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Two will vie for law director seat May 3

By Sam Shawver

April 9, 2011
The Marietta Times

The city of Marietta's only contested race in the May 3 primary is between Republicans Susan Vessels and Paul Bertram III, who are challengers in the race to fill the Marietta law director's post.

City law director Roland Riggs III is not seeking re-election to the office where he's served for the last 37 years.

Public service is a top priority for Vessels and she hopes to continue that service as city law director, she said.

"I was initially encouraged to run for law director by a local well-respected senior attorney," she said. "So I decided this would be a good way to continue my career in public service. I feel very strongly about remaining in public service."

For the last six years Vessels, a former U.S. Army captain and graduate of Princeton University, has served as an assistant Washington County prosecutor where she's logged more than 400 felony prosecutions since 2005.

"This has been a great job - I've learned a lot here," Vessels said, adding that she will bring that experience to the city law director's office if elected.

Fact Box

About Susan Vessels:

Age: 37

Residence: Marietta

Running for: Republican candidate for Marietta City Law Director

Current position: Assistant Washington County Prosecutor since 2005

Education: Bachelor of Arts from Princeton University, Juris Doctorate from The Ohio State University, Served four years as officer with U.S. Army

Family: Married to Ethan Vessels, three children

Web site:

About Paul Bertram III

Age: 48

Residence: Marietta

Running for: Republican candidate for Marietta City Law Director

Current position: Marietta City Council President since 2006, private practice attorney with Bertram Law, LLC

Education: Graduate of Marietta College and Capital Law School in Columbus

Family: Married to Joyce Bertram, five children

Web site:

"And if elected I will serve as a full-time law director. I will not have a private practice, but will work solely for the city of Marietta, doing nothing else on the side," she said.

On her Web site, Vessels describes the duties of the city law director:

"First, as the legal advisor to the mayor and city council, the law director is responsible for providing correct and timely legal advice," she said. "If elected, it will be my goal to provide correct and timely legal advice, regardless of the mayor or city council's course of action.

"Second, as the chief prosecutor for misdemeanor crimes, it will be my goal to ensure the fair and efficient prosecution of these offenses," Vessels added.

Vessels said she believes current law director Riggs has done a good job, and she would continue to operate the office in a similar manner, although she's willing to make any changes that may become necessary.

"I don't think the office is in need of a major overhaul," she said.

Though she was born in New Hampshire, Vessels said she and husband, Ethan, chose to live in Marietta where their three children have been born.

"We're here for the long haul because Marietta is a great town and a good place to raise our family," she said.

Vessels has scheduled a "meet and greet" event at the Betsey Mills Club from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. April 26.

"I hope the community will come out and get to know me better," she said.

Paul Bertram III

Bertram said he believes "experience counts" when it comes to filling the law director's position.

"I feel I have that legal experience with more than 20 years as an attorney in this area," he said. "In 1999 I ran for an at-large seat on Marietta City Council so I could be actively involved in city government and give back to my community.

Bertram said serving as a city councilman has moved him toward his goal of becoming law director.

"You don't just pick up the keys to a car and start driving when you turn 16," he said. "It's the same in city government. You can't just pick up the keys and start serving as law director."

Bertram said through city council service he's learned the city's governmental and legislative processes.

"I've learned how government works by attending bid openings and public hearings and informational sessions," he said. "It's all been part of the learning process as a member of council-at-large for two terms and now as president of council."

Bertram added that as a council member he's reviewed proposed legislation and studied legislation from other cities' councils whose ordinances may serve as models for legislation being considered for Marietta.

"I'm not trying to say I know everything -life is always a learning process," he said. "But I have experience as a public defender as well as in private practice with civil and criminal cases."

If elected Bertram said he will continue to operate his private practice, but will devote the majority of his time to the law director position.

"But I will take a more active role in the prosecution of criminal cases, although that's probably only one-eighth of what the law director does," Bertram said. "Most of those are misdemeanors but they're just as important to the victims and to law enforcement as felony cases."

He said one challenge he expects to encounter as law director will be finances.

"There are always financial constraints," Bertram said. "For example, what will happen if the federal and state governments cut back on domestic violence prevention grants?

"There will always be tighter budgets every year, especially in light of the financial crisis the city is facing right now," he said.

Although he said he feels pretty good about the campaign, Bertram said he needs voter support.

"It's not a high profile race, but the law director's position is something that will have a direct effect on the citizens of Marietta as he drafts legislation and provides counsel for the mayor and city council," he said. "People need to get out and vote."



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