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Candidates address issues at Tuesday forum


Trish Bennett, Editor

Candidates prepare for the forum held Tuesday at Circleville High School. (Photo by Trish Bennett)

CIRCLEVILLE – Communication was a recurring theme at the Meet the Candidates forum Tuesday at Circleville High School hosted by the Pickaway County Chamber of Commerce.

Eleven local candidates representing all contested Pickaway County races joined in the forum moderated by Jeff Phillips, executive director of the Pickaway County Family YMCA. Those races include two seats on the Pickaway County Board of Commissioners, as well as the Clerk of Courts, Sheriff and Treasurer.

The communication issue – or a lack thereof, as contended by several candidates – arose primarily in the discussions with the candidates for county commissioner at Tuesday’s forum. Those candidates are Harold “Champ” Henson, Republican incumbent, and opponents Warren Spangler (Democrat) and Michael Parks (Independent); as well as Brian Stewart, Republican incumbent, and his opponent, John Ankrom, Democrat.

Communication and an “open door policy” also were issues discussed by candidates for Pickaway County Sheriff – incumbent Robert Radcliff (Democrat) and challenger Jason Lawless (Republican).

All 11 candidates were allotted two minutes for an opening introduction, then one minute each to respond to a series of questions at Tuesday’s forum. Each also received one minute at the end of the forum for their final thoughts.

Pickaway County Commissioner (Jan. 2 seat)

Harold “Champ” Henson, incumbent for one of the two commissioner seats, primarily touted fiscal responsibility and the county’s good economic standing in his remarks. If re-elected, he said he will continue to do what he has been doing as commissioner and “will not apologize for being a fiscal conservative and will not apologize for putting enough money back for a rainy day.” When asked what one word he would use to describe himself, Henson said, “Integrity. I can go anywhere in this county and hold my head high.”

Warren Spangler, one of Henson’s two challengers, broached the communication issue several times during the event, not only between the current commissioners and other departments, but also other entities like townships and the Fair Board, as well as the general public. If elected, Spangler said he would be present in the office every day, make a habit of visiting other departments to ensure their needs were being met and “give credit where credit is due” for things like local job creation. Spangler used the word “service” to describe himself and his goals for the office.

Michael Parks, also a challenger for Henson’s seat, spoke of his belief that the county commissioners need to take some of the money held in the “rainy day fund” and spend it on vital services for residents of Pickaway County, including combating the drug problem with more deputies on the road and providing resources and activities for young people. He also said he would like to see the commissioners’ meetings be recorded on video each week and made immediately available for public viewing to improve transparency in the office. Parks chose “stubborn” as the word to describe himself, stating he believes in compromise but would fight hard for issues he believes in.

Pickaway County Commissioner (Jan. 3 seat)

Brian Stewart, incumbent for the second commissioner’s seat, spoke about the county’s fiscal health, job creation and removing blighted properties throughout the county during his remarks. He also spoke about the commissioners’ revitalization plan for the county fairgrounds, which he said would not only bring it up to the standards of the 4-H and FFA members who currently use it but also transform it into a showcase for meetings and other public events. Stewart also touted his extensive use of social media with the choice of “responsiveness” to describe himself, stating he constantly interacts with the general public through his Facebook and Twitter pages.

John Ankrom, Stewart’s challenger, spoke of building better communication and bringing all affected parties into a conversation when working through problems in the county. He also said Pickaway County is falling short of other central Ohio counties in the areas of education, income and more, and he hopes the November election will allow him to implement some of the action plan steps he helped develop as part of the America’s Best Communities competition with the city. Ankrom selected the word “visionary” to describe his philosophy and said he is always looking to the future and seeking more than one way to solve any given problem.

Pickaway County Sheriff

Robert Radcliff, incumbent sheriff, spoke about his 32 years of experience at the Pickaway County Sheriff’s Office before being elected four years ago. If re-elected, he said he plans to continue trying new things, working with other agencies and building relationships that help serve the residents of Pickaway County as well as keep the office’s budget in line. He said the heroin epidemic is a major issue, and with the help of other agencies, Pickaway County is fighting back. He also spoke about initiatives in his office in the fight against drugs that have been recognized as positive examples for the rest of the state, such as vivitrol treatment, providing officers with naloxone to counteract drug overdoses and working with Job & Family Services to provide services to addicts before they leave the jail. Radcliff chose the word “integrity” to describe his own position, saying, “The integrity of the office is bigger than the person who runs the office.”

Jason Lawless, Radcliff’s challenger, said law enforcement was his passion, and he would do whatever it takes to get the job done. He said one of his immediate plans would be to add four or five deputies to road patrol and attack heroin addiction like a disease more than a crime. He also said he would improve transparency in the Sheriff’s Office and create an open door policy for employees as well as the general public. Lawless chose the word “service” to describe himself, stating he would be taking a pay cut if elected to the position but would be willing to do so.

Pickaway County Treasurer

Ellery Elick, incumbent treasurer, spoke about positive changes taking place within his office, including tax lien sales and payment plans that have reduced real estate tax delinquencies by 48 percent. He said he intends to continue updating technology and systems within his office to further enhance the accounting system. Elick also went a bit on the defensive Tuesday in response to his challenger’s comments about ongoing deficiencies and a case of theft in office several years ago by a former employee, stating all those problems had since been corrected. Elick used the word “compassionate” to describe himself, stating he takes pride in helping the citizens of Pickaway County and in the way his office is run.

Jan Shannon, Elick’s challenger, said she chose to run for the office of treasurer because of the number of delinquencies that have arisen over the past 12 years. She said the treasurer reports rarely balance with the checking accounts at the banks, and the office has repeatedly been hit with write-ups by the state auditor’s office. Shannon said her first priority is to restore the integrity she believes has been stripped from the local treasurer’s office. In describing herself, Shannon chose the word “problem-solver,” speaking about her experience serving on the Westfall Board of Education during difficult financial times.

Pickaway County Clerk of Courts

James Dean, incumbent clerk of courts, said his office has been working to improve systems that will help it run more efficiently, and he hopes to continue that work if re-elected to his position. He said he and his staff continue to meet the needs of Pickaway County residents but can only do so much with the resources they have available. Dean chose the word “dedication” to describe himself, citing his number of years serving as clerk of courts as well as his appointment to the state advisory committee for domestic violence and his long history as a Red Cross blood donor.

Thomas Zwayer, Dean’s challenger, spoke about improvements he believes are vital to the clerk of courts’ office to improve efficiency and retain revenue currently being lost to other counties. He said the county’s Title Office across the hall from the Bureau of Motor Vehicles loses about 200 transactions to Ross County every month by being closed during the Saturday hours of the BMV, and an immediate priority would be to institute weekend hours to retain that revenue. He said he intends to retain the existing staff and run the clerk’s office as the competitive business it is. When asked to describe himself, Zwayer used the word “energetic,” and he said he will use that energy to improve the efficiency of the office.

The 2016 general election is Nov. 8. More information can be found at the Pickaway County Board of Elections web site.

This article originally appeared on The Pickaway News Journal