The Champaign County Republican Party hosted a candidate forum on Monday at the county Community Center featuring three of the four county commission candidates, all three candidates for sheriff and several unopposed candidates, all of whom will be on the ballot on March 17. No Democrats are running for local offices.
Moderator Taylor Armstrong noted that county commission candidate Stacey Logwood would not be present due to the recent accidental death of her stepson, who served in the U.S. Army.
Logwood opposes county Commissioner Steve Hess in the March 17 election. Tim Cassady opposes county Commissioner Dave Faulkner.
In the sheriff’s race, Chad Burroughs and David Patrick oppose Sheriff Matt Melvin.
Armstrong thanked Champaign County Auditor Karen Bailey for helping to set up the event and serve as timer.
The first part of the forum allowed three minutes to each of the unopposed candidates, which included Jeff Rezabek running for 2nd district court of appeals judge, Glenda Bayman running for re-election as county recorder, Robin Edwards running for re-election as county treasurer, Nino Vitale running for re-election as representative for the 85th district of the Ohio House of Representatives, Stephen McCall running for re-election as county engineer, Lori L. Reisinger running for re-election as a county family court judge, Kevin Talebi running for re-election as county prosecutor, and Brett A. Gilbert running for re-election as a a county family court judge.
Most unopposed candidates took significantly less time than their allotted three minutes to simply introduce themselves and explain the responsibilities of their position.
“If you know me, which I think most of you do, I fight for faith and family and freedom at the statehouse and constitutional principles,” said Vitale. “I also spend a lot of time on energy issues, the things most of us do not think about – the poles and wires, the gas lines … I’m the chairman of the energy committee. Thankfully, if you look at your bills, your electric bills are down, your gas bills are down, things are pretty good right now.
“We have a top down thing happening in this country,” he continued. “If you think the presidency of the United States doesn’t matter, he is giving our state a lot of freedom to do our own policies, and that’s making a really big difference in what we do. Last, I don’t think I need to tell you that one of the things I strongly support is our right to keep and bear arms and the Second Amendment. As someone who teaches several hundred people a year at our ranch, we feel that’s pretty important.”
Candidates for sheriff
Second Amendment rights also came up during the debate among sheriff candidates, after they and the commission candidates were allowed to make brief introductions. The first question asked of all three candidates was whether they would support turning Champaign County into a Second Amendment sanctuary.
“I support the second amendment, and I have been questioned about the sanctuary counties by several different individuals,” said Chad Burroughs. “I tried reaching out to some sheriffs that are sitting currently and talked to them about that issue, and what they had to tell me was ‘basically, Chad, the sanctuary county is nothing more than a bunch of us getting together and saying we all like guns, please don’t take them,’ but if the state would pass a law that we would have to do something different, we would have to follow the law. So, that’s my answer. I’m for them if the county wants to vote those in, however, I don’t know exactly, other than the county making a statement that they would like to keep their guns and not have the second amendment changed in any way … I don’t know really what good they are.”
“I made three oaths in my life,” said David Patrick. “The first oath was to my wife, that I would love, protect and be faithful to her. The second and third oath were to the Mechanicsburg Police Department and the St. Paris Police Department, and that was to preserve and protect the Constitution of the United States and the state of Ohio. Within that constitution, there is the Second Amendment. I have a fundamental belief that the words written on the second amendment have nothing to do with the fundamental right of self-defense. All the second amendment does is codify the fact that you should have the tools to defend yourself. So, when we talk about the Second Amendment, that’s the place where I start. So if a politician gets into a role at the governor level and passes a law that says I’m going to take away a certain class of firearms, well, I’m not going to go and round up firearms from citizens that are law abiding if all they have is that firearm, because that to me is a violation of my oath of office to the Constitution of the State of Ohio and the Constitution of the United States.”
“This is a sensitive topic throughout Ohio and throughout the United States, actually,” said current Sheriff Matt Melvin. “Everybody supports the Second Amendment, I hope. You have the right to bear your arms. What we have to look out for is some of those people that don’t need to have firearms. And those people need to be given a due process where they’re going through the court system before anyone takes their guns. I’ve worked here for 25 years, I’ve served this community, and I can tell you we’ve never gone, knocked on anyone’s doors, and taken their guns without them having due process through the court system. This all comes as hypothetical. That resolution would have to come from the county commissioners to pass that resolution for us to be a sanctuary county. I don’t foresee them doing that. I think they may but that’s up to them. I would hope they would let me have a little input into that during a meeting, maybe,” he said, motioning to the commission candidates.
