Commissioner-elect Mike Stegall regularly attends Darke County Commissioners meetings as he prepares to assume his position replacing retiring Commissioner Terry Haworth.
An informed public makes better government
By Bob Robinson
Part 1 of two parts
“What I do want,” said Darke County Commissioner-elect Mike Stegall, “is for you… the Advocate, Early Bird, Policy… to ask questions.”
He intends to do his job; he wants the Fourth Estate to do theirs.
“The more informed people are about their government, the better it will be,” he said. “Question! Question with boldness… you’ll never get a complaint from me.”
Stegall reiterated he would be addressing the county’s challenges but was adamant that the media do its job as well.
He said there was still a lot of public misinformation, noting that he’s still hearing about the courthouse issue.
“This is rumor central here,” he said. “I even heard the rumor that I hated you (Robinson) because of the fire department issue.”
Acknowledging that more goes on in the commissioner’s office than the publicly announced Monday and Wednesday meetings, Stegall said that finding out was the media’s job.
He added, however, that he was willing to consider such options as posting the day’s agenda on the website or emailing it to the media.
Why does there seem to be a reticence among public officials to communicate more fully with the media?
“I think that ever since Watergate, government thinks the media is after them,” he said. “While it may or may not be true, perception is reality.”
He noted that this has trickled down to the local level, adding that some in politics are “thin-skinned… they don’t like the criticism.”
Public awareness means better government, he said.
“The more open we are,” he said, “the more people can say that this county is not ashamed of what it’s doing.”
Stegall remains adamant about no new taxes. One tax he addressed was the real estate transfer tax that would be used for economic development.
“No increase for now,” he said. “I like a tax that is used for a specific purpose, but only if it’s needed and never in a slow economy.”
He said he might consider it down the road, but not now.
Stegall said that Darke County Sheriff Toby Spencer’s use of Level 3 emergencies was totally his call, but if he calls it he should enforce it.
“Last year I saw people driving (during Level 3) and I saw the Sheriff’s cars, but I never saw anyone being arrested…
“It’s his call, but if he does it, enforce it.”
Stegall said the county’s revenue seems to be in good shape. He noted that spending will be flat-lined and revenues will be a little better than last year.
“Department heads are doing a good job,” he said. “People don’t realize we’ve got good people here.”
He said that if revenue problems means more cuts, “we’ll deal with it.”
He added it could mean looking at hours, maybe people, maybe even shutting down non-essential services a day or two.
“What’s essential?” he asked. “That’s the hard part… how do you define essential?”
Stegall noted that his biggest pet peeve is leaving a “problem” for the next person in line.
“If you know something is broke,” he said, “you fix it!”
He said there is a lot of stuff that needs fixing. He acknowledged that it can be expensive…
“But if you don’t do it now, it’ll be even more expensive later.”
Stegall continued his support of Darke County Economic Development Director Marc Salek, adding that he was pleased that the county was now speaking out “in the same voice” from the communities, CIC and chambers.
“For the first time in a long time, we’re not saying ‘come find us,’ we are aggressively letting people know we are here and we want them to join us.”
The county’s role is to do everything it can to support Salek’s efforts. This would include finding land, tax abatements, cutting through red tape…
He added, however, that he wasn’t about to ‘give away the farm.’
“This is about Darke County,” he said. “We do everything we can for you, you have to do everything you can for us.
“If you don’t want to, we don’t want you!”
Stegall said he didn’t know how much red tape originates with the county, but if it does and there’s no good reason for it, “get rid of it.”
This is the first of two parts on a one-on-one interview with Stegall. Next, Stegall addresses what some consider his personality issues and how he will work with sitting commissioners Diane Delaplane and Mike Rhoades.
Bob Robinson is a Senior Scribe and the retired editor of The Daily Advocate, Greenville, Ohio. If you wish to receive a daily notification of items posted, send your email address to: email@example.com.