The Council of Neighborhood Associations (CONA) hosted a debate for candidates running for office on September 26, 2016 at the Forum. CONA’s mission is to strengthen and advocate for neighborhoods throughout the City of Springfield by sponsoring initiatives and offering activities that contribute to the quality of life, and encourage mutual respect and appreciation among all people.

Before the debate, CONA accepted questions from the public to be addressed to individuals or groups of candidates running for office. The candidates for each office were asked to come forward and give a three-minute presentation introducing them and explaining their plans should they be elected. After the introductions, CONA asked the public’s question and gave each candidate the opportunity to respond.

Clark County Commissioners

This year there are two seats up for election on the Clark County Commission. The candidates for the first seat are David Herier, incumbent, and Lowell McGlothin. Herier was appointed to the seat in February 2015 after the retirement of David Hartley.

Herier said, “I have lived in Clark County my entire life. I attended Rockaway and Shawnee and I have a Bachelor’s Degree from Wright State University and a Law Degree from the University of Dayton. I have practiced law in the county for twenty years. I have worked with every county office both as a customer and now as a commissioner. Clark County has many issues; however, I believe we are starting to turn the county around. We are creating jobs and providing resources that are being used to provide better lives for our citizens.”

McGlothin in his introduction said, “I am an ex-marine veteran. I was born and raised in Clark County. I owned an insurance business in New Carlisle for 30 years. I have 14 years of experience on the New Carlisle City Council and served as New Carlisle mayor for four years. I recently sold my insurance business and am available to work fulltime as a commissioner. I want to focus on economic development to provide more jobs and provide better senior services. I want responsible taxes, commonsense government and I pledge to be a voice for citizens.

Roger Tackett and Melanie Flax-Wilt will face each other for the seat currently held by Commissioner John Detrick, who is retiring. Tackett said, “I am honored that I have served as a county commissioner for 28 years. Under my leadership, we worked with the city mayor to convince the hospital to stay downtown. We also provided funding for the baseball stadium and upgraded the Champion Center. We worked with Ritchie Brothers to stay in Clark County.” He also added that he was an ex-marine.

Flax-Wilt said, “I grew up in Harmony Township. In 2008, I started a public relations business that created jobs for county. My goals are to create jobs, develop the workforce, and work with the government entities. I want to make things better for the citizens of the county. I believe I bring a fresh perspective to bring to county government.”

Herier was asked what he intended to do to stop paying $200,000 a year to the Chamber of Commerce to do what they are already supposed to do. Herier explained that the Chamber of Commerce is divided into two sections, The Chamber and the Community Improvement Corporation(CIC). The $200,000 goes to the CIC who are tasked with economic development, whereas the Chamber concentrates on promoting progressive ideas and helping members connect with each other and the broader community. Herier added, “We established a Community and Economic Development Fund in the County Budget this year for Capital Improvement Projects that encourage companies to invest in our community. We evaluate every year our funding of the CIC as well as all the county’s expenditures.”

The commission candidates were asked what they intended to do to reduce the cost and size of government. McGlothin responded, “In New Carlisle the New Carlisle City Council, County Commissioners, Tecumseh School Board and the Bethel Township Trustees meet quarterly to evaluate ways to work together to save money. We want responsible taxes; however, the state keeps cutting the local taxes. We can’t survive on what the state gives us and provide police protection and fight the heroin epidemic.”

Herier said, “The county government, New Carlisle, townships and villages are already working together to save money. The city, county and eight of the townships already share the 911 system, In addition, we are providing zoning and building regulations for Madison County and some of the towns in Madison County. Clark County is paid for these services. We have a coalition of 20 groups that are working to reduce recidivism, which helps to reduce the cost to run the county.”

Flax-Wilt said, “We don’t need more, we need better government. It isn’t important who gets credit, the city or the county. They need to work better together. That includes the townships and villages as well. We need to concentrate on economic development, reduce crime, and stop the heroin epidemic. We are all working for the same things, so we need to work together.”

Tackett said, “We need to reduce waste. Law enforcement must be supported to fight the heroin epidemic. We must provide jobs in both the city and the county. Jobs are the most important.”

The commissioners were asked what they were doing to combine city and county governments into one entity.

McGlothin replied. I don’t think that is a good idea. We need to reduce costs, but we first must determine if that is a good idea.”

Flax-Wilt added, “I don’t know that consolidation is the right answer. It has been successful in some places. However, Dayton looked at it and decided against it. We need to look at Springfield and Clark County. There is still a lot of work to be done. The city and the county have very different functions, but the same goals. We need to look at opportunities to reduce overlap.”

Tackett said, “I don’t believe it is a good idea. It worked in Summit County, but has not worked in other areas throughout Ohio.”

Herier commented, “There are already areas throughout the county where cooperation is occurring. The townships work with the County Engineer to reduce cost on road projects. I was at a meeting in Bethel Township at which they talked about trash service for a park for two hours. That is not practical if the county was one entity. I believe unification would allow less access to citizens to their government.”

The commissioners were then asked about the Tremont City Cleanup Project.

McGlothin responded, “We need to take out and get rid of all of the barrels. New Carlisle is not affected; however, I believe the barrels should be removed.”

Flax-Wilt said, “We need a practical approach. It needs to be resolved in a way that we aren’t sticking our grandchildren with huge bills while ensuring that high quality water is available.”

Herier responded, “The Tremont area is important because of the aquifer beneath it. The Ohio EPA and all the officials in Clark County agree that the aquifer must be kept safe. The US EPA does not agree. We need to keep pressuring the US EPA to do the right thing. It will cost us if we allow them to scrimp on the cleanup.

