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Published: Saturday, 4/16/2005

Former state rep wearing new hat

FREMONT - Looking for a way to resume his political career, former state Rep. Rex Damschroder will be sworn in next week as the newest member of Fremont City Council.

Mr. Damschroder, 54, who left the Ohio House of Representatives in January, 2003, because of term limits, was chosen Thursday night by the Sandusky County Republican Party's central committee to replace former at-large Councilman Troy Thatcher.

Mr. Thatcher, a council member since 1997, stepped down last month to become the city's utilities billing manager.

Mr. Damschroder was chosen over four other candidates to fill the rest of Mr. Thatcher's term, which runs through the end of 2007. He will attend his first council meeting Thursday night.

Mr. Damschroder, who represented Ohio's 81st District for eight years, said he was approached by some local Republicans about seeking the council

seat and decided he was ready to return to elective office.

"I want to be part of the decision-making process," he said yesterday. "I was real excited about that in the legislature, and this was my only opportunity right now. I live in Fremont, and I thought, 'Maybe I can do some good for the time being.' "

Mr. Damschroder said he was encouraged by some local Republicans to seek the council seat. "The more I thought about it, the more it made sense for me right now," he said.

Lee Shaffer, chairman of the GOP central committee, said Mr. Damschroder's legislative experience gave him an edge over the other candidates, none of whom has held public office. "I have no doubt it was a big contributing factor," he said.

The other contenders were Mike Koebel, Randy Rohm, Justin Smith, and Kathy Stout.

Mr. Damschroder, known as a staunch fiscal conservative during his time in Columbus, said he'll bring the same approach to council, where he'll be one of two Republicans out of eight members. "I don't like the government to be wasting our tax dollars," he said.

Mr. Damschroder said he remains interested in higher office and mentioned the Ohio Senate and Congress as possibilities.

State Sen. Larry Mumper (R., Marion), whose district includes Sandusky County, will be forced to retire in 2009 because of term limits. Mr. Damschroder has already run two primary campaigns against U.S. Rep. Paul Gillmor (R., Old Fort), who has represented the 5th Congressional District since 1989.

Winning a seat in Congress "would still be my No. 1 goal," Mr. Damschroder said.

- STEVE MURPHY



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