BY ED GEBERT
Times Bulletin Editor
The following is a look at one of two candidates running for the Ohio 82nd District State Representative seat. Today we talk to the Republican nominee Tony Burkley. On Friday, we will talk with Independent candidate Pete Schlegel.
VAN WERT - Tony Burkley is no stranger to work. He has been a part of his family business, an auto parts store and hardware business in Paulding, for more than 40 years. For the past 16 years he has also served Paulding County as one of the county commissioners. Now he is looking for a new place to work - Columbus.Burkley is the Republican candidate in the 82nd House District. Van Wert County was moved into this district after redistricting. The Paulding County native touts his government experience in the commissioner's office as great preparation to take over in the Statehouse.
"There are a lot of changes that have happened in the 16 years I have been commissioner," he stated. "Local government has had to adjust to the ever-decreasing amount of revenues that seem to be coming to the local level, especially the last four years. The last four years have been the biggest changes."
Among the changes Burkley has been a part of in Paulding County is combining services with neighboring Defiance County, a partnership which was the first of its kind in Ohio. When the director of the county's Job and Family Services branch left, Paulding County reached out to combine forces to use one director for the two counties. The idea worked well enough the two counties now share a fraud investigator to look into welfare fraud. The JFS fiscal officer position may also soon be a combined post, saving each county money.
Burkley admits the commissioners have had to cut staff due to budget constraints in the county. The toughest decision was in cutting 26 full-time positions with the closing of the Paulding County Jail a few years ago.
"That was at a time when resources were getting thin, and the numbers started making sense that it would be cheaper to house our prisoners elsewhere. As time goes on, that may not be as advantageous financially, and we may have to open it back up. But this was our best option, " said Burkley.
With 16 years of local government experience, often having to deal with laws and policies emanating from state government, Burkley has had plenty of chances to deal with the reality that happens when legislation is passed at the State Capitol.
"We often run into unintended consequences from legislation when it comes down the pike, so I may have a little bit better insight into how I think it might impact local communities," Burkley stated. "Now when I look at decisions that are made in Columbus, I have a perspective of seeing how it will impact county commissioners and their budgeting and how it could affect Job and Family Services or Soil and Water Conservation District. I have had the opportunity to meet those challenges as they come."
Burkley also points to his business experience that would help in translating the effect on business on actions taken by the Legislature. That comes into play especially when it comes to increasing jobs. Burkley said he is very excited about the Van Wert Super Site manufacturing site and the possibilities for not only filling the over 1,500 acres, but also bringing in business that will complement that new employer.
He observed, "I think if people have a job, it solves a multitude of problems. One, they start paying taxes into the general revenue fund. And also, they are not a burden on society. One of the things I would like to do is encourage business to hire people and take them off the government rolls from welfare of unemployment. I think we should offer some type of credit to that business if that person stays on their payroll for an extended period of time."
Other passions of Burkley include passage of the so-called Heartbeat Bill which would limit abortions in the state if language that would pass Constitutional muster can be adopted. He is also eager to interact with those he is serving.
Burkley concluded, "I have a history of service to people, both in business and government. I have a history of being accessible to the public. People know where I am. I give out my phone number readily. They contact me on a constant basis with their concerns and things that need addressed, and I think I've made an effort to address those things."