Voters in the county’s 2nd district must choose the Franklin County Board of Commissioners’ future on Election Day. Republican Ed Taylor, a 12-year board veteran, faces Democrat Rick Howard, a retired Ottawa Police officer, in the general election next Tuesday. The second district encompasses the southwest corner of Franklin County and includes Williamsburg, Homewood and Richmond.
After winning handily in the primary election — garnering more than 60 percent of the votes — Taylor, 65, Ottawa, said he doesn’t remember being challenged in both the primary and the general election in his political career. That could add a certain amount of pressure to his campaign, he said. However, Taylor said, he has several traits that make him the right choice on Election Day, including his degree in civil technology, having owned his own surveying business for 14 years and working in the contractor field.
“I think all this, plus the 12 years that I’ve got on the board, I think that I’ve got more work history and experience than anybody coming on,” Taylor said.
New to the political scene, Howard, 61, Williamsburg, said after retiring from law enforcement he had more time to consider entering the political fray. Throughout his campaign, Howard has advocated for a change on the board, which he said would bring new energy and fresh ideas potentially stifled by a longtime board member. His main concern, Howard said, is effectively representing the people in his district if elected.
“Become more available to the people in District 2 and the rural area,” Howard said of his goals as a board member. “Make more contact with them and see what their concerns are, and represent them at the commission meetings more.”
In contrast, Taylor views his many years on the board as an asset to the people of his district, as well as every resident in the county. During his time on the board, Taylor has served as board chair six times and was a member of Ottawa/Franklin County Economic Development and the Ransom Memorial Hospital board. “I think that length of term has made me more valuable to the board,” Taylor said. “I think the experience that I have is an asset, not a negative. I think it’ll take most anybody one to two years to get used to what you’re doing.”
Taylor mentioned some duties of the board are only done on a yearly basis, which might require multiple years of service for a commissioner to become accustomed to those duties.
“Most of what you deal with on the police department is people that are having a problem at the time, whether it be with someone else or just different types of problems,” Howard said. “So, most of what your job is to try to listen to what the problem is and try to work out the best solution that there is.”
Both candidates are supporters of economic development in the county, though they differ on the method of support necessary to pull in more employers to the area. While Howard is in favor of supporting economic development, he said having not served in the position, he is unsure of what exactly is needed to facilitate further growth. Howard said, however, rather than focusing on developers, he would like to see economic development look into increasing the appeal of the county to residents.
“I think one way to get the economic growth, the only way you’re going to do it, is to get more people into the county, more housing,” Howard said. “I think it’s going to be a case where you try to work with them for their roads and different things and try to get more houses built into the area and more population into the area.”
Economic development should be looked at in a broader sense, Taylor said, emphasizing the county needs more shovel-ready land to entice big employers to the area. That will, in turn, bring more people to the county, he said. To do that, support must be given to the Franklin County Development Council (formerly Ottawa/Franklin County Economic Development), he said.
“I think that one of the biggest things that we can do is to try to support the FCDC,” Taylor said. “I think the direction that the FCDC is headed right now is very good.”
In the future, Taylor said, he would like to see additional funds budgeted toward economic development, because big employers who are paying taxes help lower the tax burden on individual taxpayers.
Both candidates agreed one of the chief concerns of the constituents in the 2nd district are the conditions of the roads and bridges.
In his time in office, Taylor said, he has seen a lot of improvements to the county’s roadways.
“We’ve paved a lot of roads over the 12 years that I’ve been in,” he said. “We’ve probably paved more roads in that period of time than in the 50 or 60 years prior.”
As a rural resident, Howard said, he understands the conditions of the roads have a major impact on the residents in the county. In dealing with residents’ complaints about the road conditions, Howard said, he would make time to meet with people and discuss their concerns.
“There’s always people who are not happy with their roads ... and I think I would have the time to go out and look at these roads and meet with those people and bring that to the commission to see what we can do,” Howard said.
In a predominately Republican county, Howard hopes people vote for the candidate rather than focusing on the letter after his name. At the local level, political parties don’t mean as much, Howard said, and a candidate should be judged on his or her performance, rather than party affiliation. Howard received slightly fewer than 200 votes in the primary election.
“I hope that I can convince people that I’m the right person for the job,” Howard said. “I know I don’t vote straight-party and never have, and I think there’s a lot of people out that there that don’t vote straight-party.”
Despite his 12 years on the board, Taylor doesn’t have a crystal ball view of the race. Asked about his chances in the election, Taylor said it is anyone’s guess.
“It’s like a horse race — you don’t ever know,” he said. “You’ll have to ask me that on Nov. 7.”