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Published: Sunday, 11/2/2008

Sheriff showdown among Wood County races

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

BOWLING GREEN Judging by the number of signs posted up and down Wood County s roads, it s clear the race for county sheriff is one of the most hotly contested.

First-term Republican Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn is being challenged by Lake Township Police Chief Mark Hummer, an independent who worked as chief deputy under former Sheriff John Kohl for three years.

Chief Hummer, 45, has been critical of the way the sheriff has expanded the capacity of the jail without increasing staff as well as his practice of driving a marked county car at all times, even to social functions with his family. He said Sheriff Wasylyshyn is more concerned with being seen and getting his name in the newspaper than running a law enforcement agency.

I had a lot of people approach me current and former deputies, elected officials, firefighters, fire chiefs that wanted to see a cop in office, not a politician, and I m a cop, Chief Hummer said. I m not much of a politician. I m about doing what s right.

Sheriff Wasylyshyn, 47, defends the way he has run the 120-employee office, cut costs, and improved technology, and he says he s committed to being a visible and accessible sheriff. He said he and his chief deputy, Eric Reynolds, made an agreement soon after he took office in January, 2005.

We said from the beginning, every decision we make is not going to be what s best for the sheriff or the sheriff s office, but what s best for the citizens of Wood County, he said. My thought is if I always make decisions based on what s best for the citizens of the county, I think I ll be sheriff for a long time.

The sheriff is paid $84,522 a year.

• OTHER RACES

Wood County voters will elect five other county officials on Tuesday, including successors to longtime Clerk of Courts Becky Bhaer and Recorder Sue Kinder, who are retiring at the end of the year.

Democrat Julie Larabee Baumgardner, 40, and Republican Mike Merillat, 49, are running for recorder, whose job is to maintain land records, including titles and easements. The position pays $57,232 a year.

Ms. Baumgardner worked in the recorder s office from 1993 to 1998 and now works as a computer programmer for DMC Technology Group in Toledo, developing software for businesses and courts. She said she believes her combined experience will help her meet the technology needs of the recorder s office, such as making records available online.

Mr. Merillat has supervised the county title office, a division of the clerk of courts, for 13 years. He said he would work to make records accessible and user-friendly and would explore the idea of having the records online.

Vying for the clerk of courts job, which has an annual salary of $68,903, is Ms. Bhaer s chief deputy clerk, Cindy Hofner, and Bowling Green City Councilman Gordy Heminger, who works as associate director of residence life at Bowling Green State University.

Ms. Hofner, 51, a Republican, has worked in the clerk s office for 32 years starting soon after she graduated from Otsego High School in 1975. As chief deputy, she s involved with training new employees, planning the budget, day-to-day operations, and running things when Ms. Bhaer is out of the office.

If elected, she said she would work on automating some of the jobs now done manually to save staff time, such as redacting Social Security numbers from court documents and stamping each page of every court order.

Mr. Heminger, 32, a Democrat, said that with Ms. Bhaer s retirement, he believes it s time for someone with a fresh perspective and new ideas to take charge of the office, which employs 20 in the legal office at the courthouse and seven others in the title office.

If there weren t things I thought I could do to improve technology, modernize the office, and save taxpayers money, I wouldn t be running, he said.

Mr. Heminger has paired his name on some political signs and flyers with newcomer Joel Kuhlman, a Democrat who is running for county commissioner against three-term incumbent James Carter, a Republican.

Mr. Kuhlman, 27, an attorney who practices law in Bowling Green and Haskins, promises he would bring fresh ideas and youthful energy to the board of commissioners if elected something he felt he did when he was elected to the Wood County Educational Service Center board in 2005.

Mr. Kuhlman has an undergraduate degree in environmental engineering and said he would like to see the county continue to develop as a center for green energy and do more to ensure that large-scale dairy operations in the southern part of the county comply with state regulations.

Mr. Carter, 69, said that with the national economy as it is, his most important role as commissioner is to make sure people have jobs and that the county continues to nurture companies that have promising futures in alternative energy sources, such as solar, wind, and methane.

I just think right now is not the time to be exchanging a proven commodity for something you re not quite sure of, Mr. Carter said. I ve certainly dedicated myself to being a full-time commissioner and I think if you ask around, people will tell you I m still full of energy and ready to help.

Democrat Alvie Perkins, 75, who has been a county commissioner for 24 years, also is running for re-election.

He is being challenged by Republican James Witker, 57, a farmer who served as a Freedom Township trustee for 16 years but was defeated in his re-election bid last year.

Mr. Perkins insists he s still full of energy too.

I m working out, and I ve gone from 200 pounds to 169 pounds. In that respect I feel fine, he said, adding that he has not considered retiring. I love what I m doing. I enjoy it.

Mr. Perkins, a former Bowling Green mayor, said he would continue to focus on economic development and making sure residents have access to good drinking water and sanitary sewers.

Mr. Witker said he would like to see commissioners work more closely with the county engineer on infrastructure to accommodate development before the development occurs. He also would like to see the county focus on attracting factories and other businesses to areas where industry once existed, places such as Rossford and Northwood, rather than building on green space.

As a farmer, I d like to preserve as much of the rural aspect of Wood County as I can, he said.

Commissioners are paid $65,620 a year.

First-term Wood County Engineer Ray Huber, a Republican, is being challenged by Matthew Tewers, a civil and structural engineer who is running as an independent.

Mr. Tewers unsuccessfully challenged Mr. Huber in the Republican primary in 2004 and his predecessor Tony Allion in 2000. The engineer is paid $95,193 a year.

• LOCAL ISSUES

Wood County voters also will decide whether to replace a 1-mill operating levy for the Board of Alcohol, Drug Addiction, and Mental Health Services.

If approved, the levy would generate an estimated $2.74 million a year for 10 years to fund mental health and substance abuse services in the county. The levy, which currently generates about $2.14 million a year, would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $30.62 a year or about $10 more than the current levy costs.

Also on the ballot:

• Bowling Green: Referendum on rezoning of 0.36 acres for Wood County Hospital parking lot.

• Perrysburg: six charter amendments.

• Bloomdale: 2-mill, five-year replacement tax levy for current expenses.

• Bradner: 0.7-mill, five-year renewal tax levy for village park.

• Haskins: 1.5-mill, five-year replacement tax levy for current expenses.

• Pemberville: 2.7-mill, five-year additional tax levy for police and 0.6-mill, four-year additional tax levy for parks and recreation.

• Risingsun: 1.8-mill, five-year replacement tax levy for fire and medical.

• Freedom Township: 3-mill, three-year replacement tax levy for fire department.

• Grand Rapids Township: 0.5-mill, five-year additional tax levy for Beaver Creek Cemetery and 0.25-mill, five-year additional tax levy for Grand Rapids Town Hall.

• Jackson Township (unincorporated areas): Creation of zoning.

• Middleton Township: 0.5-mill, two-year replacement tax levy for fire department and 5-mill, five-year renewal tax levy for EMS.

• Middleton Township (unincorporated areas): 2-mill, three-year replacement tax levy for roads and bridges.

• Montgomery Township: 1-mill, three-year renewal tax levy for roads.

• Perry Township: 0.5-mill, three-year replacement for EMS.

• Perrysburg Township: Limited home-rule government.

• Washington Township: 1-mill, continuing replacement tax levy for fire department.

• Webster Township: 3.1-mill, five-year replacement and increase tax levy for EMS and fire.

• Northwest Wood Ambulance District: 4-mill, three-year replacement tax levy for EMS.

• Southern Wood County Ambulance District: 3.5-mill, three-year additional tax levy for EMS.

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



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