Mount Vernon News

By Mount Vernon News
September 21, 2012 3:08 pm EDT


Many people would say it’s difficult to grasp the big picture unless you have a handle on the small ones, and that logic seems to apply to Jim Hughes’ campaign for Knox County Commissioner as an Independent candidate.

For the past 35 years, Hughes has served as a trustee in Pleasant Township, among other civic activities. Pleasant and the other 21 townships of Knox County are the building blocks of county government, and Hughes believes his extensive experience at that small-picture level is a linchpin of his candidacy.

“A lot of people may not know that only 38 percent of the people in Knox County are under a city-type government,” Hughes says, “while the majority, 62 percent, are under township rule. Allen Stockberger has always had a strong connection with the townships, and with him retiring as commissioner it’s important to keep a strong relationship between the county and our townships. I think I can help to maintain that connection.”

Hughes finds himself in the middle of an interesting three-man race for the retiring Stockberger’s commission seat, and is well acquainted with his opponents.

“John Booth (the Democratic candidate) is a nice man. I’ve known him for quite awhile, and we cross paths often. Thom Collier (the Republican hopeful) I’ve known since he was a kid: In fact, his Mom was one of my school teachers. They are both good candidates, but I think I can bring more agricultural input and rules input to the commission.”

Hughes retired in 2006 after 43 years as a union electrician and supervisor and was a member of Mansfield’s Local 688 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

“I was fortunate to belong to an excellent union,” he says. “I was in supervision for the largest share of my 43 years, and our local was focused on furnishing quality people to do a quality job. We were known not only for workmanship but for our willingness to work.”

If elected to the County Commission, Hughes believes he will fit in well with Republicans Roger Reed, an incumbent with two years remaining in his four-year term, and Teresa Bemiller, who is running unopposed for re-election.

“I can push when I need to, but I’m pretty easy to work with,” Hughes says. “I have no plan to tear things apart, I just want to help guarantee that we keep the quality of life in Knox County good for everyone. This is a good place to live and raise a family.”

Hughes has numerous civic ties in the community. He brings a strong background in planning to the table as a member of the Knox County Regional Planning Commission since its inception in 1971. He is a member and past vice president of the Knox County Township Association, and has served as its representative to the 911 Board. And he puts his farm upbringing to use as a long-time advisor for the County Extension Office and 4-H.

“I’ve been asked off and on to run for commissioner,” he says, “but I wasn’t sure I wanted to because I’m not a political party person. You don’t have to declare a party to be a township trustee. So when I decided to run, it was as an Independent.”

Asked about the priorities he would pursue as a commissioner, the nine-term township trustee immediately hones in on budget and finance.

“The budget is the biggest thing,” he says. “Funds are being cut from the state, and local governments are having to tighten their belts. Taxes are high enough that people have to struggle, and we have an obligation to spend their money wisely.

“Transportation is also a big challenge for us,” he adds. “We may not have an Interstate highway in the county, but Central Ohio is a trucking hub for the Midwest and we have to maintain and better our federal and state routes. We produce a lot of farm products and we have manufacturers who need to be able to get materials trucked in and products trucked out.”

Hughes was born in Ashtabula County, moved with his family to Knox County when he was 2, and has been here ever since. He lived on a farm until he was 15 and has ridden horses since he was 12. He and his wife, Dottie, have two adult children and raise a small hay crop on their property near Gambier.

Contact Bill Amick

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