PAULDING — Paulding County’s newest commissioner, Republican Clint Vance, is one of the youngest county elected officials around, but he’s no political newcomer. Not even close.
Vance, 30, won two elections last year on his way to the commissioner seat that he began last Sunday, marking election campaigns four and five in his young life.
Not only did Vance defeat three-term incumbent Tony Zartman in the April 2020 Republican primary, but he went on to outpoll Democrat Thomas Sinn just two months ago, winning two of every three votes.
Those happy outcomes followed two successive electoral disappointments for Vance within a span of six months.
In November 2017, he lost a re-election bid for a second term on the Paulding Exempted Village Board of Education — he was first elected to that body in 2013 at the age of just 23 — before being defeated by fellow Republican Mark Holtsberry in the May 2018 GOP primary for one commissioner seat.
But Vance didn’t get discouraged to the point of despair. In fact, he had been encouraged by some voters to run for a different commissioner seat — the one he now holds — and decided to keep going in his quest for county office.
“I wasn’t going to give it up,” explained Vance. “It was something I wanted to do and thought about for awhile.”
He said he enjoys politics as one of his two motivations — along with grain farming, his profession.
“It’s something that kind of motivates me along with agriculture,” said Vance, who is single and has no children, calling those two things his “go-tos.”
Although he grew up in Paulding — graduating from Paulding High School in 2009 — and remained a village resident for awhile thereafter, he had been exposed to farming in his younger years. While living in Paulding, his dad worked at Defiance’s General Motors plant, but also farmed.
As a young farmhand, Vance went off to school at Ohio State, seeking a degree in agriculture. He already knew something about farming, so he said he focused on the business and economic side of things.
“I went for the economic side because hands-on farming I was already doing,” he said, adding that with a better understanding of the business side of things “I have something to fall back on.”
Vance said he began renting his first farm ground in 2012, the year before he graduated with his bachelor of science degree in agriculture from OSU in 2013. While continuing with his farming passion, he wasted no time in giving his other one (politics) a try, winning a four-year term on the Paulding Exempted Village Board of Education in November 2013.
Asked his reason for seeking school board seat, he said: “you have to start somewhere. I would have just graduated from OSU in December 2013, and I knew I was coming back home, so I thought, ‘why not jump right in and get involved.’ At that time the perception was the community wanted someone else to run and needed a new face or two, so I decided to give it a shot.”
Vance no longer is a Paulding village resident and has moved to a rural setting outside Cecil, but he does not have a farm homestead nor does he own agricultural ground. But he does rent 400 acres and helps with another 750 acres which he expects to take over full-time in the near future.
He is strictly a grain farmer, focusing on corn and soybeans.
As for his new job as county commissioner, “the first, initial thing being the new guy in the courthouse is learn every aspect of the job. I will be seeking advice from the other elected officials and personnel in the courthouse.”
Too, he said he ran on a promise of “showing up at the township (trustee) meetings and keeping myself out there.” So, he believes that will be important along with “putting people first. That’s the number one goal.”
He also wants to “strengthen the relationship between the commissioners office and the other (county) offices and departments. I’m not saying it was bad, but being the new guy I have a different perspective.”
On specific aspects of the commissioner’s position, Vance said “number one” is learning about how to budget as well as “every aspect of how grants and all work” because “that’s a huge part of the job.” And he looks forward to working on economic development, particular with the county’s director in that field, Tim Copsey.
“I look forward to working with him,” said Vance. “He’s done a good job.”
Although it’s very early in his first term as commissioner, he said “absolutely” he would run for re-election in 2024.