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Published: Monday, 4/24/2006

Hancock County commission race pits 3 from GOP


FINDLAY - Steve Oman figured his days in the county commissioner's office were over when he was defeated in his 2004 re-election bid.

But Hancock County's ongoing financial challenges have prompted Mr. Oman and two other Republicans to run May 2 for the commission seat being vacated by David Spahr at the end of the year.

Political newcomer Phillip Riegle, 28, of Delaware Township is an attorney and assistant prosecutor in Hardin County. Roger Bower, 47, an Eagle Township trustee for 22 years, is a farmer and maintenance manager at Hancor in Findlay.

Mr. Oman, 56, a farmer from Eagle Township who served two terms as commissioner, said he does not think the county needs to increase its sales tax but to live within its means. "I'm a firm believer that if you give government money, they'll spend it," he said.

Mr. Oman said he wants to rebuild relationships the county had with townships and agricultural agencies like the Soil and Water Conservation District, whose budget was cut by the county this year.

His opponents said they need to review the county's budget before determining whether a sales tax increase is needed. Though commissioners may impose such an increase, both agreed it should be up to county voters.

Mr. Bower said his priority would be working together with the other two commissioners and regaining the public trust.

Mr. Riegle said his legal background would give him an advantage in the commissioners' office.

Hancock County voters will also decide whether to retain County Auditor Charity Rauschenberg, a Republican who was appointed to the job in 2004 when former Auditor Tony Iriti became mayor of Findlay. The Marion Township resident is being challenged by John T. Sparks of Van Buren Township, who has not previously held public office.

Mr. Sparks, an executive district director of a school fund-raising firm called America's Lemonade Stand, said he has a bachelor's degree in social science but is experienced in budgets, financial forecasts, managing employees, and working with people. He said he believes county commissioners need to get more accurate revenue forecasts from the auditor than they've received in recent years so that they can make intelligent spending decisions.

Ms. Rauschenberg, a certified public accountant with a bachelor's degree in accounting, said her education, coupled with her 12 years of employment in the county auditor's office, are a plus considering the tax changes Ohio counties are facing.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at: jfeehan@theblade.com or 419-353-5972.

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