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Published: Tuesday, 10/5/2010

3 in Wood County commissioner race trumpet their experience

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Three-term Wood County Commissioner Tim Brown is getting opposition for re-election from two ends of the county - literally.

Democrat Fred Keith, Jr., who lives in Bradner and is on the Lakota school board, is challenging Mr. Brown along with independent John Davoli, who lives in the Wood County portion of Fostoria and is in his third term as that city's mayor.

None of the candidates is taking shots at the others. All are touting their experience - Mr. Brown as a county commissioner, Mr. Keith in heavy industrial construction and as a three-term school board member, and Mr. Davoli as the mayor of a city that has the distinction of sitting in Wood, Hancock, and Seneca counties.

"I tell people if I can work with three different counties, I sure as heck can work with one," Mr. Davoli, 48, said.

The Fostoria mayor, who also spent four years on City Council, has been president of the Wood County Mayors Association and is the former chairman of the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments. He said he likes to get out and talk with constituents and, if elected commissioner, would try to stop in at township trustee and other area meetings.

"As my first task, I'd meet with all the department heads, go out to their different areas of work, and ask them what's been bugging them for years, see where we can cut some waste or do things a little bit differently, and take those suggestions back to the other two commissioners," Mr. Davoli said, adding that the board could use a fresh perspective. "It's been unchanged for some time. Some people might think that's a good thing. I don't."

The winner will join longtime commissioners Alvie Perkins and Jim Carter, whose terms run through 2012.

Mr. Brown, 47, of Bowling Green pointed to $350 million in private investment Wood County has experienced during what has been an economic down time for most areas.

"I think I have a track record of having laid the foundation for the very positive business growth climate that we have in our county," he said. "I've managed a budget that's over $130 million and kept it in balance, I've handled the management responsibilities that come with 1,200 employees, and our debt for Wood County is the lowest it's been since I've been a commissioner."

He said he's proud that commissioners have not raised the county's sales tax in more than 20 years.

"We've managed with what we have, much like most families, and I think people appreciate that what we're doing on the jobs front is beneficial in the short term and the long term," Mr. Brown said.

Mr. Keith, 52, is business manager for Boilermakers Local 85 in Rossford. He said his 33 years working in construction have served him well on the Lakota school board, which is in the midst of building a new K-12 school for the district, which straddles Wood and Sandusky counties.

"I'm a lifelong resident of Wood County. I'm fourth-generation Wood County … and I'm very concerned with keeping Wood County a viable place," Mr. Keith said. "My construction background and business background I think will help me work with companies that want to come to Ohio and work with Wood County."

He said he also believes the county needs to "work on education."

"If kids are good in school, they're going to be good, productive citizens," Mr. Keith said. "As a school board member, I see that a lot."

Among the other contested races for county offices in northwest Ohio, State Rep. Jeff Wagner (R., Sycamore) is looking to return to the Board of Commissioners in Seneca County. Term limits prohibit Mr. Wagner from seeking re-election to the House.

Mr. Wagner, who was a Seneca County commissioner for six years before going to Columbus in 2003, faces Democrat Dave Thompson of Tiffin in the race to replace one-term Commissioner Mike Bridinger.

Mr. Bridinger, a Republican and outspoken proponent of saving the county's 1884 courthouse, did not seek re-election.

In Sandusky County, Republican Matt Damschroder is running for county commissioner against Democrat Sandra L. Wise. The winner will take the seat of John Rettig, who was appointed in February, 2009, to fill the unexpired term of Brad Smith after Mr. Smith was elected the county's juvenile and probate judge. Mr. Damschroder defeated Mr. Rettig in the Republican primary.

Sandusky County voters also will decide whether to retain Clerk of Courts Tracy Overmyer, who was appointed this year to fill out the term of Warren Brown after he was hired as county administrator. Ms. Overmyer, a Republican, is challenged by two independents, Peggy Rutherford and Mary Jo Gill.

In Ottawa County, incumbent Commissioner James M. Sass, a Democrat finishing his first term, is challenged by Republican Timothy A. Davies.

In Defiance County, incumbent Commissioner James E. Harris, Jr., a Republican from Defiance, faces Democratic challenger Ned Steele of Hicksville.

Defiance County Auditor Marlene Goodwin, also a Republican, is challenged by Democrat Susan O'Keefe. Both candidates are from Defiance.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at:

jfeehan@theblade.com

or 419-724-6129.



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