The four Seneca County commissioner candidates gathered Thursday night to discuss community issues and to make their cases for voter approval in the November election.
Holly Stacy, Paul Shoemaker, Ben Nutter and Fred Zoeller fielded prepared questions from the North Central Ohio Conservatives, as well as questions from the audience.
Nutter looks to defend his seat as commissioner, a position which he has held for eight years, against Zoeller, who has run Laminate Technologies for the past 28 years.
Stacy, president and CEO of the Sandusky County Chamber of Commerce, and Shoemaker, who owns Shoey's Cool Creations restaurant, are running for Dave Sauber's spot on the board.
When asked what he would do to keep businesses to come and stay in Seneca County, Shoemaker said that the county is in great location for businesses to ship, being so close to I-75 and Lake Erie.
Zoeller said the county can offer new businesses a very strong workforce.
"The work ethics we have in Seneca County are far superior to what we have throughout the country," he said.
Stacy said it is important to understand what businesses need. She said she wants the county to be attractive to small businesses as well as larger businesses.
Nutter referenced his previous work, as he did for much of the night, when discussing bringing businesses to Seneca County.
"This has been one of my most proud areas," he said. "To keep and attract businesses, we need to create a business-friendly atmosphere."
All of the candidates were against a tax increase in almost any situation.
Stacy said the county should cut spending instead of increasing taxes.
Nutter said he is "fundamentally in favor of reduction of spending, living within our means, as opposed to tax rate increase."
"Even though we've received millions of dollars in reductions of revenue, with the help of other elected officials, we've been able to reduce spending without cutting vital services," he said.
Shoemaker said he would rather take a cut from his personal pay than increase taxes.
Zoeller said while he is against tax increases, he would support a minor, temporary tax increase as a means to continue providing vital services such as EMS, safety and fire protection, if necessary.
"I know that may not be the popular thought process in here," he said. "I got to be brutally honest."
Another hot button issue at the forum was Issue 2 and the matter of redistricting.
Zoeller said he was adamantly against taking "power from the people," adding he is "a businessman, not a politician."
Stacy said she does not support Issue 2, which she believes has too many loopholes. She a convicted felon could serve on the appointed redistricting group, and there would be no way of removing that person.
Nutter drew applause when he stated he is against constitutional amendments in Ohio. He said it would cost $11 million to $15 million to create the redistricting board.
"We took $485 million out of the pockets of local governments, money that we use to provide services to people here," he said. "And now we're going to spend an extra $15 million in Columbus for a board of people to go out to dinner."
Shoemaker said Issue 2 is additional politics, and he does not like politics.
"You got to let people elect the people they chose, and let those people be their voice," he said. "You can't have somebody hire 10 people, and have those people make the decisions. That's political."
Zoeller said current commissioners, including his opponent, have done an "adequate job of living up to their responsibilities," but he said he will take a different approach by focusing on increasing revenues.
"The fundamental difference between my opponent and myself lies in our approach in governing," he said. "Where the current commissioners have worked tirelessly at cutting expenses, my focus will be no different from what I've done in the past 28 years at running and expanding Laminate Technology."
Stacy said her involvement on the Old Fort board of education qualifies her as a viable candidate for commissioner.
"I have been working very hard to earn your vote and I, too, want to protect my freedoms," she said. "I, too, want to make sure our county and our country are prosperous. Success is determined by hard work, determination and merit. And it's not from the government."
Nutter, who is the incumbent, said he's very proud of what he and his fellow commissioners have accomplished over the past eight years. He said commissioners have cut spending by 18 percent, without cutting vital services, and they have lowered the debt by 50 percent.
"We need to have small, limited government, that lives within its means, so that we don't raise taxes so private industries can continue to flourish," Nutter said.
Shoemaker said he has trouble with government, when government runs everything. He said the government should be the voice of the people, and that listening to people's opinions is very important to him.
The four candidates are to speak again at Meet the Candidates night Oct. 24 sponsored by the League of Women Voters.