LIMA — Allen County Commissioner candidates presented their ideas on budget, leadership and transparency, helping to further outline the differences between the three options during a commissioner candidate’s forum Tuesday night.
Beth Seibert (R), who is currently serving as interim Allen County Commissioner, largely acted as an incumbent candidate during the event. She used her time to highlight the positive initiatives happening on the county level and defending the county’s financial status.
Challengers Norman Capps (D) and Dan Beck (I), however, pushed back against the message and instead asked why Allen County haven’t been able to effectively tackle some longstanding problems in the region, such as a lack of housing, higher-than-average crime rates in Lima and a slightly decreasing population.
Beck, especially, questioned the county’s leadership styles. He alleged that current commissioners don’t have connections throughout the larger community, and because of that, he said many residents see the county resembling an “old boy network” perpetrated by the local Allen County Republican Party.
“I still have many, many friends at the county courthouse,” Beck said, who served as Allen County Sheriff for 16 years. “Some of them have been there for years … but it’s interesting the things that they are telling me. There is very little transparency at the courthouse.”
To mend those relationships, Beck said he would be more active in the wider community by instituting an open door policy and venturing outside the office to get a better understanding of the residents’ concerns at street level.
Debate questions — provided by the public — also raised concerns about the current county budget.
Capps said the county hasn’t been able to maintain its current infrastructure, highlighting the bridges that have been closed due to lack of repair. He also pointed to the county’s recent purchase to establish a public defender’s office as evidence that the county is overextending itself even when it has other buildings, like Memorial Hall, that go without a plan.
“Commissioners are sworn to protect all the assets of the county, but in years gone by, too many commissioners have neglected their duties by allowing these buildings to fall into disrepair,” Capps said.
Capps proposed a growth-centric solution to help the county find increased tax revenue to tackle such problems. He said because the county has not been able to provide a united front to investors looking to establish themselves here, millions in dollars of private investment (and taxes) have gone elsewhere. With economic development as the key, he would like to encourage stronger collaborative efforts to fix the issue.
On budget, Beck, especially, questioned the county’s plans for its future financials. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Allen County was able to cut almost $900,000 from its spending, but Beck said the county has to be more prepared for what the pandemic brings down the line.
Seibert pushed back against such ideas, pointing to the strength of the county’s current administrative team and giving kudos to the commissioner’s ability to make sure a balanced budget comes together every year.
“I believe the Allen county tax payer should be proud of (county employee’s) efforts,” Seibert said. “My leadership style is one of collaboration, and I work very closely with every one of these individuals to try to stay abreast of what’s happening in their departments. As they have needs and concerns, we can help solve those needs and concerns.”
All three candidates emphasized their public service. Seibert has served over three decades as executive director with the Allen Soil & Water Conservation District. Beck spent four terms as Allen County Sheriff, and Capps has served three terms as Perry Township trustee. Both Beck and Capps are veterans.
The entire forum can be seen online on Lima-Allen County Neighborhoods in Partnership’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/LACNIP/, and is expected to be streamed on GTV2 at a later date.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.