The Record-Herald recently sent a list of questions to both Republican candidates for county commissioner at the March 17 primary election — incumbent Tony Anderson and challenger Donald Fleak. The following are Anderson’s emailed responses:
In your own words:
Define the duties of a Fayette County Commissioner:
The Ohio Revised Code has a great defining statement for “duties”, however, the catch phrase that is in so many employment contracts say, “and other duties as needed”! Budgetary would be one of the biggest issues dealt with on a perennial basis. Also high on the list of duties is managing documents (Land Use Plan and sub-division rules along with zoning) that hopefully provide safety, security and growth opportunities for the County. The County, therefore Commissioners are charged with management of everything from Dog Warden to grants that are used for everything from street rehab, home heating and through law enforcement, jails. Fayette County is also one of six (I believe) other Counties with County managed (by Boards, as defined by ORC) Hospitals.
Define what transparency means to you:
The quick answer to transparency is refusing to act on behalf of the public in a private manner, or avoiding the public in actions. As a Commissioner, each year we authorize the meeting dates of the Commission as required by law. Our meetings are known to the public by posting, again as required by law. Special meetings are advertised in and on public locations and newspapers as required by law. Our minutes are presented to the local newspaper and as required by the Sunshine law, available in a timely manner and at a reasonable cost for anyone to acquire. As a Commissioner, I maintain a high profile in and around our Community in order to answer any questions that anyone may have. The phone number to the Office and my home address are readily available in the local newspaper. Any action that the Commission may take is preemptively discussed with the Prosecuting Attorney Office to maintain strict adherence to intent and direct requirements of the Ohio Revised Code.
Explain what this community means to you:
That is tough. Kind of like asking what does your family mean to you. I was fortunate to be born here and to this point, shy of College, have lived here my entire life. Many of my friends and family still live here. The Churches that I attend provide help to many of us. The Schools that I graduated from, while NOT the same buildings, are where I got my foundational education that helped me not only through College, but through many life learning situations. I take much pride in individuals that excel in life, work, school, sports and family. I have been party to some very difficult situations of loss with friends. This is home. I have been around the world two or three times, literally. Many times, in foreign lands, folks would ask, where are you from? I would start out with, Ohio. Next question was what part, southern, south of 70 on the west side. Next question, where? Just east of I-71 between Columbus and Cincinnati. NEXT, WHERE? Town called Washington Court House. NEXT, do you know of Sollars feeders? Marting Manufacturing? Mid Ohio Chemical, Seed Consultants, Chris Jefferies, Andrews and Baughn Livestock, and many more. Fayette County is really known around the world for the advancements and enhancements to agriculture.
Define public servant:
I come to work at the Commissioner’s office to help in whatever fashion is reasonable for the benefit of residents of the County. We live in such a small community that never is location or need differentiated.
The public deserves help for reasons and from some challenges. Many times, the reason to help individuals is from governmental regulations. Sometimes for health, sometimes for housing, sometimes for safety from the neighbor’s dog. The reason isn’t always the most important to me, but it is most important to whoever brought that forward. I try to help.
Do you have experience working with policy, grants or government programs/committees? Please name a few.
Agriculture has provided me with many learning experiences. My volunteer work in the American Soybean Association provided me with the opportunity to provide input into three different Farm Bills through exhaustive research and resolution to implement policy that was local, State, National and sometimes international in scope. The notion of collaboration was one that wasn’t underutilized. It was difficult to get policy that would perform for farmers in South Carolina AND South Dakota. Farm Bill, crop insurance, water quality, livestock care, environmental issues were some that I learned about and still volunteer on Statewide Committees as a farmer AND as a Commissioner. We serve at the pleasure of the Director of Agriculture (Ohio) but appointments to serve as Commissioner are provided by the State President of County Commissioners of Ohio. I serve on that Board on behalf of Fayette County.
