Best Of 2020

Best Public Servant We’ll Miss: Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune

Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune, who retired to battle cancer in 2019 and passed away this year, was one of those rare public servants who never stopped working and who could bare-knuckle brawl for his policy ideas without making permanent enemies. Portune was ahead of the curve regionally on many issues that are front-and-center today — LGBTQ rights, help for those experiencing poverty and housing insecurity, better transit and others. Over his nearly three-decade career, Portune often focused on the big picture for the region. He held his commission seat for almost exactly 20 years and was a city council member for seven years before that. He had also chaired or been president of a number of other governmental bodies, including the Hamilton County Transportation Improvement District, the Hamilton County Homeland Security Commission and the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments. During his time on the board, he pushed to trim the county’s budget during lean years while at times dueling with the Cincinnati Bengals over the county’s stadium deal with the team. He also helped find funding for Cradle Cincinnati, an effort launched in 2012 to fight the county’s high infant mortality rate. When it came to the business of governing, Portune was nearly unstoppable. He once held a commission meeting in a hospital after surgery and, though he was quite ill, worked as commissioner until just weeks before his death, making sure his former chief-of-staff would become his temporary replacement. “There’s no job that I love more than the job I have now,” he said upon announcing his retirement last year. “It’s what I am, it’s what I’ve been about.”