Candidates tackle drugs, economic development


Both Republican candidates for the Highland County commission seat being vacated by Tom Horst, along with a candidate for Congress and a hopeful for the Republican State Central Committee spoke to attendees at a Highland County Tea Party meeting on Monday.

Terry Britton, a Hillsboro school board member, and Barb Cole, a former candidate for the Ohio House of Representatives, agreed that fighting the drug problem in Highland County is a top priority and an important issue for the county to tackle.

Britton said that heroin is “taking over young people’s lives.” He said statistics show that 87 percent of crime is due to drugs, and three times as many children as was previously the case are being taken away from their parents and placed into foster care largely because of drugs.

Cole said she has been to countless meetings on the drug problem where officials always asked for the community’s help, without being specific about what people can do. She said she has come up with a program called “Grandma’s Girls,” which would create small support groups for young girls based on several specific principles.

Britton said that after working more than 42 years for Hobart in Hillsboro, most of them in management, his experience with budgets and supervision would be assets as a commissioner. He said strong families are the key to a strong county, and good jobs ensuring a good living are a key to strong families.

Britton said Highland County needs a strong economic development plan, good infrastructure and a good marketing plan for potential investors for the county to be successful.

Britton said commissioners should have close relationships with state and federal legislators. He said it’s “important to listen to people” and “make decisions on fact, not emotion.” He said he will bring a “common sense approach” to the commission.

Britton, a graduate of Leesburg Fairfield who attended Southern State Community College, introduced his wife, Bonnie, noting they have been married 44 years, with two children and six grandchildren. He said he and his wife operate a small farm.

Later, during a question and answer session with attendees, Britton was pressed on his knowledge of Paint Township. Britton acknowledged he has “not been involved” in the township. When the questioner said he should know more about Paint, Britton said, “You’re absolutely right, but I don’t. I’m sorry.”

Cole said she is seeking a spot on the commission to ensure that citizens have a voice, and to be “a guardian of tax dollars.” She said, “If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.”

She said the county commission serves as the administrator of the county, overseeing taxation, budgeting and purchasing.

Cole was critical of both Hillsboro City Council and Hillsboro City Schools, first chiding council for a recent meeting when it was suggested that citizen comments would be limited, then criticizing the school board’s policy in regard to citizen comments, where board members do not respond at the meeting but instead provide written answers within a few days.

However, Cole did commend council for its last meeting when members individually responded to a question about where they stand regarding Mayor Drew Hastings’ Facebook posts.

Cole introduced her husband, Jim Plants, and said she was the stepmother of a son who played football under coach Gerry Faust and another son who played football at The Ohio State University, commending the influence of “great coaches.”

Cole held up her latest property tax bill and described how the dollars are divided, noting that schools receive the bulk of the taxes and saying that Hillsboro schools are spending $5 million for a track, concession facility and weight room.

Cole said her background is in finance, and she would look at county finances with “fresh eyes.” She credited Sheriff Donnie Barrera for returning a substantial amount of money from his budget back to the county to help offset foster care costs, calling him a good steward of tax dollars.

Cole touted an idea for a new access road in Hillsboro that would be an extension of Roberts Lane near Kroger, which she said would help the hospital, fire department and law enforcement. She also touted various ideas to better promote Rocky Fork Lake, saying it had the best bass fishing in Ohio.

The winner of the GOP primary will take on Democratic candidate Tara Campbell in November.

Jim Lewis, a GOP candidate for Congress in the primary against incumbent Brad Wenstrup, said he was running because “we need to return to the Constitution.” He said America was founded by “Christian people,” and when it comes to following the Constitution, “my opponent doesn’t seem to care about that too much.”

“We are in desperate need for someone to turn this around,” he said.

Lewis, who said he was raised in Brown County and now lives in Clermont County, said, “I’m going up there to serve you.”

Wendy Sizemore, a candidate for the GOP state central committee from the 17th District, said she is “sick and tired of being sick and tired.” She described the duties of a central committee member, and accused the state GOP of not having “any principles at all.”

She was critical of Gov. John Kasich, Sen. Rob Portman and Congressman Steve Stivers, all Republicans, saying they “will not get my vote.” She said that when some on the GOP committee argued for a party platform to be written, Kasich said, “Who reads a party platform?”

Sizemore said she is originally from West Virginia, and now businesses are moving from Ohio to West Virginia because it has become a friendlier state for business.

Tea Party President Gary Furnish told audience members that the Tea Party believes in the Constitution, self-governance and patriotism. “We may be old fashioned, but I’m proud of that,” he said.

Furnish offered remarks and anecdotes between the presentations of each candidate. He described the Tea Party as being “the loud part of the silent majority.”

Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @abernathygary.

Seated from left, Jim Lewis, Wendy Sizemore, Barb Cole and Terry Britton listen as Tea Party President Gary Furnish addresses the audience at Monday’s candidate forum at the Hi-Tec Center in Hillsboro. from left, Jim Lewis, Wendy Sizemore, Barb Cole and Terry Britton listen as Tea Party President Gary Furnish addresses the audience at Monday’s candidate forum at the Hi-Tec Center in Hillsboro.

By Gary Abernathy

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