Grants on a local level are best exhibited at our County Airport. The County has been blessed with great managerial professional staff for years. As soon as Fayette County was available for the FAA grant program, we became a good user. A great majority of the improvements already at the airport have been paid for by the FAA grant program that only requires a 5% match from local. Each year we take advantage of opportunity to receive $150,000 for a match of $7500! We have completed all obstacle removal, fuel tank renovation, hangar building, road building, Administration offices at a cost to the County of 5% of all public use projects. I am very proud of the economic grant program that we have utilized. Through the County Budget, Fayette County is one of very few in the State that fully funds our Soil and Water Office. This allows the State to offer to Fayette County dollar for dollar match up to $220,000. We get service for half price basically. Fayette County Extension receives the maximum match from Ohio State University due to our County budget providing our four Educators for highly subsidized rate. As a Commissioner, I have signed off on many, many grants to provide street repair, home repair, children’s services, road and bridge repair, and currently we are pursuing extended grants from ODOT to allow Fayette County to complete a new taxiway airport) removal and rebuild on a greatly enhanced time schedule. What would have taken us up through 2027 to complete, hopefully, by 2023. Construction to begin this spring. I have participated with Ohio Valley Regional Development Coalition to help Fayette County receive grants for many projects past and are listed on the queue for future projects IF we can get another or two new industry partners to come to Fayette County. Utilization of low-cost grants for NEEDED PROJECTS are always high on our radar.
What other experiences do you have that are beneficial to being commissioner?
As a longtime volunteer through the Probate Court, I provided service as a Guardian for indigent cases. I had been the fiscal officer for Madison Township for a number of years and thought that volunteering for indigent cases would provide insight as to some who might not have been as fortunate in life as myself. At one point, before becoming a Commissioner, I had 11 cases. While that experience did provide some insight, I do not believe anything can prepare you for life changing catastrophic events that outrun the best plans. I do keep that in the forefront of my mind whenever those issue come before us in the Commission.
As the previously mentioned Fiscal officer position for Madison Township for 19 years, I completed many budgets and financial statements. All of the Audits provided clean appropriations and expenditures. I worked then as now with great personnel and staff.
My experiences within the Ohio Soybean Association have allowed for so many volunteer opportunities that would never have been extended to me in any other situation. The extended activities, (many, many, many) have allowed me to gain in meeting management, policy development, collaborative activities, and program development. The World travel and international policy development allowed me the opportunity to procure funding for a group of farmers, policy makers and Congressional staff to South America to look into resulting outcomes of American foreign policy from a competitor’s viewpoint. I then was able to send the same group to Europe to see what foreign buyers of American soybeans thought of American foreign policy. Fun, fun project that allowed Policy Makers to think twice before acting. Probably one of the most fun projects that I was allowed to create.
Farming in a farming community has provided me with more opportunities than can be explained. I have been able to encourage actions and activities, suggest policy and personnel actions that could only have come from the bigger world view. My farm office walls are covered with a world map, a map of Ohio and a map of Fayette County. As was explained to me over and over, ALL POLITICS ARE LOCAL!!! All neighbors are consumers. Progress impacts everyone differently.
What are your strengths that will help working with the public?
My experiences have encouraged me to look to how actions impact people. In the Commission world, the public is our customer. Delivery of services to the public is a very big piece of what we do. I believe I have seen things, good and bad, in policy development, and delivery of service models. I care a lot about our County and recognize that wherever I go, I can be considered a representative of our County. I like to think I am a good one.
What are your weaknesses that you could address to better work with the public?
None. HAHA!! I hope my humor is seen as humor!!
I am not as patient as I need to be sometimes. I have been accused of being angry a lot. I am not one that smiles very much. I work on it, just not real good at it. I sometimes hear things differently than it may have been said. Sometimes I feel as though others don’t carry the same concern for taxpayers as I do.
Do you think Fayette County is healthy and successful? If not, what would you do to change that?
Fayette County is blessed with some of the most productive soils and best farmers in the State, if not the United States. More than not, agriculture in Fayette County is a model that many would learn from. That is why one of my desired projects is at our County Farm at the airport. I see many small jets come into Fayette County airport to pick up some of our best farmers only to fly them to a western, midwestern state to encourage farming. I would rather see the airport host small jets to come to Fayette County to see leading edge research and economic challenges addressed. By renting part of our farm to The Ohio State University, I think we can get there.
The businesses that are in Fayette County recognize the value of a great workforce. The rural mentalities taught in our schools provide everything that the great majority of students need, whether they be underprivileged or those in advanced studies. The Communities that serve have decided to build new schools. I think the Administrators of those schools look for every opportunity to find new and exciting ways to help educate our students.
The City of Washington Court House is reinventing itself through different downtown organizations that provide evening entertainment for shoppers and therefore shoppers for new businesses. Very good.
