By Megan Alley
Clermont County residents heard from a couple of the candidates running for Clermont County Commissioner during a forum on April 7 at West Clermont High School.
Candidates on the ballot for the May 8, 2018, primary are republicans Tom Bixler, Michael Collins and Claire Corcoran, and democrat Rich Perry, who is a write-in candidate and needs 50 votes to proceed to the November election.
Only Corcoran and Perry participated in the forum.
Incumbent David Uible, whose seat is the only one of three that is up for election this year, is no longer in the race; in March, the Clermont County Board of Elections voted to remove Uible from the May ballot because of a discrepancy on his part-petition.
The moderated candidate forum was hosted by the League of Women Voters Clermont County and sponsored by the LEAD Clermont Alumni Association.
The community was invited to submit questions ahead of the event via email, and the audience was also invited to submit questions during the forum.
Corcoran and Perry opened by introducing themselves and then stated why they are running for office.
Corcoran, who was raised on a farm in West Chester, is one of eight children. She attended and graduated from St. Ursula Academy, and after college graduation, she worked for 34 years in Job and Family Services.
Perry was raised in Youngstown. He attended and graduated from the local high school, and before he was able to graduate from college, he was drafted into the U.S. Army to fight in the Vietnam War.
Perry went on to study in California and earned his associates degree in aviation, which he described as his “first love.” He went on to serve in the Air Force Reserve, and more than 10 years ago, at age 60, he retired from ComAir.
“Now, I’m trying to find other things to keep me busy, so I’ve got plenty of time on my hands, and I think this job as commissioner will be something that I can do very well, because I have the interest, I have the time,” he said.
Currently, Perry is a volunteer pilot for Pilots for Christ, which provides mercy flights to disadvantaged families of any faith needing medical and other necessary transportation in and out of the Cincinnati area.
In the opening question, the candidates were asked how they would support the work of the Clermont County Transportation Improvement District and other initiatives that advance road and other transportation improvements.
Perry, who went first, responded that the road structure runs mainly east and west, and at certain times of day, it backs up, so he’d advocate for getting rid of as many stop lights as possible. He’d also work to put in overpasses, and “maybe have dedicated lanes to get to and from.”
He also noted that he’d like to maintain farmland and rural areas, while at the same time progressing infrastructure in the corridors where it’s most needed.
“It won’t be an easy thing, and it won’t be cheap; there’s always a money issue,” he said. “We’ll just have to try to get what money we can from the federal government and state government to make improvements where necessary.”
Corcoran spent most of her response explaining what the CCTID is and does.
“I have a master’s in public administration, and a lot of the course work that I took there taught me how to work with groups. One of the things you’ll learn is that the transportation improvement district is made up of an entire board that helps to enhance our economic development. It has been going on since 2006. There are major players,” she said.
In another question, the candidates were asked how they would work to attract businesses to the area and support growth, while at the same time maintaining the county’s rural farmland.
Corcoran said that she believes that attracting new business is the responsibility of the commissioners.
She noted that, “Just because you want to develop something doesn’t make it right. We have to preserve our rural area; we have to keep what is beautiful in Clermont, beautiful.”
Perry said that the county is definitely going to need to bring manufacturing and new businesses to the area in order to progress.
“But, we want good business, and we want good jobs,” he said, noting that, “We need to be careful; we don’t want to destroy things, we want to make them better … we want to try to keep it where it’s reasonable and nobody’s going to get hurt by it.”
The candidates went on to answer a myriad of other questions, sometimes finding common ground, and sometimes not.
Neither candidate could answer a question that was posed to them about whether or not they were in favor of the OhioCheckbook.com program, Ohio State Treasurer Josh Mandel’s government transparency initiative that allows the public to see how tax money is being spent.
“You got me on that one, I’m just not that familiar with it, I’ll be honest with you,” Perry said. “Again, if it benefits the people, I’m for it, if it’s going to be something only available to certain people at certain times, I would be against it.”
Similarly, Corcoran responded, “I’m not even going to respond to that, because honestly, I have not studied it; I’m a person of research; I have read it, but I have not studied it.”
She added, “I’m a person who believes that when you want to vote on something, or you want to get involved in something, or make an opinion, make sure you know what you’re talking about first.”