• Wed. Dec 7th, 2022

Todd Portune was ‘a force of nature, a visionary with a true servant’s heart’

Feb 2, 2020

By Herald Staff 

Todd Portune when he was a member of Cincinnati City Council. Photo provided

Todd Portune, Hamilton County commissioner, Oberlin College Hall of Famer, passed away peacefully on January 25, 2020, with his family by his side. He was 61. 

Todd leaves a long legacy of care for the people of Hamilton County and will be remembered as a tireless servant of our city and county, even at times of great personal challenge and sacrifice, said Anne Sesler, a publicist for the county commission, in a statement. ”Todd considered his public service a calling and his devotion to the needs of average citizens spanned 27 years across Cincinnati City Council and the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners.’’ 

Mr. Portune’s family, released the following statement, “It is with sadness that the family of Todd B. Portune shares the news of his passing at his home in Green Town Saturday evening. Todd was surrounded by his entire family and passed with grace and peace. Todd was a tireless champion for all people, and has left the world a better place through his long legacy of care and love for Hamilton County. Todd is survived by his greatest love of all, his children Ethan, Ellyse and Emma. The family would like to thank everyone who has expressed their support, and well wishes.” 

Services will be held Monday, February 3, with public visitation from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. with service immediately following at 12 p.m.at Duke Energy Convention Center. Burial is at Spring Grove CemeteryDonations can be made in his honor to the Down Syndrome Association of Greater Cincinnati at www.dsagc.com or 4623 Wesley Ave., Cincinnati OH 45212. Arrangements are being handled by Spring Grove Funeral Homes. www.springgrove.org 

Surrounded by his children, Ellyse and Ethan, and local officials and friends, Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune recently announced he would not seek reelection this year due to a recurrence of cancer in his body, but would continue to serve his remaining year on the commission. Herald file photo

Mayor John Cranley said, “Tonight we mourn the loss of a giant in our community. Commissioner Portune was a force of nature, a visionary with a true servant’s heart. But most important, he was my friend and I viewed him as a mentor that taught me the importance of speaking up for the public interest. He said things that are true but most politicians were afraid to say. He had courage. May we all strive to live up to the legacy he leaves behind. Todd did not lose the battle, he persevered—as he did his whole life—to the other side. We will miss him terribly. Please join me in praying for the Portune family, may they find peace and comfort during this time of incredible grief.” 

Alicia Reece, who served on the City Council with Mr. Portune, said, As someone who has lost my mother, grandfather, other family members and friends to cancer, I say rest in peace, Todd Portune. Thank you for your commitment to public service.’’ 

“Todd is the epitome of good government in action,’’ said Gwen McFarlin, Hamilton County Democratic Party chair. 

Mr. Portune said there is not a job he had enjoyed better than being able to serve the people of Hamilton County and Cincinnati. “I consider these jobs the greatest blessings any person could have bestowed upon him or her. I thank God for allowing me to serve all of you in the process, and I hope I have made a difference. In my life, my physical challenges have been blessings because they served as opportunities for me to become a better person and help others who are facing similar life-changing events and to do so in a way that glorifies the Lord’s healing powers and grace in our lives. My life has been rich and blessed in service to others.’’Mr. Portune was elected to the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners on November 2, 2000, after having served eight years on Cincinnati City Council. He has been re-elected four times and was serving his fifth term. 

He was serving as chair of the Hamilton County Transportation Improvement District. He was past president and county delegate to the Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana (OKI) Regional Council of Governments Board of Trustees. He was the president of the County’s Emergency Management Agency’s executive committee, and he chaired the County Homeland Security Commission. He also served as president of the Hamilton County Family and Children First Council and was the 15-year chair of the Hamilton County Solid Waste Management District policy committee. 

According to a resume, Mr. Portune spearheaded a county agenda focused on fiscal discipline, improvement of public health, environmental justice, care for and prevention against abuse, abandonment and neglect of the county’s seniors and children, economic development and strategic and prudent transportation enhancements. In order to meet serious budget challenges brought on by the recession, he introduced zero based budget principles, mandates reviews, and aggressively pursued shared services and government reforms. His budget and government reforms led to a reduction in the size of county government by 25%, while the county maintained its full menu of services. Despite a 30% drop in revenues, the county has annually balanced its budgets, improved its reserves and strengthened its financial picture. 

As Hamilton County commissioner Todd Portune, at right, was a leader in the county-city effort to form Cradle Cincinnati, which works to reduce infant mortality. At far left is Dr. Greenberg, Cincinnati Children Hospital, with City Councilman Wendell Young. File photo

Under his leadership, the promise of The Banks riverfront development projects became an unequivocal success, with 100% of the new housing occupied, virtually all retail and commercial space in operation through the first three phases, and an economic impact of over $1.5 billion in value and 5,000 new jobs. 

Mr. Portune’s proposed Land Bank for the county with a reformed Port Authority at the helm is redeveloping blighted and abandoned properties all over Hamilton County for large and small-scale commercial development and new residential construction.  His Home Improvement Program leveraged over $50 million in new private investment, fixing up the aging housing stock of the county with 75% of the improved properties benefiting middle class homeowners and over 2,500 local contractors receiving jobs. 

Mr. Portune led the way for improvements in public health, public safety and the environment. As chair of the county’s solid waste policy committee, the county aggressively reduced the impact on landfills, increased recycling options for residential and commercial customers alike, and pursued new environmental initiatives that still today are reducing energy consumption and the county’s carbon footprint. 

His leadership in attacking infant mortality, in pursuing reimbursable revenues for public and behavioral health, expanded oral and dental care and ensuring medical homes for all county residents are saving lives, reducing costs and improving overall public health. 

Todd Portune graduated from Colerain High School in 1976 and was named a “Colerain Distinguished Graduate” in 2002. He went on to study political science at Oberlin College in Ohio, graduating in 1980, and was inducted into the college’s Athletic Hall of Fame. He was accepted to law school at the University of Cincinnati where he became president of the Student Bar Association, received Order of Barristers honors and graduated in 1983. 

In 2018, newly elected Hamilton County Commissioner Denise Driehaus and re-elected County Commissioner Todd Portune discuss their plans for the county with media representatives. File photo

Former Mayor Mark Mallory, who worked with Mr. Portune to bring about The Banks riverfront development, said, “Commissioner Todd Portune’s public service stands out as an example of true commitment and selfless duty to the people of Cincinnati and Hamilton County. He has faced unimaginable challenge, yet he has shown remarkable strength and courage in his effort to fight for what he believes in. He worked on many issues of importance to many people. Most memorable to me was Commissioner Portune’s crucial work to get a deal done to finally build The Banks. Todd has been a friend for many years and I wish him the best.’’   

State Rep. Brigid Kelly (Cincinnati) said, “Commissioner Todd Portune was an example of tireless service, thoughtful leadership and constant courage. He was always generous with his time and his advice, and never shied away from a challenge.” 

Maslow’s Army officials officials said with T-shirts and the Portune Express homeless bus, they will dedicates 2020 and beyond to Todd Portune and his lasting legacy. Mr. Portune was the prime supporter of the homeless support organization, they said,  

State Rep. Jessica E. Miranda (Forest Park) said, “Commissioner Todd Portune was honestly the best of us – a dedicated public servant, a selfless leader and a true friend. I am so lucky to have known and been inspired by such a kind and positive man, someone who gave his all each and every day for the greater good.’’