Tackett added, “I am proud of our aquifer. We must get rid of the barrels.”

Sheriff Candidates

Sheriff Gene Kelly, incumbent and Deb Burchett are the candidates for Clark County Sheriff.

Kelly said, “I have served as sheriff for 30 years. I am a proven, trusted leader in the Sheriff’s office. Since 2008, we have had a 50% decrease in indictments. I have worked the beats. My experience taught me to listen, to bring people together for a common cause. I am visible and accessible.”

Burchett explained, “I worked as an employee in the Sheriff’s office for 29 years. I worked hard. I worked in every division in the Sheriff’s Office. I prepared to be sheriff. I am ready to be a leader. I plan to save taxpayers’ dollars, audit the budget and apply for multiple federal and state grants to provide better services for the community.”

Burchett added, “I made a public records request and there are only three deputies on the road at times.”

Kelly responded, “She did make a public records request for a year, most of the time there are seven deputies on the road and two detectives.”

Burchett was asked why she had not applied for grants for South Vienna. She replied, I am just a patrol officer for S Vienna. I’m not a grant writer. It does not fall under my jurisdiction.”

Kelly replied, “We just receive a JAG Grant for $18,000 for four in-car cameras. We also received $53,000 DARE grant and $60,000 for deputy cruisers.”

Kelly was asked how the office could respond more quickly to reported drug activity. He said, “It takes time to collect evidence. The Task Force can’t just kick in doors and take someone to jail. To make the charges stick in court, undercover surveillance is required.”

Burchett commented, “The Clark County Sheriff’s office has had 80 grievances filled against them in the last three years. Hamilton County has 871 sworn personnel and only three grievances have been filed in the last three years. The volume of grievances indicates poor management.”

Kelly replied, “Clark County Sheriff’s Office is recognized as one of the best in the state. We had a perfect audit. We have four labor unions that can file a grievance for anything.”

County Recorder

Nancy Pence, incumbent and Janet Oberlin are running for County Recorder

Pence said, “I have taken the county recorder’s office from quill pen to modern technology. Within 72 hours after a disaster, I can have the county back in business. I have implemented eRecording. Currently 30% of our records are eFiled. I am working on implementing HB 173, which will provide Ohio Veterans Identification Cards.

Oberlin explained, “I moved to Clark County in 2008. I have a Bachelors degree from OSU and graduated from Capital University Law School in 2004. This is my first debut in the political arena. I plan to work on ease of access to legal documents and land documents. I also plan to provide public access to living will and power of attorney.”

There were no questions for the county recorder candidates.

Clerk of Courts

Ron Vincent, incumbent and Melissa Tuttle are running for Clerk of Courts

Vincent said, “I have been the Clerk of Courts since 1976. During my tenure, I have opened the office one evening per week. I also opened an office in New Carlisle in 1988. We are the only county officials with an office in New Carlisle. I began automation of the office in 2014.”

Tuttle reported, “I am an attorney that grew up in a small business with a small business mindset. I would to develop an online site so that citizens can view all documents. I would expand access to the Clerk’s office so it is available after 4:30 p.m. M-F. I plan to implement electronic filing and modernized the office and bring it to the community.”

State Representative

Kyle Koehler, incumbent and Alex Wendt are running for State Representative

Koehler is currently serving as State Representative; however, he worked for many years for his family owner business, KK Tool Co. He said, “under my leadership, I oversaw a major expansion of the company and added new jobs for this community. As a representative, I have worked to pass legislature to save the county money. I will fight to provide more accessibility for charter schools and fight for the Tremont City Cleanup.”

Wendt said, “My family immigrated to the US during the Cold War. I am running to ensure that all citizens receive the same opportunities that I had. My opponent is more focused on profit margins than jobs. Under his leadership, he was responsible for shoring up the rainy day fund by taking local tax dollars. He doesn’t believe that everyone has the right to go to a doctor. This is my home and I will fight for it.”

Koehler was asked, “Your opponent has proposed raising the minimum wage to $15, and do you support this?”

Koehler responded, “Raising the minimum wage sounds good; however, I object. If I hire someone above the minimum wage they have to be trained and worthy of that wage. Otherwise, I can’t afford to hire them. I would have to bump every else up as well. Small business can’t afford that.

State Senate

Bob Hackett, incumbent and Matthew Kirk are running for State Senate

Haskett was unable to attend. Commissioner John Detrick read a statement for him. “Hackett is at the National State Legislation for an award from the Insurance Agency Commission. He has a strong business and financial background. His focus in the legislature is on jobs. He believes in a common sense approach to legislature.”

Kirk explained, “I have a background in economic development and taxes. I believe that establishment politics needs to end. Politics is big business. My opponent’s biggest supporters are the insurance companies. He hasn’t done much. He claims to have added jobs; however he eliminated the estate tax which was only good for the wealthy and very bad for local communities.”

No questions were of the candidates.

Congressional Representative

Warren Davidson, incumbent and Steven Fought are running for Congressional Representative.

Davidson was called back to Washington and was unable to attend; however, his wife read a statement. She said, “Davidson went to West Point and served as an Army Ranger. He spent 15 years in the building and manufacturing business. He has been a strong supporter of VA benefits in Congress. He plans to oppose Obama’s proposed increase in the death tax, cut spending, fight the ZIKA virus and add language to ensure that Syrian refuges are vetted before being allowed into the USA.”

Fought spoke. He said, “I am a native of Mercer County and have worked as a congressional aide for 17 years. I worked as a Director of Communications in Columbus. My overriding concern is how do we save the middle class? More and more of the middle class are concerned about falling into poverty. We need to commit to building infrastructure including roads, education and water systems.”

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