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Published: Tuesday, 12/18/2001

Incumbent moves to seek re-election

BY KIM BATES
BLADE STAFF WRITER

TIFFIN - First, he wasn't going to run for re-election. Then he was undecided.

Now, Seneca County Commissioner Ken Estep says he will run for re-election, which may thwart a former sheriff's bid for the office.

The Republican commissioner said he took out petitions yesterday at the county board of elections after having a heart-to-heart talk during the weekend with his wife, Marietta. He had promised her he wouldn't seek another term.

But Mr. Estep, a Republican, said decided to run for re-election in part because people throughout the county urged him to do so.

He said he fielded many calls just after former sheriff H. Weldin Neff took out petitions Dec. 7 to run as a Republican for Mr. Estep's seat.

“That's when the people started talking to me,” said Mr. Estep, who will complete his third term next year.

Mr. Estep, 64, said he believes county residents want him to continue his work as commissioner, which includes his focus of helping the county engineer's office to repair old bridges.

The commissioner said he'd like to be involved in discussions about what to do with the Seneca County courthouse.

By running, Mr. Estep said it would be his intention to remain in office all four years.

The commissioner said he planned by last night to call Mr. Neff with the news of his candidacy. Prospective candidates must file their petitions by Feb. 21 for the May 7 primary.

“Weldin and I have always been friends. I don't mind working with him,” Mr. Estep said. “I'm sure it won't be a dirty campaign.”

Mr. Neff, 71, who was defeated for re-election as sheriff in November, 2000, said he was surprised Mr. Estep has decided to run again.

“I really didn't think I would be the only one. I expected there were going to be other candidates,” Mr. Neff said. “But I thought he wasn't going to run.”

Mr. Neff said he plans to remain in the race and said he would devise his campaign strategy by early next year. Dennis Brady, a former sheriff's captain, has taken out petitions to run as a Democrat in the same race.

The former sheriff said he decided to run for commissioner last month, just after he was acquitted on misdemeanor stalking charges involving a former sheriff's dispatcher.

“I guess I made up my mind the day of the trial. From that point on, I guess it took on a new life,” Mr. Neff said. “I guess I know the county so well inside and out. I know where things are needed.”

Since January, Mr. Neff has been operating a business, Neff Services, in which he is hired by the common pleas court to serve people around the county with court summonses.

If elected commissioner, Mr. Neff said he would continue his private venture in addition to serving as a public employee.


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