DARKE COUNTY - Mike Stegall said he’s not finished being a Darke County Commissioner yet. He has more goals to accomplish in the coming years and that’s why he decided to run for reelection.
“I want to continue to manage this county,” he said. “I really want to make sure we are doing the right things economically. Where we are headed right now is perfect. I want to continue down that path.”
“I promise that I will come to work and do the very best I can every day. I’ll spend their money wisely, I’ll try to keep us going on a good economic path and when I go anywhere I will represent the county like it should be represented,” he said.
What the county’s doing right
Stegall said Darke County is leading the state of Ohio in workforce development.
“The way we are going about trying to get to the younger people [is ideal],” he said. “We need to teach them that there are plenty of jobs here in Darke County. It’s a great place to live. Lets keep our kids here. The ones that have already left, lets get them back here.”
He said the fact that Darke County offers just about any career that you’d want to pursue is why young people should return to the county.
“We have fewer problems than anybody; I mean we have problems sure. Our problems seem to be a lot less than anywhere else. There’s nothing wrong with living here, raising your family here. The cost of living is a lot cheaper than anywhere else. So why not live here?” he said.
Economic development and business retention are other areas he believes the county is making progress.
“I think we are being very aggressive in keeping our businesses here,” he said. “Business retention is more important to me than business expansion because I want to keep what we’ve got here.”
One positive outcome for the county over the past few years has been the start up and growth of Partnering for Progress, a diverse group of public and private entities and individuals from across Darke County that offers support to the business community, Stegall said.
“We’ve all come together and are heading in the same direction for a change. We are not fighting each other. That’s a positive,” he said. “I think that’s the reason that Darke County is doing so well. We have a group of leaders that are saying this is the direction we are going in the boat and we are going to all row that way. It’s a unique partnership. I’m really proud of that.”
Completion of his goals
Stegall said on the night of his election in 2010, he sat down and wrote 10 attributes he thought would make him a good commissioner. In addition, he jotted five goals for himself and the county to accomplish over his first term.
Three of the goals have already been accomplished.
According to Stegall, the accomplished goals included a new roof on the Edison State Community College building, the beginnings of updating the Darke County Sheriff’s Office and getting county departments to work together.
“My goal when I leave office is to leave this county in better shape than when I found it and so that the next group [of commissioners] does not have to worry about it,” he said.
He said getting the job done is not all about him, but it’s about the Darke County “team.”
“No matter what people tell you, one person can’t do this,” he said. “You have to have a good group of people working together to get it accomplished.”
The one accomplishment he’s most proud of is making county government more open to the public. Secondly, he said he was proud of getting all county departments to work together.
Modernizing Darke County
Stegall said that even through the county commissioners don’t have a formal plan of work for the future, they definitely have an idea of where they are headed. Development will continue at the Darke County Airport and continued maintenance and upgrades such as computers and facilities are in the plans for all county offices.
“I want to bring us up into the 21st Century. In a lot of places, modernization scares people but you have to weigh what the benefits are to it,” he said.
Upgrades to the Sheriff’s Office facilities and upgrading computers in all county departments are in the plans, he said.
The county’s war on drugs
When asked what the commissioners’ role should be on the renewed war on drugs in Darke County, Stegall said it was to provide direction. He said most people would say the county’s role should be funding, but it would be up to the commissioners to be the voice of the county.
“Once we get a direction that we are sure we want to go in, having us be out front saying ‘Yeah, we all agree this is the way we want to go’ should be our role,” he said of working on and implementing a plan of action.
Combating drugs in the county will take thinking “outside of the box” to accomplish some headway.
“Because what we’ve done for the last 50 years has not worked. So let’s see what we can do differently. What are some ideas that people have out there to make this work?” he said.
Stegall said he was wary of just “throwing money at the problem” and felt that rehabilitation facilities may not be the solution.
“I have no problem with in-patient facilities, but I want to make sure we are doing this right,” he said. “I’m not one of those people that believe that if you go into rehab four or five times I should be paying for it. To me that’s throwing good money over bad. I’m willing to help somebody that’s willing to help himself or herself. If you aren’t willing to help yourself I’m not helping you. You have to want to do it.”
Stegall said the message has always been the “drugs are bad” but feels that people should be shown why they are bad and that begins with the children in the county.
“If you are going to fight a war you’ve got to fight it with everything you’ve got,” he said. “I want to go in the high schools, junior high schools and grade schools and show the kids pictures of people that have been on drugs, what they looked like before and what they look like now. How it’s ruined and destroyed their lives. Lets show them the absolute bottom line; this is what it’s going to be like. Let’s quit candy coating it.”
Stegall attributes the growing drug problem on people bringing it into the county from surrounding areas and the fact that Darke County is so sparsely populated and offers a lot of wide-open ground to hide the drugs.
Less funding to the Sheriff’s Office contributed to the growing battle against drugs, too, Stegall said.
“It’s my understanding that about in 2006, that the sheriff’s budget was cut because things were bad,” he said. “He laid off six to eight people. And they quit buying cars, so funding did play a part in it. But now we are addressing that situation.”
The commissioners approved $300,000 more to the Sheriff’s Office budget this year to fund new vehicles and an expanding roster.
Mike Stegall didn’t set out to be a politician.
A 1972 graduate of Greenville high School, he went to Central Michigan University to play football while studying history and athletic training. He returned to Ohio and studied at the International School of Broadcasting. After graduation, he got a job at radio station WDHK in Wilmington.
“I had the only live radio program every day with Paul Brown coaching [Cincinnati Bengals],” he said of the twice-daily 10-minute interviews that aired during the Bengal’s training camp.
Stegall was also a high school football referee for 27 years.
His took on first political role in 2006 as a Greenville Township Trustee where he stayed until being elected for commissioner.
Stegall has owned and operated, Stegall Contractors, Inc., a sand and gravel trucking company coming up on 40 years this August. He and his wife Rose Mary have been married for 37 years.
When asked if his first term turned out like he had expected…
“I pretty much think everything’s turned out pretty good. Gosh, I can’t think of any real regrets,” he said.
Stegall is running unopposed in the May 6 Darke County Primary Election.