Neither Rick Lohnes nor Seth Evans expected to run for Clark County commissioner next month, but one of the two candidates will be on the board beginning early next year.
Lohnes, a Republican and former commander of the 178th Wing of the Ohio National Guard, will try to retain the seat he’s held for two previous terms. He will face Democrat Seth Evans, a small business owner and a local minister in the United Methodist Church.
Lohnes said he almost didn’t seek re-election, but made a late decision in December last year because he felt there was more the commissioners could accomplish. The other two commissioners, both Republicans, are relatively new and he felt his experience would be helpful.
“Running for elections is not fun, and I figured eight years was time well served,” Lohnes said.
Evans also had no plans to enter politics. But he was picked as a replacement for Pamela Dixon, a Democrat who dropped out of the race in June to spend more time on her career as a nurse. If elected, Evans said he’d look for solutions for the opioid epidemic and push for more opportunity for those who want to start a small business in the county.
“This was an opportunity I didn’t want to leave unanswered,” Evans said.
Lohnes said one of his most important accomplishments as commissioner was developing a better planning process for the county. The county didn’t make long-term plans for issues like capital improvement or debt management when he first took office, but the county now has a process in place to manage those issues, he said.
“There are multiple plans we now manage for,” Lohnes said. “This is a job for me, it’s not just to showboat.”
Lohnes also pointed to other accomplishments, including moving forward with construction on a new 9-1-1 communications center exterior improvements to county facilities, including the A.B. Graham building and the Clark County Courthouse. Interior renovations to those facilities are also being planned.
He said the county also did a good job of managing its budget despite federal changes that cost Clark County about $3 million in annual sales tax revenue last year. The federal government ended the state’s collection of sale taxes on services from Medicaid managed-care organizations last year.
Lohnes said county departments each cut their budget by about 3 percent and the county has used only a small amount of revenue provided by the state as a short-term fix.
If re-elected, Lohnes said one of the most important issues will be to improve the area’s workforce to make the county more attractive for employers and to boost wages. He said he’s worked closely with other area organizations to look for ways the county can help with those efforts.
“That’s the big push right now is to be able to find folks who are qualified and help people find jobs,” Lohnes said.
Evans said his work with a 12-step recovery program and weekly soup kitchen has allowed him to hear from residents who often feel their voices aren’t heard. He said the county has resources to battle drug abuse and provide treatment, but there often aren’t enough resources available when compared to the need.
“I get a unique chance to hear the challenges they face and what needs they have,” Evans said of residents with whom he often works.
He said the county can also do more to make people aware of the services available locally, and said the county needs new ideas to tackle issues such as stagnant wages.
“We have to work on education and we have to work on recovery,” Evans said of the opioid epidemic. “If we just use a Band-Aid approach nothing’s ever going to change.”
If elected, Evans also said he’d work with the other commissioners and other local organizations to try to look for ways to provide higher-paying jobs for Clark County’s workers.
“It’s not just a matter of bringing more jobs into the county,” Evans said. “We need to attract the right kinds of jobs.”
Evans is also founder and CEO of Big Fish Local, a digital marketing company. He said that experience will be helpful because he knows how to help small businesses succeed and provide a livable wage for workers.
“We can’t accept the status quo any more and say it’s going to be good enough,” Evans said.