Kime, Griffith square off for commissioner's seat

By TODD HELBERGcnedit@crescent-news.com Published:

One candidate for a Defiance County commissioner's seat this fall is the three-term incumbent, but his challenger is certainly no political newcomer.

The incumbent is Republican Thomas Kime while the Democratic challenger is Brenda Griffith. They are vying for one of the two contested commissioner seats up for election on Nov. 6.

Griffith, 60, long active in local and state politics, was a Defiance Ward IV councilman from 1986-92 and an at-large councilman from 1998-2002. She also holds the 1st Senate District woman's seat -- an elected position -- on the Ohio Democratic Party's central committee.

Now a volunteer for a number of community organizations, she has served in a variety of capacities during her working career, including manager/marketing director of Defiance's Northtowne Mall from 1994-99 and -- more recently -- as a regional representative for former Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner from 2009-11. She was also a member of Defiance's Board of Elections from 2000-09 and worked as a member of the executive staff of the Maumee Valley Girl Scout Council in that period.

Kime, 64, the former owner of Progressive Auto Parts in downtown Defiance, has won easily all three of his elections (2000, 2004 and 2008) for the commissioner's seat he is defending. In 2000, he won more than 60 percent of the vote in turning back his Democratic opponent before winning a second term in the 2004 election by an even larger amount (more than 75 percent) against a write-in Independent. In 2008, he was unopposed for a third term.

He once served as the president of the Brunersburg Water Board and Sewer Board and also just finished a two-year term as president of the County Risk Sharing Authority of Ohio, the state pool for counties' liability and property insurance. In addition, he is the commissioners' chairman.

The winner between Kime and Griffith on Nov. 6 will secure a four-year term beginning in 2013 and earn an annual salary of $44,421.

The Kime-Griffith showdown is one of two commissioner seats up for election this year. The other features Republican incumbent Otto Nicely and Democrat Charles Bakle Jr.

The third commissioner's seat is occupied by Republican James Harris Jr., who is not up for re-election until 2014.

Profiles of Kime and Griffith follow:

Name: Brenda Griffith

Age: 60

Address: 1216 Magnolia Drive

Education: Defiance High School graduate, 1970; completed marketing courses at the Eli Broad School of Business at Michigan State University

Family: husband, Jerry; daughter, Kristi Keefer; sons, Jeff and Mark

Occupation: volunteer for numerous community organizations

Previous elected offices: Defiance City Council 1986-1992 and 1998-2002; Ohio Democratic Party Central Committee member for many years

Party affiliation: Democrat

Reason for seeking office: My goal is to represent all citizens and all areas of the county fairly and equitably. Now more than ever, it is imperative that elected officials work together at all levels for the good of the citizens. Is it fair to the citizens that the two current commissioners seeking re-election on Nov. 6 have submitted written documents to the Defiance County Board of Elections stating their intent to retire, prior to fulfilling their current term in office? By retiring before completing their current terms as commissioner, and if re-elected, they would concurrently draw both their state pensions and commissioners salary.

Qualifications: As a former member of Defiance City Council, I know how good government should work. I have maintained the many local and state government contacts to ensure that Defiance County will receive its fair share of dollars. As a member of city council we were responsible for multi-million dollar budgets that we balanced, and we created long-term goals through strategic planning and had good working relationships with other elected officials. As the manager/marketing director of Northtowne Mall, I oversaw a multi-million dollar business, attaining full occupancy by working together with businesses and the community. I was an organizing member of the U.S. Fort-to-Port Committee, ensuring that the road improvement project was presented in Columbus and, with a lot of hard work by the committee, received priority rankings to get the job done. The completion of the U.S. 24 project is the single most important economic tool we have seen in the last 50 years. While on Defiance City Council, I was a member of the utility committee where we ably negotiated a new electric rate base that included everyone in the service territory, including the city and county residents.

Top three goals: 1. Promote town meetings throughout various communities and townships on a rotating basis. 2. Listen to the people and recognize the contribution of our professional and dedicated county employees. 3. Promote increased volunteerism by valuing the many volunteers who currently make Defiance County a better place to live. Most importantly, listen and effectively represent the people of Defiance County.

How should the county courthouse's future be addressed?: The courthouse issue must be a vote of the people, it's their money. Why not ask them, at the polls if we should spend taxpayer dollars on this renovation? In the November 2006 election, an additional sales tax was placed on the ballot to raise money for courthouse construction. The public spoke -- 67.79 percent against and 32.21 percent in favor -- at a time when the economy was a little stronger. Forty-one out of 42 precincts said no, and I believe that we must trust the voters on this important decision of expending taxpayer money by placing the question on the ballot. Officials must listen and honor the decisions of the voters.