We just need more people here to enjoy what we have. The activities are almost endless in a sports world in both schools. For seniors, the addition of the YMCA, led by another great group of volunteers, just opened part of a new facility that will provide opportunities for improved health for those like me needing chances to improve our health.
The answer to the question is to be answered by all that enjoy what we have in our Community. It is very easy to challenge for more. It is reasonable to desire more. Mostly though, the best is right here. I’ve mentioned a couple of times my world travels. Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz got it right, “there’s no place like home”.
What aspects of the county would you focus on as commissioner in the coming term(s)?
Look for the easiest to fix. Keep my eyes and ears open to try to define out what is really being asked for. Make certain that as an entire Community, we are prepared for growth and decide to embrace that growth.
What do you think of the current situation with drug abuse in the county, and what do you believe is the best way to approach it or not approach it from a government standpoint?
By sitting on the State Board of County Commissioners, I see and hear real horror stories from around the State. I hear of Commissioners fighting with law enforcement, health boards, Boards of Elections, almost everyone rather than working to build an intense group that wants to help. Help kids, seniors, adolescents, medical personnel and everyone else that lives here.
We are not unique in the tragedy of drug abuse. I think we find ways to help people that want help. I think we are working towards being able to help people that can’t get out of their own way to get help. I think we are within a meeting or two, maybe three, of finding real solutions to challenges. I bet on the people of Fayette County to come up with those solutions.
Government generally won’t find those solutions. As part of the Government, I will try to find funds to help us where and how Government can.
What are your opinions on the Fayette County Land Bank?
I have high hopes for actions that improve areas for neighbors and new growth. The method extended to smaller Communities by the State Legislature came about with encouragement by County Commissioners of Ohio. Larger Communities have been working with the Land Bank for several years. Fayette County Land Bank is continually monitored by the Prosecutor’s Office to ensure legal effective actions. We have been able to remove several problems and sold several lots for future development. I see many new homes being built around town and see that by removing rundown unpaid tax homes, we are creating more areas for new homes to be built. I believe those actions, done properly will continue to improve blighted areas.
What kind of businesses do you think should come into the county, why?
For Fayette County to experience the growth whether in industry or people, more infrastructure is needed. We need better electricity supplies. We need more and better water supplies. We need more, better and cost-effective internet availability.
Realtors tell me we need much more housing. Employers tell me we need more employees. I believe the two will come together. Which first, I don’t know. I can’t tell you. I will work on those projects when those investors come to the area. We are a very rich County of resources. We are continually working on what the last group of planners for homes and industry suggest. We ask Solicitors for our small Villages to have good understandable sub-division rules in place. We ask that zoning stay in place and be utilized in a complete non-discriminatory method. We hope that our zoning, building codes and enforcement of regulatory issues is consistent and quickly dispatched with clear understanding and non- discriminatory action.
What are your plans for the 35/71 mega-site?
We are continually, by contract with an agency, searching for businesses that are in want of an area providing large landmass that is properly zoned with good infrastructure. We have visited with agencies that are “property locators” and sight mangers for any and all types of business. Fayette County is ideally situated for, but not limited to, distribution. Sitting at the intersection of two greatly improved four lane highways is perfect for many distribution hubs. Currently, our low cost, low tax location provides opportunities that today’s revved up economy is searching for. We keep advertising in trade magazines and make every attempt to keep a good website operating. Growth will come. We need to continue to improve the sight and work in a manner with owners that provide opportunities. Business continues to expand and Fayette County has a great location to help.
How do you feel about the transportation options currently available in our county?
Transportation has greatly improved for the City of Washington Court House. More is always requested but Community Action is well managed and staffed to provide. More is always requested. Growth will both be the answer and create the challenge. Where grants and opportunities exist, we will help in searching out the answers.
What has been your greatest accomplishment as commissioner and what has been your biggest challenge?
The building of the jail would rank high. But I believe that I have helped Department heads and other Elected officials look at Commissioner budgeting as opportunities rather than critiques. I believe that now, we all look at our budgets as opportunities to provide the best service at the best cost. If possibilities to different offices become available within a budget period, the Commission looks at the benefit to the Community and extends funds where possible. Elected Officials try to cross train employees to better serve the public. Hours in some departments have been extended to provide time for working families to get needed services at times the individual isn’t working.
Do you have any pressing comments you would like to share with the public?
I enjoy being a Fayette County Commissioner. I believe I have been much more of a positive impact to Fayette County than a detriment. I embrace what the future brings and believe I can help.