Clinton County voters in the Nov. 6 election will decide the contest for one Clinton County Commissioner seat, which will be open at the end of this year upon the retirement of current County Commissioner Pat Haley.
The News Journal recently asked each candidate — Republican Mike McCarty and Democrat Rhonda Wheasler — to answer a set of questions provided to both. Below are their responses.
Occupation: Retired business owner; real estate agent
Political Party: Republican
Occupation: Music teacher at Wilmington Performing Arts Studio, pianist/choir director at Faith Lutheran Church, and former owner of The Crave Candy
Political party: Democrat
1) Briefly, please list some of your main qualifications to hold the position of Clinton County commissioner.
McCARTY: As a former business owner for over two decades I successfully managed and led the company through both challenging and prosperous times.
• My 20-plus year career in the military helped instill discipline, teamwork, and integrity
• I have been both personally and professionally engaged in many different aspects of our community giving me a broad understanding of the needs of our county:
° Clinton-Massie School Board
° Wilmington/Clinton County Chamber of Commerce Board
° Clinton County Foundation Board
° Business Advisory Council
° Leadership Clinton
WHEASLER: As a 50-year resident of Clinton County, I attended Wilmington City Schools and Wilmington College where I graduated with a BA in English and Music Performance.
Over the next 35 years, I gained experience in:
• Managing multi-million dollar budgets as the Head Start director for Highland County Community Action, and in management positions for two large transportation companies.
• Proactively working with government agencies including Governor Voinovich’s office in developing the Family and Children First Initiative, advocating for expansion of Head Start and preschool programs across the state, and securing grant funding for various programs and activities benefiting children, families, and seniors.
• Serving on the boards and committees of non-profit groups such as Main Street Wilmington, Kids ‘n’ Company, as treasurer and interim director of the Murphy Theatre Community Center, as president of the Faith Lutheran Church Council, Delta Omega Theta sorority, and the Alliance for Compassion and Truth.
• Owning and operating two successful businesses in Clinton County — The Crave Candy and Command Performances.
2) Why do you want to be a Clinton County commissioner?
WHEASLER: My family has a history of serving our community and I was raised to do what I can to help others. My faith asks me to give with a servant’s heart, be responsible for myself and others, and to advocate for those who need a voice.
I decided to run for commissioner because I believe I have something fresh to bring to the office. It has been almost 90 years since a Democrat was elected to county commissioner. Since then, our county has been under the policies of a single party which does not reflect the demographics of our county population. It is important that all residents have a voice in our local government for balance, to create novel and innovative solutions, and to provide leadership that demonstrates an obligation to debate and compromise on issues.
I believe my history as a leader who is strong, fiscally responsible, compassionate, decisive, accountable, mindful of every person in the county is what we need at this time.
McCARTY: County commissioners must be astute and have good business sense. Perhaps the most important attribute of a county commissioner is the ability to lead, listen to the needs of the citizens and other elected officials, to collaborate and to develop a consensus on priority issues to improve the county.
I believe I have all the leadership attributes and experiences to bring the right organizations and people to the table to write a new chapter for the growth and prosperity of our county. I want to make a positive difference in the community I was raised in and to create a better future for my own children.
3) What is your hope for the planned Clinton County endowment fund (often called the “hospital dollars” legacy fund)?
McCARTY: Once I have a good understanding on all the funds, it is my hope to work with the other commissioners and county stakeholders to develop a plan that takes a portion of the hospital proceeds and places it in a local endowment for which the annual interest is used to provide funding for local projects through a competitive grant process.
Secondly, I would like to take a portion of the money to place into an account which will be used for unexpected, critical/emergency needs determined by county officials. I feel it is important to avoid using hospital funds for day-to-day county operations.
WHEASLER: My hope is local organizations and agencies will be able to obtain funding for innovative projects which improve the quality of life and health of our citizens, particularly our children and elderly.
I believe any projects proposed must be comprehensive in their planning and implementation, provide a way to measure results, ensure sustainability after the funding is used or explain why the project is no longer needed, and include a 50-50 cash or in-kind match.
