MOUNT VERNON — For those voting in the May primary, the race for this fall’s county commissioner election is uncontested on the Democratic side, with only Mount Vernon City Council member Rebecca Jordan running for the position. The Republican side is a three-way race between Fredericktown Mayor Roger Reed, area Realtor Tim Smith and incumbent commissioner Robert Wise.
Wise said he believes Knox County’s biggest challenges in coming years are the county budget and the local economy.
“Keeping manufacturing jobs, growing the existing jobs and businesses, and adding new ones is where our focus needs to be,” Wise said, adding that he puts his actions behind his words by favoring Knox County businesses wherever possible in his daily purchases.
Smith agreed employment is critical, pointing out that a particular hazard for Knox County’s future is the loss of younger residents, who are leaving the area to find jobs elsewhere. Smith said development of jobs attracting the young was important for helping the county develop into the future. He also cited the importance of maintaining county infrastructure by planning ahead for potential problems, and cited the protection of Knox County farmland from development as a major focus.
Reed said balancing fiscal responsibility with providing necessary services would be a huge challenge in upcoming years. Reed said he was a very conservative person, and would regard spending county money to be just like spending his own.
“For each taxpayer in the county, it is their own,” he said.
Democratic candidate Jordan said the economy was focal, specifically looking at where the county’s revenue is coming from and seeing what can be done to improve it. She added that in her two terms on Mount Vernon’s city council she has been involved in the creation of three budgets, and has worked extensively with matters of revenue and departmental management. Above all, she said, she has a good rapport with people and always keeps her thoughts mindful of what the voters want.
“It’s what the people want, not what I want,” Jordan said, describing herself as open-minded but not hasty to decide on important questions. She said she likes looking into each issue and asking a lot of questions.
Reed cited his years of experience with city government in Fredericktown, pointing out that a lot of the same qualifications matter, such as working with budgets, managing employees, overseeing infrastructure, working with grants and dealing extensively with law enforcement. He also pointed out that in his position as head of Knox County’s Animal Control department, he is well-versed in working within a county budget, knows how the county works and knows the people who make it work.
Smith emphasized his outsider status.
“I have years and years of business experience,” he said, “but I’m not a product of the government and the system.”
He said that his business experience, his college education and “a good dose of common sense” qualify him to be a county commissioner. He said he has also served on many boards and worked with various groups, often coming up with questions that others didn’t.
Wise said he brings years of successful private business experience, which is combined with years of additional experience as a township trustee and as a sitting member of the county board of commissioners.
“I have hands-on experience in the areas where we have been successful,” Wise said.
Born and raised in Knox County, Wise said his years as a farmer and a family businessman matter. He said he wants his children to be able to take over his business and grow it in the future, and he works hard to do everything he can to make this county better for that future. He said responsibility, trustworthiness and dedication were the words to describe him, adding that he made himself available to listen to people and address their concerns.
Each candidate had a different thought about what each voter should ask him or herself when it came time to fill out a ballot.
“You need to ask yourself which candidate would you trust your taxes with?” Wise said.
“They should ask which candidate is most like themselves and would represent them best,” Smith said.
Jordan said voters need to ask themselves if they want someone who’s going to tell them the truth.
“I don’t spin things,” Jordan said. “I just offer straight talk.”
Reed advised researching the candidates and asking who would best represent the voter.
“I’m not a mudslinger,” Reed said, “but I’m offering a choice.”