Sheriff candidates were also asked about a social media policy for the sheriff’s office, consequences of any violation, whether staffing is adequate, mutual aid agreements and drug trafficking.
Patrick said he would support using younger, more inexperienced officers to stand guard at the courthouse and serve papers so that more experienced officers had more time to go on patrol. Sheriff Melvin disagreed, saying that he didn’t want an 18- or 19-year old as the first line of defense at the court house or serving a divorce or eviction notice without a weapon.
Sheriff candidates were asked about their qualifications for office.
“I was a major at the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office in 2013,” said Burroughs. “I am currently not employed there, and I’m an auxiliary officer at the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office. That’s how it’s been. I’ve been with the Clark County Sheriff’s Office up until December from the last two years, approximately.”
“I am the youngest person up here, right now,” said Patrick. “I have 16 years in the law enforcement field. Law enforcement is a broad, broad field. I started my career back in 2004 with Urbana PD. Now, I was a dispatcher, and I think everyone would say that’s in the law enforcement field. I, as a dispatcher, was not a very good dispatcher. I wasn’t good at it, but it taught me a life lesson, that I don’t have to be good at everything. I don’t have to be good at everything, I can fail and that failure is just as important as the successes that I have. I was let go from Urbana PD, and then I went on to work here at the communication center. All my life experiences have led up to this point, is what provides me with the experience to be your sheriff. I worked security for six years after that, and then I joined the law enforcement community as a police officer in 2012. I’ve worked the road. I’ve worked complex investigations. I obtained a degree in criminal justice. I’ve worked with grants of almost a half a million dollars of federal money that I brought back into Champaign County to the villages that I worked for. I believe that those are the skills that are necessary to do what we need here in Champaign County.”
“Twenty-five years ago I started at the sheriff’s office,” said Melvin. “I consider it a great honor to still be at the sheriff’s office. Like David here I started as a part-time dispatcher, and I wasn’t very good at it, so I got hired to be a full-time corrections officer. After that, I got promoted to road patrol. I worked road patrol for eight years. I was promoted to the rank of sergeant. From sergeant I was promoted by Brent Emmons to chief deputy. Yes, it’s been very beneficial. I’ve been able to learn every division within the sheriff’s office. It was the office to which I was elected, so I think it’s been very beneficial. I’ve built relationships with other agencies that has helped the county and helped support us.”
Following an intermission, the sheriff candidates returned to their table to offer four-minute statements during which they could make final comments or respond to anything said during the debate.
“I love the county and I just want to make it a better place, so try to remember me on March 17,” said Burroughs.
“I wanted to talk about taxes because, to me, your tax dollars matter,” said Patrick. “The sheriff receives a $32,000 fund that’s called the Furtherance of Justice Fund (FOJ), and as part of these funds, this is an emergency fund for use in an emergency. During my review of the Furtherance of Justice Funds, I see stuff like a Christmas party on there. I love Christmas parties and awards banquets and stuff, and I’d be willing to donate to that cause every single time, but I do not believe taxpayer dollars out of an emergency fund should be used for those kinds of things. We have a situation where I look at this and I see community car wash tokens and other aspects of spending, and I have a fundamental belief that the county commissioners are the ones that hold the power of the purse, and we should not be using emergency funds set up for an emergency purpose for things that aren’t emergencies.”
“I just want to touch on a couple of things that’s happened at the sheriff’s office recently, before I address Lt. Patrick’s comments,” said Melvin. “We’ve completely upgraded the property room and all the evidence intake there. Since I’ve taken office we’ve established a multi-county crash investigation team with Hardin County, Logan County, Union County and ourselves, so that goes to talk a little of the relationships I have with the surrounding counties and the ability to work with the other sheriffs surrounding us. Over the last four years we’ve put school resource officers in Graham, Triad and West Liberty …
“Over the last few years we’ve given approximately $500,000 back to the county at the end of the years,” he added. “I don’t misspend money. I don’t look good in orange, I don’t want to go to prison for something like that. What FOJ stands for is not ‘emergency.’ It stands for Furtherance of Justice. We use that fund and it’s audited every year by the state to make sure we don’t misspend it, and I can tell you there are numerous sheriffs throughout the state of Ohio, over time, who have misspent it and are now in prison for it. I don’t want to do that. If you want to touch on an awards banquet, that is in those guidelines. I’m allowed to provide my deputies, detective, dispatchers, civilian employees with an awards banquet every year, and that’s what we do with it. I award them for the work that they do every day, day in and day out, the hard work they give. It’s not all about me standing up here. Those guys and gals are the ones who make me look good … and I appreciate them, and I appreciate them putting their lives on the line every day.”
