BOWLING GREEN -- Walk into the Wood County Commissioner’s office and it’s hard not to notice the empty picture frame hanging between the photographs of Tim Brown and Jim Carter.
Joel Kuhlman, who was appointed by county Democrats to fill the spot vacated last January when Alvie Perkins retired, has a photo to fill the frame but said he doesn’t want to hang it unless he is elected Nov. 6.
“I’m using it as motivation,” said Mr. Kuhlman, 31, a lawyer who lives in Bowling Green.
He is being challenged by Doris Herringshaw, 63, of Liberty Township who retired last year as an extension educator with the Ohio State University Extension Service. She was the top vote-getter in a five-way Republican primary in March.
Also on the ballot is Mr. Carter, a Republican from Grand Rapids who is seeking his fifth term against Democrat Fred Keith, Jr., of Bradner, and Libertarian Brad Waltz of Grand Rapids.
The only other contested county-level race is between incumbent Recorder Julie Baumgardner, a Democrat from Weston, and Brian Boos, a Republican from Perrysburg.
While Mr. Kuhlman has been on the board of commissioners for 10 months and is working through the 2013 budget process, Ms. Herringshaw said she sat on the other side of table for 25 years discussing the extension office’s budget with commissioners. She said she also became familiar with various county departments as her agency worked with them on nutrition education and other programs.
Mr. Kuhlman said he’s been preparing for a job as commissioner for the past six years, getting familiar with all facets of county operations. Elected first to a seat on the Wood County Educational Service Center board then a seat on Bowling Green City Council, he ran for county commissioner in 2008 against Mr. Carter. Mr. Kuhlman gave the incumbent a run for his money, losing by just 209 votes.
He said voters he talks with are overwhelmingly concerned about jobs -- or the lack thereof.
“That’s my No. 1 priority,” he said. “I think an investment in infrastructure is a key to competing in a global marketplace, which is exactly what we’re doing. While government doesn’t necessarily create jobs, we can make Wood County as attractive a place to do business as anywhere in world.”
Ms. Herringshaw said that if elected she would focus on keeping spending under control while encouraging economic development, which will bring additional funds to the county, some of which need to be directed toward maintaining roads and bridges.
“Our biggest challenge is going to be finances, and we just really are going to have to continue to be prudent and see what we can do to continue our economic development and build partnerships and collaborations,” she said. “We have wonderful educational institutions in this county so we need to make sure if we have economic development that we have people who want to work, who are trained and ready to work.”
Ms. Herringshaw said she’s heard more than one person point out that Wood County has enjoyed a diverse board of commissioners -- with two Republicans and a Democrat filling the seats for years.
“My response to that has been, the commissioners’ office in Wood County has a long and dedicated commitment to doing what’s best for Wood County,” she said.
And while she is a Republican, if elected Ms. Herringshaw would be the first female commissioner since Marilyn Baker left the board in 1995 to take a seat on the Ohio Turnpike Commission.
Mr. Carter, 73, said he has not entertained the thought of retiring from the commissioners’ office despite the fact that if re-elected he will be 77 by the end of his next four-year term.
“I’m one of those people who just wants to give back and my wife agrees with that,” he said.
Mr. Carter, a former mayor of Grand Rapids, said commissioners need to figure out a way to put more money into roads and bridges in the county and how to deal with health care and other employee issues with a tight budget.
“I’d just like to make sure Wood County continues to thrive,” he said. “We have a lot of kids who want to stay in Wood County and get a good job. I want to make sure they can do that.”
Mr. Keith, 54, business manager for Boilermakers Local 58, has served on the Lakota school board for 11 years. He is making his second run for commissioner, having unsuccessfully challenged Mr. Brown in 2010.
"I don't believe the county of Wood is broken by any means. In fact, it's done reasonably well with the way the economy took a dive in '08, '09," Mr. Keith said. "I do believe that because of my years of experience in construction that sometimes a fresh look at things with a fresh set of eyes is actually good."
If elected, he said, he would focus on showing prospective employers that Wood County is "a good place for them to come and set up a business."
County commissioners are paid $65,620 a year. The county recorder is paid $57,232.
Contact Jennifer Feehan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6129.