stark County Family Court next year.
It’s challenger Matthew Kreitzer vs. challenger Michelle Cordova, because incumbent Judge David Nist did not seek re-election for the six-year position.
Judge’s races, such as this, are officially nonpartisan in the Nov. 8 general election, meaning neither will be identified by political party on the ballot. However, Kreitzer was the only Republican to run in the May party primary, while Crodova was the only Democrat on the ballot in those primaries.
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Kreitzer, the court’s chief magistrate, and Cordova, an assistant Summit County prosecutor, have lots in common.
Both are political newcomers — neither had run for public office before. Both completed law school at The University of Akron in 1996. They even know each other from earlier career days, when Kreitzer worked for the Stark County public defender in Family Court when Cordova was a Stark County juvenile prosecutor.
“I love the work of the Family Court,” the 49-year-old Kreitzer said. “If I don’t win this election, you’ll never see me run for any other judge’s positions.”
Cordova, 51, said she’s passionate about Family Court, as well.
“I feel like we’ve both been on a yearlong job interview,” she said.
The job is technically a post on the county’s Common Pleas Court. It’s represented by five judges in the general division and three in Family Court.
In the only other common pleas race on the ballot this year, general division incumbent Judge Chryssa Hartnett is unopposed. The annual judge’s salary is $158,206 for next year.
The court and career paths
General division judges hear adult criminal and civil cases from inside the county courthouse, while those in Family Court work at the county office building, where they handle divorces, custody, visitation and a range of juvenile cases, from truancy to felony crimes.
Both Family Court candidates adapted to career paths that didn’t always follow a straight line.
Kreitzer, for example, worked three years at Minerva Dairy after high school before he went to college. When he enrolled, Kreitzer wanted to work for the FBI before he wanted to be an attorney. After stints in private practice, with the public defender and Child Support Enforcement Agency, he landed in Family Court as a magistrate in 2014.
“I’m where I’m supposed to be,” said Kreitzer, a married father of four adult children, including three stepchildren.
He had been preparing to run for Family Court judge in 2024. But he decided to enter a contest now when Nist announced he wouldn’t run again.
Cordova had considered judging bids in the past. But for 25 years, she was a mainstay in the Stark County Prosecutor’s Office, under Robert Horowitz, then John Ferrero Jr. From 2004 until 2021, she was chief juvenile prosecutor in Family Court.
Then, politics happened.
Cordova was among a slew of employees not retained after Kyle Stone, a Republican, knocked off Ferrero in the 2020 general election, which saw a local GOP wave.
She wound up as an assistant prosecutor in Summit County.
“I’ve done 10 jury trials in the last one-and-a-half years,” said Cordova, a married mother of four children.
Cordova, Kreitzer stand on records
Both candidates touted benefits from their personal and professional experiences.
- Growing up in Minerva, he said he lived in a dysfunctional family until he moved in with a friend’s parents at age 13. “Many of the juveniles in Family Court are dealing with the same kinds of things I did,” Kreitzer said.
- Continued to work at Minerva Dairy, then Lowe’s through his earlier law-related jobs, to support his family.
- Said he’s heard about 10,000 cases in his years as a magistrate.
- She’s tried hundreds of cases in juvenile court, which she added that “Our juvenile cases crossed over a lot with … the divorces and the abuse cases.”
- Her previous work on a Family Court truancy docket, Juvenile Drug Court and a first-time traffic offender diversion program.
- A plan to meet with local law enforcement to address juvenile gun violence. “I’ve had informal conversations on the issue and I believe there is work we can do if we put our heads together.”
Cordova and Kreitzer have both participated in a variety of community and professional organizations, many detailed on their respective campaign websites.
For instance, Cordova was inducted into the Stark County YWCA Women’s Hall of Fame in 2019, for exceptional leadership, achievement and community service, while Kreitzer is bench chair for the Stark County Bar Association’s family law committee.
“My passion for children and families, my breadth of experience, and my even temperament are ideally suited for the Family Court bench,” Cordova said, adding that she has the energy and temperament to initiate collaboration.
Kreitzer said he became an attorney because he wanted to help people. He said his role as chief magistrate is one key reason he’s the best choice.
“The children and families in Stark County … deserve the most qualified person to (be elected) to Family Court,” he said.
Reach Tim at 330-580-8333 [email protected]. On Twitter: @tbotosREP
Stark County Family Court candidates
Surname: Michelle Cordova
Residential: Lake Township
Occupation: Assistant prosecutor, Summit County
Surname: Matthew Kreitzer
Occupation: Chief Magistrate, Stark County Family Court
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