LIMA — Republicans have just a few weeks to decide who will represent the GOP on the November ballot for outgoing Allen County Commissioner Jay Begg, who suffered an accident last fall.
The five candidates vying for the GOP nomination spoke during the Allen County Republican Party luncheon on Friday, representing a range of experience from government to business.
Beth Seibert, who oversees the stormwater and watershed conservation programs for the Allen Soil and Water Conservation District, is looking to bring stability and continuity to the office with Begg’s departure.
“I want to continue an atmosphere of trust and respect in that office,” she said, pointing to her experience working alongside government, business, nonprofit and community organizations as evidence she can be effective right away.
She also touted her conservative bona fides: “I share your values of streamlined government, fiscal responsibility, public safety being insured, allowing businesses and individuals to prosper, protecting Second Amendment rights and also the belief that every life is God-given and very precious,” she said.
Seibert anticipates tough conversations on capital projects and infrastructure, an ongoing problem facing the county commission.
“They’re trying to do the best job they can with the resources that they have, and the voters turned down the tax levy they asked for,” she said. “They are very respectful about trying to live within the limits they have and not rob from the sheriff’s budget or the court system budget. They’re trying to live within their means, and I so respect that.”
Greg Stolly, a real estate agent with Real Living CCR in Lima, said his primary concern is fiscal managment and economic growth.
“I’m a visionary person,” he said. “I go out and look for people to come to our community, to invest in our community, to build buildings, to build businesses.”
Stolly has a lengthy business background, from opening his own sporting goods store at 20 years old to working as vice president of public relations and marketing for the University of Northwestern Ohio. He later opened his own marketing firm and purchased The Ohio State Beauty Academy, which he’s since sold.
Stolly also spent years as a board member for the Convention & Visitor’s Bureau board and Veterans Memorial Civic Center.
“I’ve been involved in business where you have to make tough decisions,” Stolly said. “It’s easy to make decisions when the money’s flowing in. It’s very difficult to make those decisions when things go south, meaning budget cuts, taking money away from people, taking money away from organizations. Those are the tough things. I’ve done that. I know how to do that.
“Hopefully we don’t hit that point. Hopefully our sales tax stays strong.”
Tim Sielschott, owner of Sielschott Financial Services, is concerned with attracting young families to Allen County, which he believes can happen through economic growth and creative strategies to change the perception of Lima and Allen County.
He sees the commissioner role as a pulpit toward that end.
“There’s the basic things we need to do — keeping track of the money, some of my business background will help with that — but also being one of the lead communicators in our county,” he said.
Sielschott, who is involved in Lima Young Professionals, among others, wants to see more development in Allen County, whether through working more closely with groups like Allen Economic Development Group and Downtown Lima Inc. or sprucing up downtown Lima to make it more attractive to visitors.
“I’ve had boots on the ground experience trying to tackle Allen County’s biggest economic issues — growing our workforce,” he said.
Alan Tyrrell Jr., 24, is the youngest candidate.
“Some people may look at that as a detriment, but we need to get the younger people back involved,” Tyrrell said. “I believe that the younger people, the younger generation will see that.”
Like the others, Tyrrell commended the county commission. He said he’d continue looking for alternatives to raising the county sales tax, like sharing resources, applying for grants or competitive-rate loans.
Tyrrell helps his family manage Uncle Al’s Pizza and opened his own real estate office in Gomer last June.
But what concerns Tyrrell is the exodus of young families from Allen County.
“I have classmates that have told me how they just can’t wait to leave Allen County. I’m not sure how you guys feel about that, but I sure do take offense,” Tyrrell said.
Judy Augsburger, the former mayor of Bluffton and a longtime certified public accountant, moved to Allen County about 25 years ago.
A graduate of the University of Northwestern Ohio and Bluffton University, Augsburger touts her years of experience in accounting and financial management in helping her manage Allen County’s finances.
Most everything Augsburger knows about small government came from her years as mayor and village councilor in Bluffton, where she became familiar with water and sewer operations, building maintenance, government bonds and contracts.
“I got my feet wet in Bluffton,” she said. “I learned so much, the good and the bad.”
Maintenance is key concern for Augsburger. But she cited the land bank, airport and the county’s relationship with the villages, city and townships as other priorities.
“I always say we have to maintain what we currently own and if we build anything new, we have to afford maintenance in the future,” she said.
The 2020 primary will be held Tuesday, March 17, with early voting underway starting Feb. 19.
Reach Mackenzi Klemann at 567-242-0456.