Paint Township Trustee Randy Mustard has been selected as the Highland County Democratic Party’s candidate for Highland County commissioner in a special election in November, party officials said Friday.
Highland County Democratic Central/Executive Committee Chairwoman Dinah Phillips said the committee voted Thursday evening to approve Mustard as its candidate to run against Highland County Commissioner Gary Abernathy in November.
Abernathy was appointed in June by the Highland County Republican Central Committee to fill the remainder of former Commissioner Shane Wilkin’s term after Wilkin was sworn in as a state representative. The Republicans also tapped Abernathy as the party’s candidate to run for the seat in a special election to be added to the General Election in November.
While Abernathy was one of eight Republicans who applied for candidacy, Phillips said Mustard was the only Democrat to submit an application, and the group voted him in unanimously with a majority present.
“Randy made it clear from the outset he was pretty interested,” Phillips said. “Others showed interest, but because Randy indicated he was interested in running, I think everybody felt with his background that he deserved the nod and they were not going to run.”
Mustard has sought the office twice before, in 2010 and 2012. In addition to serving as a township trustee, Mustard is on the governing board of Highland District Hospital and Paint Creek Joint EMS/Fire District, according to Phillips.
Mustard told The Times-Gazette that his top two priorities in office, if he is elected, will be securing a federal economic development grant for Rocky Fork Lake that stalled amid questions from federal officials, and providing the Highland County Sheriff’s Office with more resources to fight crime and drug activity around the county.
“I’d just like to know exactly why (the grant) was taken away from us,” he said Friday. “Nobody ever has explained that.”
Mustard said he was involved in getting the grant awarded to the county in the first place, and was surprised when “it just disappeared.”
As previously reported, the $844,000 grant was awarded in 2016 by the Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation Program, a division of the U.S. Justice Department. But it came to a halt the following year when DOJ officials raised concerns about certain facets of the grant administration, including a land bank being part of the implementation plan.
Mustard also said he wants to make sure the county sheriff’s office has the resources needed to keep Highland County safe.
“It’s just unbelievable what is going on,” he said. “The sheriff’s office doesn’t have enough manpower to do what they need to do, and do it right.”
Mustard added that he will pursue other grants for the county to boost its finances, citing past success in securing grants as a township trustee.
Mustard thanked those who have supported him in his past campaigns, and said he hopes to receive similar support this time around.
“I just want to thank everybody who’s been behind me,” he said. “I hope they’ll come back and I can get some more support, because I’d really like to have that seat.”
Phillips said Mustard is a “hard worker” who is well-liked and known for taking initiative.
“We’ve all known Randy for a long time,” she said. “It’s common knowledge in Paint Township if you want something done, you call Randy, because he’s a go-getter… I think he will make a very good commissioner if given the chance.”
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.