Three Democrats are in a primary to be the party’s Clark County commission candidate on the November ballot, fighting for a chance to tip the balance of the Republican-controlled board that oversees a $159 million budget.
The Democrats on the March 15 primary include former Springfield Mayor Dale Henry, former Clark County Sheriff’s Deputy Darrell Jackson and former longtime Clark County Commissioner Roger Tackett.
The winner will face in November the Republican candidate Melanie Flax Wilt, who owns a local public relations company. Another seat is also on the November ballot — Republican New Carlisle City Councilman Lowell McGlothin will challenge Democratic County Commissioner David Herier.
Clark County commissioners are paid $65,620 annually and control a budget largely funded by a state dollars and a local sales tax, including a half-percent sales tax increase that was recently extended for another five years. The county has nearly 900 employees who provide wide-ranging public services from sheriff’s deputies to poll workers to road crews.
Big issues in the race are the sales tax extension, jobs, a proposed combined 9-1-1 dispatch center and a recent debate over Planned Parenthood funding.
Current Springfield city and Clark County commissioners support establishing a combined dispatch center, but both sides have yet to come up with a funding model that they all can agree on. City leaders have said they simply can’t afford to spend any more on 9-1-1 dispatching and hope the county can provide additional funding toward the project.
Several residents have come to recent county commission meetings asking to cut funding for Planned Parenthood. Two commissioners approved the funding, saying the money doesn’t pay for abortions and provides much-need education, and one opposed it.
If Henry is elected, he would become the first black Clark County commissioner.
“In 2018, the county will be 200 years old and we have never in our history had a person of color to serve as a county commissioner or any other elected county-wide office,” Henry said.
But Henry’s not running for county commissioner to make history, he’s running because he said he’s uniquely qualified to hold the seat.
He served two terms as a Springfield city commissioner, including two years as mayor. Henry also has served as the deputy director for the Clark County Board of Elections, a member of the county elections board, a regional liaison for the Ohio Secretary of State and Clark County Democratic Party chairman.
“I’m proud of my record of public service in this community,” Henry said.
He previously challenged outgoing Clark County Commissioner John Detrick in 2004 and lost.
It’s time to move Clark County from surviving to thriving, Henry said.
“We’ve got more poverty in Clark County than a lot of people realize,” he said. “It’s time to make sure that we have a workforce that’s prepared for the types of jobs that we want to attract here in Clark County.”
His top priority, he said, is job creation and training.
“It’s got to be a collaboration between elected officials throughout the county and making sure that we do the research to find out what type of jobs that are going to pay the type of money that families are going to have a living wage on. We’ve got to start doing more to support the middle class and we need to be prepared for those jobs,” Henry said.
Other priorities include a combined dispatch center, the heroin epidemic and the Tremont City Barrel Fill, an industrial waste cleanup effort he has supported for years.
County leaders should continue to work with city officials to establish a joint 9-1-1 center before the state mandates equipment upgrades, Henry said. They should find a solution that’s fiscally responsible and works for everyone, he said, because it could make the community safer.
“At this point I’m not in a position to say the county should take on more. I think it should be reviewed again and decisions have to be made and I’m willing to step up and make whatever choice needs to be made in the best interest of all of the citizens of Clark County,” Henry said.
When asked about extending the half percent sales tax increase, Henry said it has improved the county’s financial condition. But he said it should be examined regularly, especially its impact on those who cannot afford it. He also said it shouldn’t be permanent.
Henry agreed with the current commission’s decision to continue funding Planned Parenthood. The money doesn’t pay for abortions, but for education.
Henry said voters should vote for him because of his experience and he’ll bring a new voice to the county.
“I’ve been in the mayor’s seat. We’ve had to make some hard decisions before and I’m up to the task,” Henry said. “It’s all about doing what’s best for the people in Springfield and in Clark County and every city, township and village. I’ve got a passion for neighborhoods and I want to make sure that continues.”
Jackson is a retired Clark County Sheriff’s deputy who served for more than 26 years.
He negotiated union contracts for the the Clark County Deputies Association from 1990 to 2012. He is trained in labor negotiations through the State Employment Relations Board.
He currently works at the Clark County Juvenile Detention Center.
Jackson previously ran for the 79th Ohio House District seat and was defeated by Republican Kyle Koehler.
He decided to run for county commissioner this year because he said he wants to use his experience in law enforcement to lower the crime rate and battle heroin and the drug epidemic.
Jackson also wants to use his leadership and negotiating skills to encourage stable businesses to come to and remain in the community.
“My greatest strength is listening to people, understanding their concerns and solving problems. I’ve spent 20 to 23 years negotiating budgets and I understand them and I can help all of the county departments improve their budgeting practices as well,” Jackson said.
Jackson’s top priorities include the lowering crime, fighting the heroin epidemic, increasing drug treatment facilities in the area, creating jobs and focusing on the 9-1-1 combined dispatch center.
