By JIM MAURER
Three people are seeking the Republican nomination for a Hancock County commissioner’s seat being vacated by a two-term incumbent.
William Bateson, 55, of 20368 Madison Township 68, Arlington; Miranda “Mandy” Lobdell, 36, of 4874 Allen Township 230, Findlay; and Michael Recker, 53, of 8200 Hancock County 248, Findlay, will be on next Tuesday’s primary ballot. None of the three have held an elected county office.
They are seeking to replace Mark Gazarek, who is completing his second term this year and did not file for re-election.
In November, the GOP nominee will face Democrat Ronald DeCooman, 76, of 4251 Hancock County 236, Arcadia. He is unopposed for the party nomination.
Independent candidates have until March 16, a day before the primary, to file with the elections board and appear on the Nov. 3 general election ballot.
The four-year term begins Jan. 3, 2021, and will pay $68,671 annually.
Commissioner Brian Robertson also is completing his second, four-year term and did not file for re-election.
Republican Mike Pepple, 65, of 13097 Jackson Township 37, Findlay, will face Democrat Bruce Workman, 66, of 1407 Fleetwood Ave., Findlay, in November. The four-year term begins Jan. 2, 2021, at the same annual salary. Both are unopposed for their party’s nomination in the primary.
It is Bateson’s second attempt at a commissioner’s seat. He ran in 2016 against Gazarek.
Bateson, a lifelong resident of Hancock County, lives just south of Arlington. He is married and has four children. He worked nearly 20 years at Whirlpool before leaving to manage the family farm. The family farms 750 acres just south of Arlington.
He also is the franchise owner of Roof Maxx Technologies LLC for Northwest Ohio. He is vice chairperson of the Ohio Soybean Council.
Bateson said he wants to “be out there so the people can talk to you. You have to make yourself available. I think that is one of the big keys for the commissioners’ office because they are the face of the county, the representation of the voting people in the county.”
Bateson believes a commissioner should be someone with a diverse background of business, agriculture, drainage and general knowledge.
Bateson wants to continue river widening or “benching” and praised the commissioners, and former commissioner Phil Riegle, now county prosecutor, for utilizing Stantec Engineering for flood-reduction plans, instead of the Army Corps of Engineers.
“I think when we look at whatever we do when we’re dealing with moving water through the county, we have to look at the big picture of what we’re sending to Lake Erie and right now that is a billion-dollar problem that’s trying to be solved up there; so we need to be thinking about that,” he said. “So the benching project was the best financially, and water quality-wise that we could do for the county.”
He wants to wait for the jail study to be presented by the consultant, MJ Martin, of Lincoln, Nebraska, before he commits to a new jail or expansion of the existing jail. The study is expected to be done this month.
“They deal with this stuff every day,” he said. “Let’s get their advice, then we can sit down and shape what Hancock County needs. We’re spending $500,000 to house prisoners elsewhere. Is that the most efficient? I don’t think it will be the most efficient.”
Also, Bateson said he looks forward to what is planned for the downtown green areas where buildings have been demolished. He said Tiffin has undertaken a development in downtown with an amphitheater, and he envisions a similar use in Findlay.
“I think it’s an exciting time for Hancock County and where we are headed,” he said. “That’s one of the reasons (I’m running for county commissioner). We’re headed into a new era. We’re going to have more open spaces. I think as long as we have wise development, that’s the key.”
Lobdell said she wants to give back to the community.
“When you see the average age of the elected officials now, if my generation doesn’t step up and offer to take on some of these positions, we’re going to be in trouble in five to 10 years because people don’t want to do this forever,” she said. “I feel I have the education and the background and the common sense to be a good representative and bring some insight into technology and the changing ways of communication with social media,” she said.
A Hancock County native, she completed her undergraduate degree at University of Findlay, graduating summa cum laude with an education degree in 2006. She graduated from Ohio Northern University law school and was admitted to the state bar association in 2010. She is seeking a master’s degree in business administration with an emphasis on marketing and accounting.
Lobdell said she has flexible work hours and can be a full-time commissioner.
She believes a new or expanded jail is a county need.
“I think we need to be smart with how we spend our money with a new jail,” Lobdell said. “I’m a bargain hunter, but there are some times when it is worth it to spend a little more money. I’d like to make sure when we put our infrastructure in for technology that we take our time on how we’re doing it. If we can spend a little bit more in the beginning, but we don’t have to upgrade it in five years, that would be a cost savings.
“I may not have all the answers, but that’s where testing and finding expert witnesses comes in,” she said, “I know how to find the people who can give me the information I need to make an informed decision.”
She’s been a regular attendee at the twice-weekly commissioner meetings following the 2019 primary “to get a feel for the position. I like to make informed decisions, so I can add something to the discussion, not just take up a seat.”
She wants additional youth programs in the community.
“If we support these kids, support their activities and treat them with the same worth that we treat (athletes) and academic (success), we won’t need as many rooms in the jail. These kids will become productive members of our community.”
She believes businesses and industries which come into the county have to be a benefit and also not destroy the careful balance that we have.
“A greater diversity of representation on the commissioners panel would help with that.”
Flood mitigation is going well, she said, but work should “proceed cautiously to make sure each step taken has discernible results.”
“We have to be good stewards of our money,” she said.
Recker has owned Clean Sweep Chimney and Stove for 25 years. He also raises beef cattle on a farm that’s had livestock since 1951. While not serving in elected county office, Recker does have some experience.
“It’s kind of been in my blood for a few years,” he said. His dad, Bill, now 85, served three terms as a county commissioner in the 1980s and 1990s. Mike Recker worked as a constituent aide for John Stozich, former state representative and Findlay mayor, for three years in the late 1980s.
He said the “benching” is working and should continue since there is about $13 million left in the account. Replacement of the railroad bridge (over the Blanchard River, west of Main Street) should be the focus now, he said. Then the northeast side of the Main Street bridge should have benching done where properties have been demolished.
“The benching (cost) came in a lot less than they thought it would (about $6 million), and they still have a nice nest egg,” he said.
Recker said city-county cooperation is important.
“We have to get the county and the city (of Findlay) back on good speaking terms, back on mutual respect, back like when (former mayor) Keith Romick, dad and (former commissioner) Bill Sackmann (were in office). They didn’t agree on everything, but they got along and that’s what it has to come down to. Check your attitudes at the door and just get along.”
“The jail’s going to have to be expanded. Going west of the (existing jail) makes the most sense (for expansion). There are 98 beds now, take up to 200-225 beds. The majority are low-end (misdemeanors) so build dormitories. You couldn’t build a new structure. You can’t put it on (Hancock County) 140, you’d be transporting (inmates) all the time. Downtown, it would be tied together and you’d need less staffing.”
He said “not everyone is going to be happy,” with reduced parking downtown with the new county building, expansion of the jail and planned improvements on the former site of the Argyle Apartments.
He suggested possible construction of another parking garage and more use of golf carts in downtown to transport people.
Continued infrastructure construction on the east side, with the city’s cooperation, will allow more residential housing and help Findlay City Schools, which is losing enrollment.
He said 55 percent of the workforce comes into county daily. “We’ve got to get some affordable housing to get some of those people to stay here and spend money.”