By DENISE GRANT
Voters in Hancock County handed Commissioner Phillip Riegle a solid win Tuesday.
Riegle took 62 percent of the vote, winning the Republican nomination for county commissioner and easily defeating a two-time challenger, former Commissioner Steve Oman.
The vote was 4,876 for Riegle and 2,972 for Oman, according to the Hancock County Board of Elections. Vote totals are unofficial and include absentee ballots.
There are no Democratic or independent candidates, so the office will go to Riegle. Hancock County’s commissioners serve a four-year term and are paid a yearly salary of $55,524.
Riegle, of 22525 Delaware Township 184, is an attorney. He is finishing his second term as commissioner.
“It was a very good win. The community was very supportive of me and I appreciate it,” he said Tuesday night.
Riegle said his campaign knocked on doors, visited past supporters and used social media to get the word out.
“We just knew that we needed to keep talking about the issues, all the issues, and continue to knock on doors. … It was a lot of hard work and a lot of people helped us,” he said.
“We don’t have numbers on individual precincts yet, so I don’t know where my numbers are stronger, but I do know that we did well in many areas of the county, and I am very appreciative of that.”
Oman congratulated Riegle on his victory. While Oman expected to do better at the polls, he said he doesn’t regret launching the campaign.
When the two candidates appeared at a Republican lunch, “I said the campaign was going to be all about the river, and it was,” Oman said. “I just felt that someone had to represent the rural community, and that’s what we did. Drainage is a mighty important issue to the agriculture community.”
“We wanted to get information out there and the pictures out there on what the river looks like, and we did,” Oman said.
Oman, of 13123 Hancock County 9, is a farmer. He served two terms as a commissioner between 1997 and 2005, before losing his seat to Ed Ingold.
This was his third attempt to get it back. He ran for an open commissioner seat in 2006, losing to Riegle. He then challenged Commissioner Emily Walton in the 2008 primary election and lost.
Oman said he expects very little will be done with the Blanchard River, without a rural voice in the commissioners’ office.
Throughout the campaign, Riegle and Oman bickered about flood-control plans for the Blanchard River watershed.
Oman argued that the flood-prone river should be dredged and all islands and sandbars cleared. He said the cleaning would help with flooding by unplugging the river.
Riegle said the river is currently being cleared of downed trees and logjams. He said dredging the river would be expensive, would do very little to relieve flooding, and is prohibited by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.
Riegle is set on finishing the flood-control study now being developed by the Army Corps of Engineers, saying the watershed needs to know “once and for all” what can be done with the river.
Cost estimates for potential flood-control projects have ranged from $111 million to $200 million, and the corps has repeatedly warned Hancock County officials that there is no guarantee of federal construction money.
About $2.5 million a year is set aside for flood mitigation by the commissioners from a half-percent, 10-year sales tax increase approved by Hancock County voters in 2009. Half of the tax revenue is used for flood control, the other half is used for county operations. Findlay also contributed $1.8 million toward the flood fund.