Wednesday, March 14th, 2007
By Pat Royse
Three remain
Mercer County GOP votes in first round to fill commission vacancy
  The local Republican Party's Central Committee pared down its applicants for the empty Mercer County Commission seat Tuesday to three finalists from a field of 10 hopefuls.
After brief presentations to and questions from the 24 committee members, top vote getters John Bruns of Maria Stein, Dave Kaiser of St. Henry and Angela King of Celina were moved to final interviews set for Monday. The choice of who will replace former Commissioner Jim Zehringer on the panel will be made from the final three at that time.
Zehringer was chosen to replace former Ohio House Rep. Keith Faber, who was selected by House Republicans to finish the term of former Ohio Senator Jim Jordan. Jordan was elected in November to the U.S. House of Representatives.
The selection process on Tuesday, moderated by Enhancement Committee Chairman Bob Hibner of Coldwater, went as smooth as warm butter. There was agreement from the beginning of the meeting that paper ballots would be distributed, members could vote for only three candidates and that tallies would not be released. Candidates could talk for only four minutes. Hibner had the stop watch. A runoff would be held in case of a tie.
The GOP committee members agreed without objection.
Committee Chairman Owen Hall spoke briefly before the presentations urging his fellow Republicans to put aside friendship preferences and focus on electability of the candidate, who will have to run for the seat in 2008. Hall said he expected the Democratic Party to field strong candidates next year.
Bruns, a Marion Township trustee, told the group he had never lost an election. He said his job situation now permits him the time to do the commissioner job. He said he feels he has a duty to serve the general public. He has served on the Mercer County Community Hospital Board of Governors, he said.
In response to a question, Bruns quipped that one difference between being a trustee and a commissioner was no snowplowing as commissioner. He said appropriations and the budgeting process were similar but the size was different.
Kaiser acknowledged the resumes of other applicants were all impressive. But he said his job as teacher and counselor, his analytical mindset and his philosophy of public service were unique. Kaiser told the group he has experience listening to people and has the leadership skills to bring them to consensus when necessary.
"I am a fiscal conservative," he said, adding he supports a large county contingency fund to handle emergencies as they come up.
Kaiser said he thought his strongest attribute was that he was electable and has name recognition from his unsuccessful run last year for county auditor. He would run a similar campaign next year but would start door-to-door campaigning earlier, would make a bigger effort to speak to more groups of any size and focus more on Celina, where he lost last year.
King, who is in her second term representing Ward 4 on Celina City Council, said she thoroughly enjoyed being on council but wanted to take her success to the next level.
King is a Realtor, has spent 10 years in the insurance business and heads King Properties and Investments. She said her primary issues are economic development, retention and growth, fiscal management and good stewardship of the broader community.
Besides the three finalists, applicants who made presentations Tuesday were Sue Canary, Tim Cox and Dick Heiby, all of Celina, Ivan Knapp, Mendon, Steven Koesters, St. Henry, Dan Roebuck, Rockford, and John Wolfe, Fort Recovery.
Before the vote, committee members were apprised of the party status of three of the applicants as determined by the Board of Elections. Knapp is listed as an Independent, and Koesters and Roebuck have no party affiliation, which results from not voting in Republican primaries. A GOP committee member from the audience recommended an active Republican be picked.
There originally were 12 applicants, but Kevin Bettinger of Coldwater dropped out before the meeting Tuesday. Keith Houts of Celina, who attended the meeting and is a member of the GOP committee, removed his name, saying, " There is a time for everything. This is not my time."
The interviews with the three finalists will take place at 7:30 p.m. Monday at the Richardson Bretz Memorial Building in Celina.
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