4) If elected, what are three or so of your top priorities? (Please be specific when possible.)
WHEASLER: My priorities, if elected, include:
Build a Stronger Community
• Strengthen our families, schools and neighborhoods
• Encourage and enhance cooperation between local government entities, non-profits and businesses
• Ensure our law enforcement and court systems have the resources they need
• Responsibly utilize the fiscal resources of the county to improve the quality of life and infrastructure throughout the county
Create a Compassionate and Caring Community
• Ensure the support and resources are improved for the health, mental health, safety, and housing needs for all residents in the county
• Respect the needs of all residents and listen to their concerns to enable a possible resolution
• Encourage public investment and support in our community
Promote Individual and Mutual Responsibility
• Encourage citizens to protect and empower each other within their community and discourage policies and rhetoric which create division
• Protect and promote clean air and clean water concerns
• Require ethical practice from our government, businesses and residents of Clinton County
• Develop a comprehensive economic development plan that includes all the communities within our county
• Develop and implement a plan to effectively leverage the hospital funds
• Create a dynamic workforce development strategy
• Create a pathway for people who have overcome dependency issues to acclimate back into the workforce
5) According to an August update from the Clinton County Budget Commission, the county’s revenue from sales tax is expected to be down about 11 percent this year. Would you be open to the option of bringing back a 0.5 percent local sales tax that rolled off at the end of September 2016?
McCARTY: I think it’s premature for me to give an opinion considering I don’t know ALL the facts and dynamics of the issue. I’m one of the last people to want more taxes, yet I realize there is a balance between having low taxes and having adequate resources to provide quality services to our community.
There is a distinct difference between wants and needs, if the county needs more resources a sales tax effectively provides a revenue stream from not only residents within our county but also people visiting our county.
WHEASLER: I would not be open to bringing back the temporary 0.5 percent local sales tax at this time. There are too many questions regarding the outcome of the November election and future state policies on funding. For example, both gubernatorial candidates are in favor of restoring some of the county funding lost over the last 6-8 years during the Kasich administration. They have different ideas of how much, and how the funding would be enacted, but the county could expect some relief.
There are also discussions underway in the state legislature which may have an impact. I believe we need to let these play out and revisit the budget next year before we seriously discuss the possibility of reinstating the 0.5 percent sales tax.
The primary job of our county commissioners is to oversee our county’s budget. I believe the second most important job is to be an advocate for our citizens at the state and federal level. The last 6 years have seen a drastic reduction in funding from the state to the county, and counties asked to take on more responsibility for programs traditionally funded by the state. Our state now has a $2.7 billion rainy day fund thanks to the state’s surplus monies diverted from the counties. It is now time to forego adding more money and begin redirecting the surplus funds back to the counties where they can be used for infrastructure.
6) Do you wish to briefly add something that hasn’t been touched upon in your prior responses?
WHEASLER: Our county has a strong tradition of facing hardships with grace and perseverance, and celebrating our successes while encouraging each other to dream and grow. The past decade has been hard, but we have rebounded well.
There are still many things that need to be done to create a stronger and competitive community. Too many of us find ourselves working 2 or more part-time jobs to make ends meet; families are finding it harder to find affordable rental housing, or to save enough for a deposit to purchase; businesses are struggling to find workers with the skills needed for the jobs available; our elderly are facing days without food, basic care, and unknown futures; and our children are leaving our community to pursue their dreams in cities that meet their demands for a positive quality of life.
We can create a better Clinton County by working together. We need strong leadership who sees the need to envision our future and create a realistic plan to achieve it. The Clinton County Comprehensive Plan was created in 2004 when our county was growing and revenue was higher. The vision of our county for 2015 was very different then from the current reality. I believe this plan needs to be revisited and revised to reflect the changes we have experienced and a new vision created. One that will take us into the next 20 years and beyond.
McCARTY: As I have campaigned throughout our county I have encountered many viewpoints and concerns to the issues and opportunities facing Clinton County. I have listened and I will try to be your conduit to make informed and transparent decisions to move the county forward.