WAPAKONETA — The decision by three-term Auglaize County Commissioner Don Regula, a Republican, not to seek another four years in office has cleared a path for two GOP hopefuls seeking to fill that seat in the commissioners’ office.
Voters in the March 17 Republican primary will chose between Dave Bambauer of New Knoxville and Steve Henderson of Wapakoneta to represent the party heading into November. No Democrat candidate filed for the position and, barring the late entry of an Independent hopeful, the primary winner will take a seat on the commission next January.
Bambauer spent 23 years as the fiscal officer for Washington Township, retiring from that position in 2016.
After spending his entire adult life in the family business of Bambauer Fertilizer and Seed Inc,. Bambauer is transitioning into a lesser role with the company. While still serving as chief financial officer for the business, he is ready for the next chapter of his life.
“Running the family business has been very time consuming, but with the next generation taking over I now have time” to make a run at countywide politics. Bambauer said his experience with township finances should serve him well as a county commissioner.
“Auglaize County is in good shape right now, financially,” he said. “Sales tax figures are strong now, but those things are always cyclical. We need to maintain a rainy day fund for when it’s needed. On the other hand, building too big of a war chest is not good, either. You’ve just gotta find that comfort level.”
Maintaining and upgrading infrastructure in Auglaize County is high on Bambauer’s priority list.
“We need to keep our roads and bridges maintained, and we’re probably going to have to look at remodeling our jail. I’m hearing that the female wing (at the jail) may not be what it should be,” he said. “I hope we don’t have to go back to the taxpayers to work on the jail. Perhaps some grant money will be available.”
He said the county also rents space for some county offices and “maybe we could build” new facilities to avoid paying rent in some instances. “Until I’m in office, it’s hard to say,” Bambauer said.
As he enters the homestretch of his first countywide campaign, Bambauer is confident his 40 years of business experience and his time as a township official have prepared him well for the next chapter in his life.
“I started behind a broom with our business and now I do payroll, insurance and grain buying and selling. And as a fiscal officer I’ve been able to see how the county works with the townships, so I think I’ve got a good idea of how county government works.”
Henderson has been a fixture on the political and economic development scene in Wapakoneta, serving 20-plus years as president of Wapakoneta City Council and 15 years as vice president of the Wapakoneta Area Economic Development Council.
Henderson has been employed for the past 30 years as a financial consultant and serves as treasurer of the Mental Health and Recovery Services Board of Allen, Auglaize and Hardin counties.
Henderson said that while he is perhaps best known in the eastern part of the county, having worked on economic development issues primarily in Wapakoneta, Cridersville and Waynesfield, “I care about the entire county and I will represent everyone in Auglaize County. I don’t want to see the county divided by east and west or north and south.”
As council president, Henderson is responsible for signing off on the city of Wapakoneta’s annual operating budget, which for 2020 stands at around $68 million. He said his longstanding position on the economic development board has given him insight into what all is involved in attracting and maintaining business and industry in the area.
But Henderson said it may have been his time on the tri-county Mental Health and Services board that has been the most enlightening and fulfilling.
“I had no idea of the severity of the opioid crisis in our area. I had no idea there were so many people with mental health issues before I joined the board,” Henderson said.
“The next major project in the county will probably be an expansion of the jail, and the need for more space is due heavily to the opioid crisis. I’d like to be proactive and try to avoid jail overcrowding in the first place,” he added.
Henderson’s other priorities for the county center mostly around continued economic development and growth throughout Auglaize County and working with county residents to address their concerns.
“I’d like to think I stick up for the little guy,” he said.
The commissioner’s seat is the lone contested race in the Auglaize County primary election. Republican incumbent officeholders who are seeking re-election without opposition include Coroner Jason Stinecker, Engineer Douglas Reinhart, Treasurer April Bowersock, Recorder Emily Schlenker, Common Pleas Court Judge Mark Spees, Prosecutor Edwin Pierce, Clerk of Courts Jean Meckstroth and County Commissioner John Bergman.
No Democrat or Libertarian candidates have filed for any of those countywide seats. Independent Mike Vorhees is the only announced candidate for sheriff.
Also appearing on some ballots in Auglaize County will be a .07-mill, 5-year renewal levy for the St. Marys Community Public Library.