Champaign County Commissioner David E. Faulkner’s quest for a second term begins on March 15 when he faces off with Urbana City Council member Doug Hoffman in the primary election for the Republican nomination for county commissioner.
Faulkner, who lives in St. Paris and is in his fourth and final year of his first term on the county commission, said he decided to seek re-election because he feels as though he has more to give to the only county he has ever lived in.
“It takes a good part of the first term to learn the position because there are so many things that come along that you can’t learn it in six months,” he said. “When I came into this role, I thought I had it all figured out, but Commissioner Steve Hess told me it would take two or three years to get where you go through everything.
“I feel like now I’ve got my commissioner legs under me and can do an even better job than what I believe I have done the first three years I’ve been in this position,” Faulkner added. “I feel like I’ve done a pretty good job since I haven’t heard any complaints.”
A Graham High School graduate, Faulkner said when he is not busy with his commissioner duties, which include serving as president of the county commission, he works as a farm steward and spends time with his wife, Traci, three children and seven grandchildren.
Faulkner finds time to serve on 15 boards and committees, the majority of which are county-based organizations that require the service of a county commissioner.
Hoffman, who grew up in the Springhills area and has lived in different parts of the county throughout his life, graduated from Urbana High School, then received a bachelor of science degree in chemical engineering from the University of Cincinnati.
From his Urbana home, where he lives with his wife, Heather, and their four children (Sydnie, Shane, Trent and Morgan), Hoffman works in the chemical engineering/sales profession. He also helps his brother and sister run their late father’s business – Hoffman Roofing and Siding.
In early 2012, Hoffman’s political career began when he was appointed to the Urbana City Council as an at-large member, a position he has held ever since. Hoffman also serves on the Urbana Parks and Recreation Committee, Champaign County Transit System Committee and is chairman of the Champaign County Republican Club.
“I believe I bring a unique set of skills to the table since I have children in the community, I’m from the community, and I have a degree in chemical engineering, which is essentially a degree in problem solving,” Hoffman said. “I also believe I have a pretty good set of people skills, which I feel is important because there is no one person on their own who can effect change in any kind of government. It’s not the way government is set up.”
Hoffman added that while he enjoys serving the city of Urbana, his love for the county and his desire to make it a place where future generations want to live or do business are the primary reasons he decided to run for county commissioner.
“I’ve always felt it’s important to be part of your community, and I feel like I can have more impact in the community at the county level,” he said. “I’ve got four children who are going to live here and grow up here, so I want to make sure that the community is better off than what we found it.”
Hoffman tackles issues facing Champaign County
Without having any insight into what is being discussed at the county level, Hoffman said, in his opinion, the three biggest areas of concern for Champaign County are economic development, safety/social issues and infrastructure.
“Any company, person or plant has to grow in order to survive. As a county, we have to grow, because without growth, we start to get into a lot of problems,” Hoffman said, adding the creation of the Champaign Economic Partnership (CEP) is a step in the right direction.
“Economic development is kind of like a cure to what ails the community,” he said.
As for safety/social issues, Hoffman said, regardless of the county one lives in, there will always be groups within the community which need help like the elderly, disabled or those battling drug addiction.
“The county has several resources for these folks, and there are also several groups outside the government that focus on these groups of individuals,” Hoffman said. “One thing I would like to look at is collaboration among all these groups in trying to streamline some of the interaction between them.
“I’d also like to get a handle on all the social welfare organizations. Not that more money needs to be spent, but maybe we could look at trying to create some efficiency there and take a look into how economic development or a lack of a good job affects drug addition or a person’s ability to own a home versus renting.” he added.
In terms of the county’s infrastructure, since citizens can’t build their own roads or run their own utilities, Hoffman said, the county commissioners have to make sure they are looking into ways of improving these services.
“I recognize that Champaign County is not just going to be able to go out and put in all new roads, but we need to make sure the county engineer has the tools and resources he needs to address infrastructure concerns,” Hoffman said.
Faulkner highlights issues facing the county
Having spent the past three-plus years as a county commissioner, Faulkner said, in his opinion, the three top issues currently facing Champaign County are revenue sources, heroin use and the back and forth over the proposed wind turbine project.
“The revenue part of running the county is one of the bigger issues,” he said. “When the state and federal governments keep cutting everything, they push that responsibility down to the county level, and we have to figure out how to keep operating here without them giving us money.”
Faulkner said while some lawmakers think the lottery and casinos will save the day, he can’t jump aboard this rationale.
“You can’t run county government, schools or any of those entities on the hope people will go out and gamble,” Faulkner said. “Most of what we do comes from sales tax money, and while the funds generated through the county sales tax have increased over the years, you can’t count on that number to continue to increase.”
Faulkner pointed out heroin use within the county is not only a health concern, but it’s also becoming a financial constraint on the county government.
“The heroin issue here in Champaign County is an issue that is costing taxpayers a lot of money with indigent defense and going through the court system,” he said. “Most of the people getting into trouble don’t have any money, which leads to a need for an indigent defense. People don’t realize the expense in that, and that the county has to bear a lot of the burden when these individuals end up in the court system.”
As for the continuing saga involving the proposed wind turbine project on the eastern side of the county, Faulkner said he is not at liberty to discuss information he has been privy to over the past few years as county commissioner, but said it’s an issue that “still lingers.”
Joshua Keeran may be reached at 937-652-1331 (ext. 1774) or on Twitter @UDCKeeran.