Editorial: Unprecedented times in Allen County

First Posted: 11/16/2011

Next year's local election just went from interesting to very interesting after Allen County Commissioner Dan Reiff announced he won't seek re-election.Reiff's decision means there will be two vacancies in 2012 since Sam Bassitt announced several weeks ago that he also is hanging it up.Of course, some people would argue there are actually two official vacancies now plus one unofficial vacancy since the third commissioner, Greg Sneary, no longer communicates with anyone. That's a subject for another day.The two openings will result in the biggest change in county leadership in nearly 10 years. That came when Sneary, running as an independent, won a three-way race in 2002, taking office in January 2003. The Republican Party appointed Bassitt in February 2003 to fill the unexpired term of Bob Cupp, who left to join the 3rd District Court of Appeals. A month later, the GOP appointed Dan Reiff to fill another vacated seat.The openings also come at one of the most challenging times for this office, given the current state of the economy and the resulting hardships on local governments. Therefore, voters should measure candidates on what type of business sense they possess from budgetary matters to economic development issues. The new commissioners also need to show leadership by being able to listen to the needs of residents and other elected officials; knowing when to compromise; and being able to develop a consensus on priority issues.At least five people have told county Republican Chairman Keith Cheney they intend to run, with Jay Begg and Cory Noonan being the people who are generating the biggest murmurs. Begg is the Allen County fair manager and Noonan is the deputy district director for U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Urbana. Other Republicans who have expressed interest include Paul Basinger, American Township trustee; Brian Cheney, Lima schools teacher; and Lynn Mohler, American Township trustee. Elida school board member Dennis Fricke also has taken out petitions for the office.No names have yet popped up among Democrats, which is interesting in itself. Democrats would like county residents to believe the party is growing stronger in Allen County. If it cannot field a respectable list of candidates, that may be a sign that little has changed among the county's Dems.By state statute, county commissioners make up the general administrative body for taxing, budgeting, appropriating and purchasing. They hold title to county property. Individual commissioners have no power to act independently. All formal and official actions must be taken by the board of county commissioners acting as a body by majority or unanimous vote.Commissioners also have myriad other responsibilities including hearing and ruling on annexations, approving drainage improvements through the petition ditch process, establishing water and sewer districts and making improvements, and providing for solid waste disposal. Commissioners appoint department heads of offices for which they have responsibility and also appoint members to a variety of boards and commissions, and also serve on some boards such as the board of revision, the county records commission, and the planning commission.People interested in the job, which paid $62,584 a year in 2010 and included a generous government pension (remember Senate Bill 5), have just under three weeks to file petitions to run in the primary.

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