DARKE COUNTY — Darke County Commissioner Mike Stegall said he would make himself available to constituents with questions about the county commission since his election four years ago and to continue in that effort as the candidate in this fall’s coming general election.
One way to do it was his “Coffee with the Commissioner” opportunities where he would provide time at a local coffee house or restaurant and meet with citizens. This November is also an election year for him, so what has changed since then?
Four years ago, the hot issue people were concerned about was fracking, a drilling technique used to reach natural gas in the earth, which didn’t happen in Darke County. Since then the commissioners heard complaints about jobs and work, he said.
“We’re putting people back to work,” Stegall said, adding that it is a collaborative effort among the schools, the Economic Development Office, government, individuals and campaigns.
In 2010 Darke County Economic Development Director Marc Saluk helped form a collaboration. He credits economic development and county staff for writing and applying for grant funding that has resulted in great things for its citizens, and some grants are not easy to administer, he said.
“You have to get everybody on board. You can’t do this yourself,” he said.
And they did, Stegall explained. He compared the unemployment rates. In 2010 unemployment was 10.1 percent in Darke County, and now it’s 4.7 percent.
He said that as surrounding counties work together rather than compete with each other for new development, people who live in adjacent counties or communities benefit by also getting jobs.
“The commission is part of the Partners for Progress as a government entity and the largest contributor,” he said.
While he often gets asked tough questions, he said a tough one now is when someone asks him about the job market because so much has already been done to address it like the workforce development with manufacturing trade and certified nursing assistant programs, to name a few ways. School counselors are counseling students to not just go to college but to go into a work area where they are suited and that doesn’t necessarily mean going to college. He added that people have to know math and how to read because technology constantly changes.
“Darke County has been in the Wall Street Journal, on ABC, CBS and Fox News. How else do you get that message out there?”
Other issues he addressed includes wind farms and energy. While Darke County is first in agriculture, wind farms hasn’t appeared popular. Yet nearby counties initiating it could result in jobs and more energy on the grid for Darke citizens.
In 2011 the county increased the property selling convenience fee by a dollar per thousand from $2 to $3 in Dark County. He said it wasn’t popular at first. The first dollar goes to the county, but the second and third dollars go to economic development, which resulted in a good thing for economic development and jobs.
Overall Stegall thinks the county is a good place to live, work and raise a family and hopes people stay here or come here to become doctors or tradesmen based on their abilities and work goals.
Stegall was most recently a Greenville Township trustee from 2005 to 2009 for five years. He served one term, got re-elected and was tapped to run for the commissioner seat and won in 2010.