Candidate hopes to win seat vacated by Caraway, looking for fourth term –
By Patricia Beech –
Adams County Commissioner Brian Baldridge, the Republican candidate vying for the Board of Commissioners “open” seat, will face off against challenger Richard Dryden in the upcoming Nov. 8 election. Baldridge is running for his fourth term as commissioner. The Republican committee’s decision to run a sitting commissioner for the ‘open” seat vacated by Stephen Caraway raised questions and created more than a little confusion among the electorate.
In brief, if Baldridge loses the race to Democrat Dryden he will retain the seat he now holds on the board. If he wins he will vacate the seat he now holds and assume the “open” seat. At that time the Republican Committee will appoint a candidate to finish his term which ends in 2018.
The People’s Defender asked several questions of both candidates providing them an opportunity to speak directly to the voters. Below are Commissioner Baldridge’s thoughts on why he should be elected to serve again on the Board of Commissioners.
Defender: Why are you the best candidate for county commissioner and how will you make a difference in Adams County over the next four years if elected?
Baldridge: This race is about experienced leadership. I’ve served this county as commissioner for three terms, and I look forward to continuing to serve the people of Adams County. While serving as commissioner I have voted to support bringing in just under $20 million in grant money to the county. We know when we bring outside money into this county that money will turn over five to seven times and we can invest that here, locally. As commissioner I will continue to work hard to bring outside money into our county because it stimulates our local economy.
Defender: What is your assessment of the county’s overall financial position?
Baldridge: The financial position of the county right now is stable. I like to think my management has kept it at a stable level. Our biggest threats are cuts to local government. We have a looming cut through the Medicare process and how it’s taxed that could effect our county budget to the tune of $600,000 in 2018. Those are huge contributing factors that could mean a huge negative for our future. It’s stable now, but we always have to be on the offensive in managing our budget and making sure our voices are heard in Columbus. One of our challenges in a rural setting in Ohio is that we have two or three state Representatives and one Senator in our region. The negative is that greater Cincinnati, Columbus, and Cleveland have six, seven, or eight state Reps, and hey don’t have the issues we do out here in a rural setting. We have to make sure that our voices continue to be heard in the state legislature to make sure they don’t cut us anymore.
Defender: What should the county be doing to confront growing poverty here?
Baldridge: Poverty is a huge challenge, not only here, but in our state and in our country. What we have in place here in our county for dealing with poverty is a great group of folks at our Jobs and Family Services who assist individuals and families who face the challenges of poverty. That support group and those employees of the county do a great job assisting those folks and helping them make that leap out of the situation they’ve fallen into.
Defender: What are your goals for cultivating a strong cultural identity for Adams County in the next four years? What role should the arts play in Adams County’s cultural identity, and how should the county be supporting the arts community?
Baldridge: The arts are an important part of our community. We are all proud of the activities and functions sponsored by our Arts Council. We recently had the opportunity to partner with our Arts Council to apply for a grant and I supported them in that. It was a great opportunity to bring in funding from other areas into our county. I was a music guy in high school, and I enjoy that, and our youth need to be exposed to the arts to realize its beauty and importance.
Defender: If the Health Department’s services levy doesn’t pass, what steps, if any, would you as Commissioner take to ensure we don’t lose the services they provide?
Baldridge: I’m supportive of the Health Levy, and hopefully it will pass, it is a very important need in our county. Recently the Health Department needed support and the commissioners agreed to provide assistance to get them out of the financial crisis they were in. Obviously, it’s like anything else when we make a decision as far as governing – if the funding is not there we have to reevaluate, take a step back, and evaluate what services we have to provide and what services we want to provide. When it’s tough times financially we have to make those tough decisions and make sure that we meet the needs that have to be provided by law and by our commitment to our community.
Defender: Should any part of the county budget be shielded from cuts? And, if so, which area?
Baldridge: Hopefully, instead of making cuts, we could collaborate with other agencies, whether it be internally within our county or externally outside our county, to come up with creative ways to fund whatever that department is. A lot of our departments are on very lean budgets. They’re all very important and the employees all do a great job. Obviously we can’t touch mandated funds, so it’s a very tough decision, and I can say I’ve had experience with that. We have battled through those tough times and used creative thinking to making sure we kept intact our goal, which is to continue to drive our county to be the best we can be.That’s how those decisions are made.
