By Brett Milam
The Clermont County Chamber of Commerce hosted a Legislative Luncheon on Aug. 18 featuring a panel to discuss the ins and outs of local government.
Clermont County Commissioner Ed Humphrey and County Auditor Linda Fraley answered questions from Kevin Malof. Commissioner David Painter was originally slated for the event, but had to back out at the last minute.
Malof said the panel discussion was not intended to be a “gotcha” session, but about learning how local government operates and impacts residents in the county; the panelists also had the questions sent to them in advance.
Senator Joe Uecker, State Representative John Becker, a delegation from Governor John Kasich’s Office and lobbyists and leaders from local and national businesses were on hand for the panel discussion.
Additionally, the presenting series sponsor was Dynergy-Zimmer, with silver sponsors AT&T Ohio and Mercy Health-Clermont Hospital also present.
Representatives from each also introduced the two panelists. AT&T Ohio’s representative acted as the emcee of the event.
The first section of the discussion was devoted to just getting the audience familiar with who Humphrey and Fraley are; then delving into what each does in their role as commissioner and auditor, respectively.
Humphrey had an unlikely beginning: He was a singer in high school and continued doing it through college, which parlayed itself into being a business manager for the glee club. After that, Humphrey was with Procter & Gamble for 28 years before retiring to volunteer with the fire department in Miamiville.
“If there’s anything I could say, ‘What can you take away?’ Do more than you’re asked to do in the position you’re in,” Humphrey said. “That’s really how I’ve managed my entire career.”
As for Fraley, she comes from a family of nine, which meant a lot of struggle, but also a lot of teamwork. Her mother also didn’t think college was a thing for girls to do, but Fraley did it and eventually opened her own hairdressing business at 19 with nine employees under her.
“It sure teaches you management skills,” she said. “Time management is very important.”
Fraley said the hardest part about campaigning for auditor: Nobody knew what an auditor did.
“I want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem,” Fraley said.
To that, Fraley said one of her biggest accomplishments was putting together a comprehensive website so that people could “go in there and see exactly our responsibilities.”
Her ultimate claim to fame, however, is being the “gas pump lady,” Fraley said. But the auditor’s office also sells dog licenses and vendors licenses.
“The biggest thing we can do for businesses is try to control our costs, all government costs,” she said. “So that they will enjoy working and having businesses in this county.”
Humphrey said the commissioners are a “busy group.” The job entails overseeing a plethora of governmental services and operations: Appropriations, Department of Jobs and Family Services, Water Resources, 911 dispatch, Building Inspection Department, authorizing annexations and many more.
“The biggest thing I think we’re doing in Clermont County is the Transportation Improvement District,” Humphrey said. “Which is a group that looks at projects and I think economic development starts with highways to get goods in and out; to get residents to and from their work again and the Transportation Improvement District for the last nine years has been working hard on that.”
Business also runs at the “speed of light” compared to government, which runs at the “speech of molasses,” Humphrey said. But he said they’re working on that.
Fraley said the stereotype is that government people think business people don’t have money issues; they have all the money they need and business people think government people are lazy and inefficient, but she said neither of those stereotypes are true.
“Build your resume,” Fraley said, if you’re trying to seek political office. “Do you have a real fire in the belly for this? It’s even harder on the families than it is on you.”
The panel came to a conclusion with the question, “What keeps you up at night?”
Humphrey choked up with his answer, talking about terrorism keeping him up at night.
“Because I was a fire chief and Clermont County was one of the first counties to put in domestic terrorism in our plan,” Humphrey said, of which he was a part of putting that in the plan. “Now we see it everywhere, including here [in the United States] and there’s lots of things going on in Clermont County that someone could decide they want to be a copycat and drive a truck down a street.”
Fraley said’s answer was informed by her husband dying unexpectedly two years ago.
“I learned from that situation to not fear what you don’t know and to just use each day as you possibly can and do the best and it’s really helped me to sleep better at night,” she said. “I turn it over to God and realize I can’t please everyone. I learned from that position to not be paralyzed by fear.”