He said the No. 1 priority in the community is bringing good-paying jobs to Clark County, but officials must address the crime and the heroin problem to do that.
“We just can’t continue to ignore the (drug addiction and crime) problem … If you want to bring good paying jobs to the community we have to address those issues,” Jackson said. “If you see the crime rate in Clark County I think it holds back good paying jobs to this community.”
County leaders need to have conversations with current business owners about how they can help them stay in the community, he said, noting the stores that have left the area
“We’ve lost Target. We’ve lost Elder Beerman, Macy’s, JCPenney. Those are jobs. I don’t know much power I have on that, but at least I can go out and talk to them. What can we do? What are you looking for? It doesn’t hurt to sit down and talk and ask,” Jackson said. “There are three county commissioners and we have to sit down and try to come up with a plan as a group, not as one individual.”
He’s in favor of a county-wide dispatching center.
“It helps the community. Anytime we can save money for the taxpayers … I think we can save on equipment,” he said.
Jackson supported the county commissioners recent decision to extend the half-percent sales tax, but said officials need to develop a three-year plan to prevent the county from relying on revenue from the temporary tax.
When asked about the current board’s decision to continue funding Planned Parenthood, Jackson said the local clinic doesn’t perform abortions and provides much-needed education and services.
Jackson said voters should elect him because of his leadership and negotiating training and experience
“I bring bring fresh ideas. I would listen to leadership, other county commissioners, other department heads, other elected officials, the community and I would try to solve the problem. We have to address the issues that are facing Clark County,” Jackson said.
Tackett was a Clark County Commissioner for 28 years until he lost in 2010 to current Clark County Commissioner Rick Lohnes, a Republican.
“I really have the experience to continue doing the job as Clark County commissioner. I had proved that I was able to do that over a number of years and would like to continue that if the voters would give me that opportunity,” Tackett said.
He served for two years in the Vietnam war. In 1967, Tackett was critically wounded in Vietnam when sniper fire punctured his lung and paralyzed his legs.
Complications from his injuries caused him to miss a lot of meetings during his last year as a commissioner, he said, an issue during the 2010 election when he lost his commission seat. But he said he had surgery at Ohio State University, lost 40 pounds and is now healthier than he has been in a long time.
As a commissioner, Tackett said he helped establish Prime Ohio Industrial Park, which provided about 2,000 jobs; and KTK Industrial Park on Urbana Road, which is about 90 percent occupied.
The industrial park is named after Tackett and fellow former Clark County Commissioners Merle Grace Kearns and Lou Kerrigan.
He also noted that he was involved in establishing the indirect cost recovery program that helped the county recoup administrative costs for handling state and federal programs.
Tackett also said he lobbied for the hospital to be located in downtown Springfield despite initial push back about the move, and helped establish the Heritage Center, the ice skating rink and the new baseball stadium in Springfield.
When asked if he agreed with extending the sales tax increase, Tackett said he wouldn’t approve a tax without studying the county budget closely.
He said as commissioner, he’s shown the ability to work well with both Republicans and Democrats.
“It’s really important even when we disagree to have respect for each other. I would try to work to make sure that we were able to work together and we’re able to compromise where possible and even when we disagree, we treat each other with respect,” Tackett said.
Tackett said he also wants to help with efforts to clean up the Tremont City Barrel Fill, which contains about 1.5 million gallons of industrial waste not far from the city’s drinking water source.
He’s attended recent meetings held by local and state leaders and the Environmental Protection Agency.
“There’s a tremendous problem and we need to make sure our water safety in the future is protected,” Tackett said.
Tackett decided to run for county commissioner again because he wants to do more to help Clark County.
“I don’t enjoy retirement very well … Being a Marine throughout my life, I always want to try to help out my community, help to make my community a better place,” he said. “I would like to continue working for Clark County. That’s one of the things that makes me most happy. If the voters of Clark County will give me another opportunity I would like to continue to serve them as their Clark County commissioner.”
Education: Associate’s degree in landscaping from Clark State Community College and Bachelor’s degree in urban affairs from Wright State University.
Experience: U.S. Army veteran, retired from General Motors after 30 years, former deputy director for the Clark County Board of Elections, former member of the Clark County Board of Elections, former regional liason for Ohio Secretary of State, former Clark County Democratic Party chairman, former substitute teacher, .
Education: Graduate of the Ohio Peace Officer Training Acadmey in the Clark County Sheriff’s Office. Trained in labor negotiations for the Clark County Deputies Association through the State Employment Relations Board.
Experience: Retired deputy from the Clark County Sheriff’s Office after more than 26 years, negotiated deputy union contracts for 22 years, currently works at the Clark County Juvenile Detention Center.
Education: Bachelor’s degree in political science from Wright State University.
Experience: U.S. Marine veteran, wounded while serving in Vietnam; served as a Clark County commissioner for 28 years, including as board president; and served on the board of directors for the County Commissioners’ Association of Ohio.