It’s not every day one gets invited to the White House. But what if you get an invitation and you turn it down? What kind of message does that send to those in Washington, D.C., and more importantly, to those back home?
Every county commissioner in Ohio was invited to the U.S. Capitol for Tuesday’s “Ohio County Commissioners’ White House Conference.” The gathering was meant to provide an opportunity for tours and for commissioners to discuss issues affecting Ohio’s counties with federal officials.
In all, 60 of Ohio’s 88 counties were represented in Washington. Hancock County was not one of them. The three commissioners — Mark Gazarek, Brian Robertson and Tim Bechtol — had at least two good reasons to stay home: the county fair and the November election.
They made the right call by turning down the invitation.
While making federal contacts and connections may have been worthwhile someday, the commissioners may have gained more in the short term by staying home, including the respect of county residents.
Gazarek said Thursday the cost of going to Washington, even for the day, would have been too high even if the commissioners’ schedules had allowed.
“I’ve never felt it’s a good idea to send someone to a conference, or go myself, unless someone can tell me what the benefit is beforehand,” he said. “What am I going to get out of it that will be beneficial to the community and the taxpayer? If I can’t answer that, how can I justify it?”
The three Republican commissioners have much on their plate right now. Growing budget demands from a criminal justice system scrambling to keep up with the opioid problem, and continuing flood-control efforts prompted the commissioners to propose two separate county sales tax issues for the November ballot. Passing both will be a challenge.
Certainly, spending any money on a day trip to the White House in the midst of a crucial sales tax campaign would have sent a confusing message to voters.
Instead, each of the three commissioners will spend time at the fair making the case for the sales tax. In the long run, that will prove to be a more productive use of their time.