Candidates for county commissioner
The three attending candidates for county commissioner made their introductions prior to the debate of candidates for sheriff.
“I appreciate the opportunity to be here tonight,” said candidate Tim Cassady. “I think it’s great that we’re having this. I think that any time you have contested races, both for the health of the party as well as the health of our county, the candidates deserve to be heard. The citizens and the taxpayers deserve the opportunity to make an informed decision. And I’ll be honest with you, if we don’t have forums like this, if we don’t have an opportunity to be heard … just keep voting for the same old things again and again. I don’t think that’s healthy to our future.”
“The job of commissioner, basically, for those who may not know, we manage and appropriate the county budget to all the elected offices, to many of the county departments, so we oversee the taxpayer dollars and how they’re appropriated,” said Commissioner Steve Hess. “We review, take input, oversee the revenues and expenses and appropriate dollars, so that’s the big job of county commissioners. Other jobs include serving on any number of boards and committees throughout the community. At one time I know the three commissioners divided up about 42 board and committees so that we could divide and conquer and try to have as much community input and contribution as possible to all those boards and committees. That is really the fun part of the job. It’s all fun. I love what I do, but the part where you get out into the community and serve on boards and committees really allows you to be plugged into the community and to learn a lot about the community from many different aspects.”
“I’m not one to stand up and toot my own horn,” said Commissioner Dave Faulkner. “I don’t like to do that very well. I’d just as soon get the job done that the people here in Champaign County elected me to do. I’m in my third term. This will be my third term coming up when I beat Mr. Cassady. I want to give Mr. Cassady kudos, I was warned at the Champaign County Fair by Mr. Pollock. He kind of told me that we’re not going to have any mud slinging and have any of this or any of that. I decided that this isn’t going to be a problem. Tim and I are friends and Tim’s a very capable man. He could do the job that I do. Trust me. I know Tim, and I know what the job entails, and he could do it. I feel like I’ve done a pretty good job. Nobody’s told me otherwise that I haven’t, so I’d like to continue to be your Champaign County commissioner again if you’d allow me to have the opportunity to serve for another term.”
During the commissioner debate portion all three candidates were asked the most important issue facing the county over the next four years, how infrastructure can be improved while staying in the budget, thoughts on creating a land bank, and possible plans to expand broadband access.
During closing comments, Faulkner continued beyond his time limit, saying that the event was scheduled until 7:30, and Cassady then used a similar amount of time.
“It has truly been an honor and a privilege to serve Champaign County as commissioner during my time in the office,” said Hess. “I mean that sincerely. Very humbly we are public servants, with the emphasis on servants. I really take that to heart. I appreciate the team that I have to work with. We’ve got a great team in Champaign County … I’ve seen other counties that are not so fortunate … I’m so thankful that we’ve got the team that we’ve got in Champaign County that can work together, pull in the same direction and get things done to the best of our ability.”
“I’m very thankful to be able to have served the last seven years the people of Champaign County,” said Faulkner. “It’s been an honor, and I think the learning curve of the first couple years, coming in and thinking I knew everything, and Mr. Hess told me to take a couple of years, and he was right because the way the cycles work and the way things come around, it takes awhile to get your feet under you and know what’s going on. I’m honored that you chose me to serve the last seven years, going into eight, and I’d be honored to serve another four years if you’ll have me.”
“I’ve spent my last 20 years – and, no offense to the county or any other form of government – but it’s a fact that township government is the most efficient form of government,” said Cassady. “When I don’t fix that pothole, tomorrow, on Brigner Road, he’s not calling my secretary. He’s going to see me at the Marathon getting a cup of coffee. That’s responsive government. He has a direct channel to me. I’ve spent 20 years doing that, been elected every time with comfortable margins. I’ve used my position as a township trustee, and I want to make something clear. Not one of the positions I mentioned in the newspaper was a paid position … When I served as a director for the Ohio Township Association I went to Columbus with one goal in mind, folks. Every other committee I’ve served on was not for attention. I’m not a show horse. I’m a workhorse. I joined each one of those committees. I served in a leadership capacity in each one of those committees for one reason, because it enabled me to better represent the people that elected me.
“I’m telling you right now, if you take a chance on me and elect me your next county commissioner, what you’re going to get, you’re going to get a commissioner that’s engaged, that has no preconceived notions,” Cassady continued. “I have a clean slate, people. I don’t have an axe to grind here or there. I ask for your vote because I feel like I have experiences within the business world, within the governmental world, within the civic world. All of these things have led me to where we’re at tonight.”
Christopher Selmek can be reached at 937-508-2304