DARKE COUNTY — For Matt Aultman, Darke County’s “freshman” commissioner, there haven’t been many surprises.
“So far my experience has been about what I expected it to be,” he said, speaking to The Daily Advocate on his impressions after two months in office.
Aultman took office as commissioner in January, joining incumbent Commissioners Mike Rhoades and Mike Stegall. He filled the seat formerly occupied by Diane Delaplane, who chose not to run for reelection after serving eight years on the board.
“Before I ran for this position, I called some friends who are either commissioners or past commissioners to ask them about what the job entailed and what expectations were,” he explained. “In March when I made it past the primary, I began studying the Commissioner manual that the County Commissioner Association of Ohio (CCAO) has as a resource to refine the fine details of the job. I try to strive and educate myself on subjects that I am involved with so I am better prepared. This resource also helps answer many questions I have as I go along.”
Aultman won the Republican primary in March 2016, beating out fellow Republicans Fred Dean and Joe LeMaster. In the November general election, he defeated Democrat Leon Rogers.
Though the job has largely met his expectations, Aultman said there is still a learning curve.
“It has been a change to work for a ‘normal’ business for so many years to transitioning to the way government works,” he said. “When dealing with projects in business, it is much more fast paced than government, that is for sure, but have come to the understanding that when dealing with public monies and long-term planning, it pays to take a little longer to deal with items than to make the immediate decisions sometimes required in a business.”
Unforeseen by him was the staggering amount of paperwork and the amount of people who stop by the commissioners’ office.
“In this office, the commissioners sign all appropriations, and when talking to other counties this is not the ‘norm’ — this allows me to understand what is going on in the county departments, which also will become crucial when we go into appropriation discussions later this year,” he explained.
“As for all that stop in, we have an open door office and we see other elected officials, representatives from government offices on the state and federal levels, to poke their head in to tell us what is happening there, and the public in general. Many that don’t stop by either catch me while I’m out at local businesses or walking to lunch most days. It has been interesting to hear all the opinions and to also take them under advisement as I progress through the next four years.”
When asked what he sees as the most important issues the Darke County Commissioners are attempting to address, Aultman brought up a source of county funding scheduled to soon dry up.
“It is not an issue right now, but will be next year, is the sunsetting of the Medicare Managed Care Organization (MCO) Sales tax money the county receives,” he said. “Over the past so many years, a portion of the budget has been comprised of these funds, and as of 2018, we will have to figure out how to fill the gap left with this money no longer coming to the counties.”
“Another item that is being closely watched is the state budget and how the counties will fare from those appropriations,” he added.
Aultman said another topic on everyone’s mind is the opiate situation, which is affecting citizens in Darke County as well as many areas nationwide.
“A county in general cannot stop this problem, but we as a county and society are left with the results of it,” he said. “The impact on EVERY county in Ohio and other states is the increased number of children whose parents are addicted, and the children end up in Child Protective services. When addicted families are involved in this process, typically the children have greater needs due to the mental and physical results of addiction coupled with the extended reunification process that the family goes through. This all costs money to us as a society and that money has to come from somewhere.”
“Under this issue, we are also seeing rising costs for the Darke County Coroner for those souls that do pass due to overdose, and those who survive can become a burden due to the court fees associated with the legality issue of the illicit drugs. If the individual cannot afford a defense, one is provided to him or her — a cost borne by the county.”
“All these costs tax the county and create shortfalls to other programs and upkeep of facilities around our county. They are trying to lobby on the state level to help with this issue, which would ensure the state reimbursement rate to counties for indigent defense is at least 50 percent and provides full reimbursement for death penalty cases,” he added.
Another issue on the minds of many citizens in the area is the impasse involving the county, the City of Greenville and Erwin Bros. Trucking, which has constructed a fuel stop south of Greenville that sits unopened more than three months after its scheduled opening.
When asked for his thoughts on the issue, Aultman said he did not wish to comment on the status of the project, not wanting to disrupt anything in progress between parties involved, which might delay the opening of the business.
However, he did say, “The Erwin Bros. fuel stop has been the most asked-about topic since I have been in office.”
Asked what type of feedback he’s received from the community, Aultman said not much has changed from before he became a commissioner.
“So far, those who I have heard from appreciate hearing my points of views, my thoughtfulness, and my openness to talk,” he said. “I had built relationships with many individuals within the community prior to being elected, so not much has changed other than where I hang my coat in the morning.”
“One comment which drives me daily came from a coworker and friend, who said, ‘as long as I don’t change and continue with the way I make decisions and treat people within the community we will be in good hands.’”
Aultman says his community board involvements are similar to the ones on which Diane Delaplane served, due to their shared agricultural background.
”It was natural to end up on the boards that she had,” he said.
He currently represents the Darke County Commissioners on the Darke County Community Improvement Corporation, Darke County Visitors Bureau, Main Street Greenville, OSU Extension Advisory Board, Darke County 4-H Committee, and the Microfilm Board.
“I enjoy being out in the community and supporting future growth and development to attract and retain talented individuals to work and live in our county,” he added.
Aultman says he wants to keep an open line of communication with the citizens of the county. Those wishing to contact him may call 937-547-7370, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or stop by the County Administration building at 520 South Broadway in Greenville.
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