Neil Straley
Neil Straley
VAN WERT — Three candidates who will be on the Republican primary ballot on May 2 attended the Heart Land Patriots Meet the Candidates night on Tuesday evening in the Fireside Room at Trinity Friends Church.

Neil Straley, Judge Jill Leatherman and City Councilman Bill Marshall were the candidates in attendance.

Straley, who is running for city treasurer, introduced himself to the audience of about 20 people. Straley is taking on incumbent Don Hangartner for the position and is the only contested race on the Republican primary ballot.

Straley graduated from Van Wert High School in 1989. Straley attended the Ohio State Lima campus for a year after high school where he studied statistics. He decided to take a break after the first year and started working at Teleflex.

He worked 17 years there and lost his job when Kongsberg Automotive bought it out and locked out employees in 2008.

“I’ve been working in manufacturing my whole life,” Straley said. “I got into management and supervision and working various places. I like to move around once in a while to see some different angles and learn different things. In manufacturing I got to work with a lot of spreadsheets (…) so I did learn a little bit about financials and spreadsheets and Excel and things that would attribute to this job.”

After working at Teleflex, he attended Indiana Tech in Fort Wayne and received a bachelor’s degree in accounting.

“I have a passion for numbers which is part of the reason why I’m interested in this job,” he said. “I like numbers and I like financials.”

“The reason I’m interested in this job and the reason I want to do it is I want to be a civil servant,” he added. “I want to do something positive for the city. I want to do my civil duty. I want to try to take as much initiative as city treasurer can do. I know city treasurer can only do so much. I want to research and find out the max that I can do to help the city out. I want to be a team player for the Council, and for (Mayor) Jerry Mazur, the whole team.”

Judge Leatherman is running unopposed to continue in the judge’s position for the Van Wert Municipal Court.

Leatherman was appointed to the position in Nov. 8, 2010, and faced Todd Wolfrum in the 2011 primary election which she won to win the seat for a full term. Now she is seeking her second term and does not face an opponent.

“The court has changed a little bit,” she said noting the move from the old post office building on Market Street to its new location at 102 E. Main St.

There has also been a notable increase in the caseload.

“We’ve had a 42 percent increase in our case filings since I’ve started as judge, so I stay pretty busy,” she said.

In 2016, Leatherman had 10,281 cases.

“That’s unprecedented for a community our size,” she said. “It’s a single judge court, I do have a full-time magistrate, that’s been an addition to the staff, but it’s been definitely needed.”

Leatherman did note that in her time as judge she has seen a shift in operating a vehicle while intoxicated charges shifting from intoxicated by alcohol to intoxicated by drugs or drugs and alcohol, and she has seen an increase in distracted driving citations.

“One of the things I’ve strived to do since I’ve started was to implement more programs for the people that are ‘services’ and I really do think of it as servicing the people that come to our court,” she said noting that she likes to utilize community service in her sentencings.

“I believe doing something good for someone else both makes you feel better about yourself and it helps somebody else,” she said. “We use those kind of philosophies because I believe in rehabilitating somebody in their ‘own’.”

Marshall was also on hand to introduce himself and answer questions from the audience.

Marshall was recently appointed to City Council to fill a vacant at-large seat. Marshall decided to run for election for the at-large seat to continue the job that he feels he has not yet finished after only being on Council for a few months.

Marshall was born and raised in Van Wert County, graduated from Crestview and went to college, but he said he wasn’t ready for it.

“My father taught me the things that were important: integrity, honesty and hard work,” he said. “Those three characteristics I think are something I try to espouse in myself.”

He went on to join the Air Force in 1965.

“It was one of the smartest things I think I ever did because it really grounded me, it gave me a purpose, a direction, and I had an opportunity to serve my country,” he said.

It wasn’t until a few years ago that Marshall moved back to retire in Van Wert and started to become involved in the community.

“If you do want to be involved in the community, you’ve got to want to be involved in the community,” he said. “You want to understand what the community is about. I feel that that’s what I’ve tried to do is understand the community and also to help it because I compare the community then to the community that I’m in now and there’s a big change, folks. There are some things that have really improved and some that really haven’t.”

“I hope that I serve the community in the foremost way that is helpful,” Marshall added. “I hope that that’s always my guiding light, what’s best, not for an individual, but for a community as a whole.”

As for what Van Wert really needs to work on, Marshall said economic development. He said he feels that Stacy Adam as the Van Wert Area Economic Development Corporation director is who Van Wert needs in that job because she is dynamic.