Thursday, November 27, 2014

Veteran county leader on electoral defeat: ‘It happens’

By DYLAN LYSEN, Herald Staff Writer | 8/11/2014

Losing to Randall Renoud in the race for the Franklin County Board of Commissioners wasn’t a shock, Don Stottlemire said. His challenger was, after all, from the largest community in District 5 and served the local school district for decades.

“It’s always tough to beat someone in his own backyard,” Stottlemire said about trying to earn more votes than his challenger in Wellsville, where Renoud served as an elementary school principal, among other education positions. Renoud was unavailable for comment Monday.

Losing to Randall Renoud in the race for the Franklin County Board of Commissioners wasn’t a shock, Don Stottlemire said. His challenger was, after all, from the largest community in District 5 and served the local school district for decades.

“It’s always tough to beat someone in his own backyard,” Stottlemire said about trying to earn more votes than his challenger in Wellsville, where Renoud served as an elementary school principal, among other education positions. Renoud was unavailable for comment Monday.

But losing doesn’t take away Stottlemire’s pride in the accomplishments he’s seen in his 14 years as a county commissioner, he said.

Stottlemire was one of the first members elected to the five-person commission in 2000, while the others at the time were appointed by the governor. He served alongside many great commissioners, he said, but most left office on the will of voters.

“People go,” Stottlemire said. “It happens.”

Stottlemire noted several accomplishments in his 14 years, including adding an ambulance to Wellsville, finding ways to improve the Internet service in the county with emergency radio communication through Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funding and creating an unwritten policy of waiving permit fees for housing when residents lose their homes to fire, among others.

But just like the other commissioners with whom Stottlemire was proud to work, his tenure on the commission will come to a close, as Renoud takes his seat in January.

Stottlemire declined to speculate on Renoud’s potential success as a commissioner, but said Renoud would have a learning curve ahead of him when he takes a seat on a board — just like Stottlemire did when he was elected. The only difference: Stottlemire served two years on the county’s planning commission before joining the board of commissioners, he said, which is experience Renoud lacks.

“I hope he does well,” Stottlemire said or Renoud. “I think people learn real quick that it’s not like running a business and it’s not like running a school.”

As part of his campaign, Renoud told a crowd of voters at a July 22 Ottawa candidate forum that he wants to “zero-out” county departmental budgets and make the county leaders start from scratch. Stottlemire said when the county moved into an administrator form of government, commissioners experimented with a similar idea, but have since made it each department head’s responsibility to identify wants and needs.

“We didn’t take departments and strip them,” Stottlemire said.

Current political actions calls for removing incumbents, Stottlemire said, which the county level has learned from Topeka and Washington D.C. But the county loses a valuable resource in a commissioner who has the institutional knowledge of past boards, as well as the reasoning behind why commissioners made certain decisions in the past, he said. With his loss in the election, Stottlemire no longer will be the member the rest of the board looks to when they don’t understand how and why the commission worked in the past.

“We talk about things in that meeting that happened eight or 10 years ago,” Stottlemire said. “And they all turn down to me, to my end of the table. If you don’t have someone who has been there for at least four years, 50 percent of the time you have to start all over again because you don’t know what they’re talking about.”

But this isn’t the end of Stottlemire’s public service, he said. He plans to continue to be involved with nonprofit organizations and work toward making Franklin County the best it can be, he said.

“I’m not going to stop being involved,” Stottlemire said. “All anybody has to do is call or ask ... it don’t mean I won’t come back some day in another capacity.”

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