What is the biggest challenge facing Defiance County government today, and how should it be addressed?: Our infrastructure needs additional support from the county, through supplemental funding and an increase of available grants. Our county roads must be brought up to code, allowing our rural community better access for economic opportunity and road safety. My pledge is to represent the citizens throughout the county with the needed resources to ensure that all of our citizens receive the services that they deserve. As a nine-year member of Defiance City Council, I participated in consistently balancing the budget, being fiscally conservative while initiating a 5-10-year capital improvement plan. Likewise, there is a need to update and make current the Defiance County comprehensive plan to ensure that our future budgeting growth and economic development plans can occur. Perhaps the greatest challenge is changing with the times. Today more than ever -- in and out of government -- the rules are constantly changing. It is imperative that a board of commissioners these days change from the old "business as usual" mindset. Today, as elected officials, we must work with our neighboring units of government and state officials to obtain the maximum possible opportunity to benefit all of the citizens at large.

Name: Thomas Kime

Age: 64

Address: 06338 Carpenter Road

Education: Tinora High School graduate, 1966; Bowling Green State University, business administration graduate, 1973

Family: wife, Pam; son, Aaron; daughter, Kate

Occupation: Defiance County commissioner

Previous elected offices: Defiance County commissioner since 2001

Party affiliation: Republican

Reason for seeking office: I have enjoyed serving the citizens of Defiance County the last several years. I believe I still have work to do for the county and would like to continue to serve. The most rewarding part of this job for me is being able to interact with citizens all over the county. I enjoy being able to assist in solving the issues that affect our citizens. Quality of life issues for our citizens are extremely important to me. I believe the silent majority in our county needs to have their concerns heard.

Qualifications: I have served as commissioner for 12 years and we have: (a) kept the county in a good financial position and held all agencies accountable through a difficult economic downturn and extreme cuts from the state; (b) made it a priority to support the citizens in our county who are in need of help through our various agencies; (c) improved the county's facilities to make Defiance County attractive to outsiders and potential business prospects while providing a safe environment for our citizens and employees: (d) worked on economic development almost daily-our efforts have paid off with job retention at many companies like DMP, JM, AP Tool and many more and we have been able to add new companies like Fort Worth Tower, Consolidated Grain and Barge, and Standridge Colors; and (e) continually worked on roads, drainage and land issues-almost every highly traveled county road has been improved or is scheduled for work. This is all in an effort to make our county roads safer and more accessible while preparing for economic growth in certain areas. We have completed major projects on Elliott Road, Banner School Road, Domersville Road, Harding Road and Krouse Road. The Ayersville-Pleasant Bend Road project was bid just recently. Road and ditch improvements have been made on major county roads in the Hicksville, Ney and Sherwood areas. We have worked to provide the infrastructure necessary for our county to accept new opportunities.

Top three goals: 1. I would like to continue to work on streamlining government agencies and to work for legislative change to allow us to consolidate agencies locally and with other counties to make us a more efficient government. We are currently working with our state association and representatives to give us the authority to make the necessary changes. We are one of only three counties who have started to consolidate or regionalize our Job and Family Services (JFS) offices. We have consolidated our management with Paulding County's JFS and already have experienced savings for our citizens.

2. I intend to continue to work on new and existing infrastructure for the county in an effort to prepare us for future growth and changing social patterns. We will continue to work with our county engineer to pursue funds to make our county roads safer and more accessible.

3. I intend to continue to work on economic development and to help our companies with local incentives for job creation. I will continue to be the commissioners' representative on our local community improvement corporation board as I have for the last 12 years. I will continue to promote Defiance County to all business prospects. Our methods are working as we are seeing several new companies locate in the county and job retention efforts paying off.

How should the county courthouse's future be addressed?: The courthouse is being addressed by the commissioners currently. I led the discussion over 10 years that we needed to save money to address our deteriorating facilities in the county. We have done that. We are two-thirds of the way through the project with the completion of the Defiance County East location and the courthouse annex. The annex now houses the county treasurer, the county recorder and the county auditor as well as the county wastewater department. This has given us the space needed in the courthouse so we can now focus on the last piece of our long-term project. We went to the public a number of years ago to ask them if they would be willing to approve and finance a new courthouse. It was overwhelmingly defeated. The decision was then made by the commissioners that we would have to renovate what we have with the money that could be saved for that purpose. Currently, the focus is on renovating the courthouse.

What is the biggest challenge facing Defiance County government today, and how should it be addressed?: The biggest challenges facing the county in the future will continue to be: A. budget cuts. B. mandates from the state with no funds attached to them and C. the ever increasing demand on our legal systems and social services with declining help from the state. The demand continues to increase, but the revenue keeps declining, forcing local government to make up the difference. The county will continue to be fiscally conservative and look for every method of consolidation and cost-cutting that we can.

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