Defender: If elected, how would you cultivate and strengthen tourism is Adams County?
Baldridge: I have made every effort as county commissioner to help drive the sector of travel and tourism. I’ve assisted with a small amount of funding to the Travel and Visitors Bureau that helped bring tourists into the county. The county commissioners have a position on the tourism board so we are able to make sure that tax dollars are spent appropriately. In the future I will continue to support tourism because we know it is the single largest sector of our county, growth-wise. Our fall festivals bring in people from Columbus, Hamilton, and Clermont counties who spend their money in Adams County. We know that we have a lot of one-day trip folks who travel to our great county to see the wonderful things we have to offer, and we need to continue to build on that.
Defender: If new resources were available, what one area of county services would you feel most needs additional resources?
Baldridge: As far as governing, sometimes it’s easier to govern when the money isn’t there because the answer has to be no. When the money does come in a positive fashion and we have an increase then the decisions are hard because we have to evaluate what should be done. Whether it be economic development or tourism development, or something else – if we can use it to stimulate the tax dollar and grow it more than once obviously, that’s the best way for tax dollars to be spent. Infrastructure would be another issue along that same line.
Defender: What do you see as the most pressing needs for infrastructure in the county?
Baldridge: In the past I’ve supported a lot of opportunities to fund our local water departments. I’m proud to say when I came in we still had large regions of our county that were not covered by county water. It is one of our basic life infrastructures that effects our lifestyles everyday. Today we’re closer than ever to having county-wide coverage of water. Obviously natural gas is another of the basic infrastructure issues that we look at. I can tell you that since I’ve been on the board of county commissioners we ask these tough questions every year, ‘how are we going to do it’, and we continue to try and figure out how we’re going to get natural gas because we know that natural gas is one of the drivers of growth and development.
Defender:Do you plan to promote any changes to existing taxes? If so, why?
Baldridge: As far as taxes, we all feel we pay a lot of taxes, and as we see on the ballot we have a number of areas where we are going back to the taxpayers to ask for assistance such as the Health Department which is in need and struggling to do their day-to-day operational business. We want a conservative solution. I want to make sure that there’s no other way that we can fund, do, or take care of that issue without going to the taxpayer.
Defender: What incentives would you offer businesses to come to Adams County?
Baldridge: First of all, I always want to support our local businesses and make sure we take care of their issues. I’m cautious when it comes to tax incentives. We want to strive to bring those folks in, but we’ve got to make sure that we don’t have a negative effect on our current businesses. We want to look at each case very hard. As far as incentives, from an economic standpoint, we should develop our infrastructure so that we are competitive in our region. When businesses start looking we want to be sure we can provide those basic needs they require.
Defender:What are your thoughts on the environment and land use policies?
Baldridge: Water quality has been a huge topic in the state of Ohio. We have a lot of farmers in Adams County, and we have to continually strive to keep our water safe and our environment safe. The factors that I think contribute to the problem are not only the agricultural community as far as chemicals, but also private septic systems. We know it wasn’t one issue that became a negative, it’s multiple things that come together that created the problem. I served in the Soil and Water Department where we promoted our greatest resource – the land, and we have to constantly take care of it.
Defender: What method or criteria do you use to determine how you will vote on an issue?
Baldridge: One, initially I do a lot of research. I’m a common sense individual, I need to look at all the information presented to me, and make sure that I do my homework. I ask the question, “Is this best for our community today, is it best for my children, your children, and for our total overall future as a society”? In making sure it does take us into the future my goal as a citizen and as a commissioner is to leave things better than when they were given to me.
Defender: What would be your position in issuing levies and taxes as they would pertain to smart growth projects and sustainable development?
Baldridge: I don’t think those should be handled at a county level. I think the state has put a lot of factors in that assist in those areas. I believe in the voice of the people when they vote on levies here locally. I believe when a department comes to us and says they need to go to the voters, I want to make sure we ask those hard questions – Do we need to go to the voters, but then allow the voters to decide? There are already a lot of things in place to help fund those type of growths and I don’t feel that at a county level that’s the responsibility of the county government to do.
Candidate Baldridge and his wife Lori live in Cherry Fork on the Baldridge family farm.