Editor’s note — This is the first of four stories detailing the four candidates running for county commissioner seats in the Nov. 6 General Election. For a full term seat commencing Jan. 1, 2019, Republican incumbent Jeff Duncan will oppose Democrat John Dale Knauff; and for an unexpired term ending Jan. 1, 2021, Republican Gary Abernathy, who has filled the seat since Shane Wilkin resigned this summer to become a state representative, will oppose Democrat Randy Mustard.
John Knauff says the two most important issues he sees Highland County facing over the next four years are finding a way to provide students coming out of high school with the skills to obtain jobs that pay a good living wage, and fixing what he says is a budget problem.
“I’ve been active in the county Democratic party here, and elsewhere, for a long as I can remember, and with retirement approaching I thought about working closer to home,” the 68-year-old Vietnam veteran and longtime single father said. “I’m also interested in the people of Highland County.”
Knauff said the party was looking for a Democratic candidate to oppose incumbent Republican Jeff Duncan, and when it couldn’t find one, and since he’s a member of the Highland Democratic Central Committee, he decided to throw his hat in the ring.
The biggest issue in the county, Knauff said, is “we’re not doing enough within this county to help kids in high school find the skilled jobs this county needs.”
He said students should not have to be sent outside the county to receive a vocational education, and that high school counselors are too focused on sending students to college rather than to a vocational school or into the workforce. He said that if kids had a skill they would be more likely to go to work, if there were more good paying jobs they would be more optimistic about staying away from alcohol and drugs, and that too many leave high school without skills and therefore little hope for a bright future.
For a variety of reasons, Knauff said, the county’s smaller communities are not as vibrant as they once were, and if the county had a skilled workforce, he believes skilled jobs would follow, and some of the smaller communities would rebound when their residents start making and spending more money.
The main reason the county is facing budget issues, Knauff said, is because Governor John Kasich’s administration has balanced the state budget by taking funds away from local governments.
“That’s offensive and puts municipalities in a worse place than they were before,” Knauff said. “They didn’t cut dollars out of Columbus, they cut it out of all of the rest of us.”
A current resident of the Carmel area who was born and raised in Sinking Spring, Knauff said he acquired welder’s skills before he was drafted, worked at Hunter’s Meats for a while when he returned from Vietnam, then landed a job in 1972 as an apprentice welder at what is now the Portsmouth Uranium Enrichment Facility, where he still works today. In between, he took a leave of absence for 16 years to work as an international union representative, and is still an active union steward.
If elected, Knauff said he’d like “to have a plan with real vocational assistance and concentrate on younger people in school and right out of school. If we can’t help those people, we’re in trouble. I think that’s the path toward a better life and earning a good living wage for the people of Highland County.”
He said local residents need to pay more attention to local government, who they are electing, and the job those elected officials are doing.
“People have a lot of expectations, but a lot of them are not really paying attention to what’s going on,” he said.
Knauff said he’s the right man for the county commissioner seat because, “I at least express a vision for the county to try to fill a leadership role and work for a better and more prosperous county. My goal is to try to improve the lives of the average citizens of Highland County.
“I have nothing bad to say about Mr. Duncan at all. I hope the people of Highland County hire me, and I hope I can do them well.”
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522.