Republican Shane Wilkin said his experience on the Highland County Board of Commissioners and his desire to take that experience with him to Columbus is what makes him the ideal candidate for representative of Ohio’s 91st House District, which includes Clinton County.
Wilkin is currently serving in the seat, which was occupied by former Speaker of the House Cliff Rosenberger before he resigned in April amid an FBI investigation. Wilkin was appointed to replace Rosenberger after winning the Republican nomination in the May primary.
Wilkin, who resides in the Danville area, said spending more than nine years as a commissioner here has prepared him for representing the area in Columbus. He said he is running because it’s “extremely important” for state representatives to have extensive knowledge of the local governments they represent, and he believes he is the man for the job.
“I was in my 10th year (as a commissioner) when I ran for this seat that I hold now,” he said. “I thought I had gained a lot of knowledge through my experience that would be a benefit to our district as a whole.”
In an interview this week, The Times-Gazette asked Wilkin a number of questions about issues relevant to the 91st District.
When asked how he will respond to the opioid crisis and addiction problem in Ohio if he is elected, Wilkin said he will advocate for stiffer penalties for drug dealers.
“I think that can be a great help, to make it a more punishable crime,” he said. “On top of that, I’m sure there are additional treatment issues we can look at, but I think we can deal with that through our court system.”
Wilkin said he advocates for parents and school leaders to stress the importance of children avoiding drugs, describing drug abuse as “a one-way ticket to nowhere.”
Regarding the legalization of medical marijuana and potential decriminalization of recreational marijuana use, Wilkin said “the medical stuff is already here,” and he is opposed to recreational use.
“I think we’re already seeing a drug issue,” he said, saying that recreational marijuana use is “something that can open up the floodgates.”
“As I said in the primary race, I’m opposed to it, and I will be opposed to it,” he said.
When asked if he would support legislation making all abortions in Ohio illegal, Wilkin said, “I’m a pro-life guy. I know sometimes bad things happen and there’s unfortunate situations, but life is life.”
On the topic of school safety measures, Wilkin said he is in favor of teachers being armed, considering how many schools in the 91st District are many miles from law enforcement agencies.
“If they’re not close to them, they’re not close to them. In Piketon, at times, there cannot be as many people on patrol as you’d like,” he said. “That said, I’m also very supportive of local control of that so the school system can pick what is their best measure to keep kids safe,” he said.
When Wilkin was asked how he would support the resurgence of the economy in the 91st District, Wilkin said staying in touch with current employers is the best practice.
“I know a lot of areas do business retention and expansion surveys,” he said. “I think you’re better off to be ahead of the game. If you have an employer that’s facing trouble, the sooner you know about that, the better.”
Outside of that, Wilkin said, each county “needs to decide how they’re going to approach their economic development, and I think the state is there to help in every aspect they can.”
Wilkin said the State of Ohio’s business climate has room to improve as well.
“I think we’ve still got to work on that and make Ohio a more business-friendly state,” he said, adding that despite differing public opinion on business incentives, “you’re going to have to compete against states that have incentives.”
Responding to concerns that the state has balanced its budget at the expense of local government funding, Wilkin said he will advocate for restoring those dollars to counties and municipalities.
“I think the state has without a doubt reduced the income for the counties we’re seeing,” he said, “and they themselves did not feel the same impact.”
Wilkin said with area county budgets projected to be tight next year, the state “does have to look at a way to restore some funding to the counties or remove some of the responsibility from the counties.”
Currently, Wilkin said he is “working on some issues that I think will be a great benefit to our district,” and hopes to “get some of those things submitted” in time for the house’s lame-duck session at the end of the year.