WILMINGTON — The five candidates for an open county commissioners seat fielded questions at a Republican-sponsored forum Saturday, including what’s the most pressing issue and how they view the local drug problem.
Below are highlights from candidates’ answers to questions from the audience, as well as from their opening or closing remarks. In each instance, candidates Greg Grove, Terry Habermehl, Scott Holmer, Mike McCarty and Brenda Woods will be listed in alphabetical order.
What is the most pressing issue?
Grove — He said being a fiscal conservative is “absolutely huge,” and “not just rubber stamping” budgets currently there. A commissioner, he said, has “a moral obligation” to take hard looks at prospective expenditures. He also mentioned the importance of deciding what to do with the remaining dollars from the hospital sale.
Habermehl — He said he sees an issue with the decision-making by the commissioners. “It’s very frustrating when you request help from a board of commissioners and this board of commissioners struggles to make decisions.” Make a decision that’s based on relevant information and one “you believe is right for the people and then move forward,” he said.
Holmer — “We’ve got to have a safe community to build on,” he said, adding that involves putting “whatever resources we can to mitigating the drug issue.” He said probably the second top issue he wants to be involved in is “a plan and vision” for the remaining dollars from the hospital sale.
McCarty — Besides the budget, he plans to focus on the drug issue and workforce development collaboration. “I think that would be my first step, is looking at ways we can collaboratively develop a workforce policy that gets people more qualified [for jobs],” he said. Wage earners, he said, are what create the tax revenue for the county.
Woods — First and foremost, she said, is “accountability to taxpayers.” She wants to see the county collaborating with villages and townships within the county and “do what we can to help those.” Senior citizens are “crying for help,” she said, including for meals on wheels.
How do you view the community’s drug issue?
Grove — While addressing the issue is a joint effort, commissioners “need to lead the charge,” he said. As a health issue, he said there potentially are funds available from the CMH sale to use toward the problem. He said he’s a proponent for a community center, a place for individuals to “have healthy solutions as opposed to recreational drug use.”
Habermehl — He said he sat down with local Judge John W. “Tim” Rudduck to ask his thoughts, and the judge helped him realize the drug issue is a health issue to a large extent. The justice system needs assistance on the issue from rehabilitation and residential programming, the candidate said. Commissioners are in a position to assist law enforcement, too, he said.
Holmer — Saying it goes back to his view of a safe community as one basis for a good place to live, he said the drug issue relates to that core foundation. He thinks it’s going to take funds to address the situation, citing the possibility of law enforcement as a recipient, along with approaches involving schools and working together.
McCarty — Remarking a family member had had a drug issue, he said it’s key to make sure there always is a local resource for people to get help if they need it. A longer-term strategy, he said, is an effective DARE program in schools, adding he also favors leadership programs in the elementary grades where children can learn values and other things to keep them away from drug abuse.
Woods — Calling drugs “a huge issue in our community,” she said several area schools don’t utilize the DARE program. She also said it’s very important to get community involvement, adding that mental health boards when she first worked in local government, were “comprised mostly of individuals in our community.”
Why are you the most qualified candidate?
Grove — His leadership was honed, he said, in the U.S. Marine Corps, where lives depended on it during the first Persian Gulf War. His commissioner decisions would be based on what’s in the best interest of taxpayers and constituents, and not for political gain, he said.
Habermehl — He is the only candidate for the open seat that has experience as a countywide elected official, he said, and accordingly he understands the challenges and pressures. He added he has proven skills as the county auditor.
Holmer — He pointed to 35 years in the banking industry, where he made a lot of decisions affecting people. He also said, “My active community involvement allows me to get a pulse for what’s going on in the community.”
McCarty — One thing he would bring to the position, he said, is his experience as a business owner. He also cited his time as a school board member when there was a declining budget to address.
Woods — With 24 years as county commissioners clerk and assistant county administrator, she said she knows the commissioner job inside and out. Her experience, she said, speaks for itself, and if she’s elected she can hit the ground running.
Highlights from opening or closing statements:
Grove — Said he believes in safe, drug-free communities, small government, and low taxes. He will make timely decisions and “not kick the cans down the road,” he said. He described himself first and foremost as a fiscal conservative who believes in living within your means.
Habermehl — Said as county auditor he has kept four pledges: safeguard money, make technological improvements, improve customer service, and make government transparent. “Not all the decisions I made were popular in the courthouse. But I will also tell you they were the right decisions for the people of Clinton County and so I made them,” he said.
Holmer — Said he thinks the county commissioners are “the face of our county” and they have to be out “actively meeting with businesses and citizens.” He asked voters to consider his “strong people skills” and said his involvement in the community gives him an opportunity to hear what is going on.
McCarty — Said he likes serving people and likes to help people on a problem. His three priorities, he said, would be jobs retention and creation; workforce development with the schools so students can have the skill sets to obtain living-wage jobs; and finding solutions to the drug issue.
Woods — Said she has worked in the commissioners office on 24 county budgets and with nine commissioners. She spoke about her local administrative work experience at the township, county and municipal levels of government. She will remain accessible to the public by meeting with elected officials from across the county, she said.
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768 or on Twitter @GHuffenberger.