The candidates for Ohio's new 82nd House District are both from Paulding County and own businesses there.
Independent Pete Schlegel, 15750 Road 169, and Republican Tony Burkley, 06306 Road 55, are the candidates for the seat, which officially comes into being in 2013 due to redistricting. The winner gets a two-year term beginning in January.
The 82nd House District will be comprised of Defiance, Paulding and Van Wert counties as well as the northwest corner of Auglaize County. (At present, those four counties are part of three separate House districts -- 74th, 75th and 78th. Three-term 74th District Republican incumbent Bruce Goodwin of rural Defiance chose not to seek the new House district seat.)
A third candidate -- Democrat David Schooley of Hicksville -- withdrew from the race in May.
Burkley, a Paulding County commissioner, owns an auto parts and hardware business in Paulding (NAPA True Value) while Schlegel owns the new Cabbage Patch convenience store and gas station which just opened in Five Span, south of Defiance. Schlegel also has been a Highway Patrol trooper, Subway restaurant owner, insurance agency owner and LifeFlight helicopter pilot, and owns a Paulding County farm.
Both candidates have their claims to fame.
Schlegel has had some success as a country music singer and guitar player while Burkley is the longest serving Paulding County commissioner ever, finishing his 16th year and fourth term on Dec. 31.
So, why does each want to be a state representative?
"I just think we are at a time in history where the decisions that we do and don't make are basically going to affect every generation to come," said Schlegel, 46, who has four children with his wife, Kathy. "I'm really committed to being the next state representative and fulfilling those duties at a high level." He adds that the seat needs "someone who will stand for all people in the district, regardless of what party they're affiliated with," or if they are not affiliated with any.
"The biggest thing is I'm concerned with what we're leaving our next generation," stated Burkley, 57, whose wife, Nancy, and he have two children. "It seems like we're going off a fiscal cliff." He notes that the state bridged an $8 billion budget gap last year, "but if we don't have fiscal discipline continuing forward we'll get back into the same financial distress we were in before, and that concerns me. I think my history of fiscal discipline is something I could take to the state level."
He also believes two other things would help make him an effective state representative -- experience in local government and a "history of getting things done."
"... not only knowing what needs to be done at times, but also working with the elected officials on both sides of the aisle to accomplish the task," said Burkley, who also counts his small business experience as a plus. "My record indicates that when problems arise I have the ability to work with other people ... ."
Schlegel believes his varied past and having had several different career pursuits, offers an advantage.
"I think it's a huge advantage," he said. "I've not only been involved in private business for 20 years, I've just had to deal with all types of people at all levels -- everyone and their brother. Sometimes I feel I've been around the world once and spoke to everyone twice. I've had to deal with everyone from a national franchise to a national level of country music to pulling people over people (as a Highway Patrol trooper) ... (My) experience level for this position is very suiting."
One topic surely to surface for the winner on Nov. 6 is the future of state funds provided to local governments.
These have been cut in recent years to save the state money. Tax money from Ohio's new casinos is being sent to counties and some bigger cities to help make up the difference. Counties already have received their first checks this year, but most cities and villages receive nothing under the current setup.
"I believe instead of cutting from the bottom to the top we need to cut from the top to the bottom," said Schlegel. "Let's look at Columbus and the 160 plus state agencies. ... If you listed state agencies, from the accountants' fee board to youth services, they have something for every letter of the alphabet. There's just so many things duplicated. I'm not really sure what they do."
"The current position of the state is the money we received though the casino revenues will make up the difference of what we lost in local government funds," said Burkley. "That is by and large happening on the county level. The ones that will be affected going forward though are the villages and cities that don't receive any of that. So there needs to be something that would be able to address that issue -- not only in villages and cities, but the libraries that could be affected by that. They don't have other recourse to offset their losses there, so that's something definitely that needs to be looked at."
What is the biggest issue each candidate believes he'd face in Columbus during next two years?
Burkley said "the ability to create jobs in Ohio," is probably the biggest.
"I would favor some kind of credit to businesses that hire people on unemployment or welfare that would be employed for an extended period of time. I don't want to give a credit for someone that is taken off unemployment and then let go. I think both the state and the person on unemployment would benefit in two ways: They would become taxpayers again and contribute to revenues the state receives and also off of unemployment which would free up resources not only for businesses but the state."
"Unfunded mandates are a big concern also, and EPA might be running around here a little unchecked," said Schlegel. "Probably the biggest thing we need is economic development and job creation, and we need it yesterday. From just (having done) a project, we're not real job friendly here. The process to start a new business -- there's a lot of hoops you have to jump through ... although we are starting to make some progress with the new Jobs Ohio."
Is there particular legislation either candidate would like to sponsor or support in Columbus?
Answered Burkley: "One of the things I have a passion for is the life of the unborn. I'm hopeful that in next year's legislative session that the heartbeat bill will get passed and that it will be written in such a way that it will not be overturned by the supreme court."
Responded Schlegel, who also says he is pro-life: "... really work on economic development and streamline the process to help business and industry, and attract jobs to northwest Ohio."
Both candidates express reservations about the Nov. 6 redistricting ballot issue (State Issue 2), a proposed Ohio constitutional amendment which would allow voters to decide upon a different system for setting boundaries of Ohio's federal and state legislative districts. If passed, Issue 2 would remove this responsibility from the current five-member apportionment board composed of the governor, state auditor and Ohio secretary of state as well as the majority and minority leaders in the Ohio House, and give it to an independent 12-member board.
"I like the concept of the idea, but the things I don't like about it are creating another state agency and then creating another system where people can't be moved off that board very easily," said Schlegel. "I like the idea because I don't like gerrymandering, ... but this way is a little too vague for me."
"We should not put in the hands of unelected officials the ability to spend unlimited dollars, and have elected officials that once they are appointed there's no recourse to remove them," stated Burkley. "Any time you are messing with the constitution you better make sure what you're doing is right. ... So I would not be in favor of the legislation."