COLUMBUS — Two new freshman Republicans from the region will be heading to Columbus come January due to wins in the midterm elections.
Jon Cross, representative-elect of Ohio House District 83, and Susan Manchester, representative-elect of Ohio House District 84, are both novices to holding political office, but they had little difficulty in the November elections when voters overwhelmingly chose them to represent their respective districts.
Prior to Cross and Manchester filling the seats, they were held by Robert Sprague and Keith Faber. Both conservative politicians are due to vacate their positions after winning statewide elections this fall.
Jon Cross, R-Kenton
A native of Kenton who has spent some years in Texas and California before returning to his hometown, Cross currently works as the president/CEO and economic development director of the Hardin County Chamber & Business Alliance. Due to his background in economic development, Cross said he wants to help make the region “open for business” in the same way that President Donald Trump has made the United States more competitive economically.
“There’s a lot to do. Ohio is in really good shape, but there’s some really important matters to address to be competitive in ten to 20 years,” Cross said.
More specifically, Cross said Ohio’s tax system, especially its state income tax, needs to be restructured and tweaked in order to make the state more business friendly than surrounding states.
Infrastructure improvements are also on his to-do list. Many regional municipalities are dealing with aging infrastructure with no funds to fix them, Cross said, and it’s up to latest generation of lawmakers to find ways to help provide those funds.
Cross also spent some time talking about the region’s workforce development. Due to almost a decade of decreasing populations and an older generation sitting on the brink of retirement, Cross said keeping a skilled workforce able to fill the region’s jobs is going to be a major challenge within the next few years.
“We are in a workforce crisis, whether we see it or not,” Cross said. “So we have to build a pipeline for the workforce, provide a good quality of life, good housing, a community that you want to be a part of. We have to invest and create good schools. All those things that were on the back burner are coming to a front.”
That doesn’t mean the freshman legislator is relying on government to deal with those issues. Instead, local organizations can help create programs — such as job fairs, internships and educational opportunities — that can keep the next generation of workers interested in what might be available in the local area, Cross said.
“We’ve got to engage the parents more in conversation. They too are making decision with their children. I’m not saying government should drive the conversation, but parents are key stakeholders in all this,” Cross said.
“With a new governor coming in, I’d like to look back five to 10 years from now and know we became a top 10 business- friendly state. Are there some small things we can move forward on to meet that goal?”
Susan Manchester, R-Waynesfield
After graduating from The Ohio State University in 2010, Manchester spent four years of her career working as a legislative assistant in Washington. She moved back to Ohio in 2016 and has since worked as a community outreach director with Big Brothers Big Sisters of West Central Ohio before winning the 84th district seat.
Manchester said she’s been preparing for January by talking with mentors and legislators she looked up to while in Washington. Included in that group is U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Urbana, whom she worked under for three years.
“Folks like Jim have been incredible throughout this whole process. I couldn’t do it with the help of him and the other folks around him,” Manchester said. “(Jordan) is the same person no matter where he is. If he’s in front of people, or talking to his staff, he’s the same guy all the time. It’s something I hope to emulate. I want to be the same person no matter where I am. Some people lose sight of who elected them. I think Congressman Jordan has done an excellent job of being a leader in congress and representing his district.”
As for her legislative agenda, Manchester said since agriculture is the largest industry in the 84th district, she would like to focus on helping resolve issues affecting farmers. Manchester said one of worsening problems farmers face is the lack of young people looking to take over family farms. Making it easier and cheaper to transfer agricultural properties and capital between generations could be something the state examines, Manchester said, by potentially creating some sort of tax credit program to curb costs of that transfer.
“Agriculture is an incredibly important to my district and state, and we’ll see what we can do to preserve it,” Manchester said.
Like Cross, Manchester also mentioned the difficulties of attracting a skilled workforce as a major issue the district is facing.
I think that West Central Ohio is one of the best places to live and work and raise a family, and I think that story needs to be told.” Manchester said. “I think tourism plays a big part in that as well. I think we need to find creative ways to send that message.”
Manchester also echoed some of her campaign promises as policies she wants to pursue. Like many conservative candidates, Manchester said she is “100 percent pro-life” and “100 percent second amendment”. In terms of policy, Manchester stated her support for the Ohio House’s recently passed “Heartbeat Bill,” and said that she believes law-abiding citizens should not have restrictions on the right to own a gun.
“I’m really grateful for the folks of the 84th House District. I appreciate them putting their trust in me to be their state representative, and I encourage people to stay in touch. I can only do the job well if I can hear directly from you,” Manchester said.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.