Thad Lichtensteiger
Thad Lichtensteiger

VAN WERT – While early voting has started, many will head to the polls on May 8 to vote in the primary election. During this election, Van Wert County residents will vote on who will fill a County Commissioner position. While Vicki Profit is looking to be newly elected, incumbent Thad Lichtensteiger is looking for a re-election.

Lichtensteiger grew up in the Convoy area and went to Crestview. While at Crestview, he was class president for four years, was FFA president, and a state FFA officer. Lichtensteiger then went on to graduate from Ohio State University. After graduation he continued to work on the family farm. He explained that he’s been in leadership positions for his entire life, including a total of 15 years on the Crestview Board of Education. After his children graduated from Crestview, he sought a different way to be involved in the community and ran for County Commissioner. To date, he is in his eighth year as Commissioner.

Lichtensteiger is also currently the chairman of the Van Wert County Republican Party, and has held positions as a Van Wert County Foundation trustee and is on the Van Wert County Farm Bureau board.

Lichtensteiger noted that one of the greats accomplishments in Van Wert County since he’s been County Commissioner is the re-framing of economic development and the hiring of economic development director Stacy Adam.

“We spent a lot of energy, probably three or four months of hammering things out, and lobbing ideas back and forth,” said Lichtensteiger. “We said it’s got to be the City and the County together and it’s got to be accountability, and we’ve got to fund it.”

The City and the County came up with a nine-member Van Wert Area Economic Development board. Re-organizing economic development and hiring Adam allowed for many endeavors in Van Wert including the creation of the Land Bank, which helps the County tear down blighted houses, and a combined Revolving Load Fund between the City and the County, which loaned out around $400,000 in Revolving Loans to businesses last year.

Lichtensteiger also noted electric aggregation as an accomplishment during his eight years in office. Electric aggregation allows for bids to be put out so that electric customers are getting the cheapest rates possible. Van Wert residents recently saw a change in electric providers from First Energy to AEP.

“Since the start of electric aggregation, which was in my first term, the total savings to Van Wert County residents is between $2.5 and $3 million,” said Lichtensteiger.

Some other notable accomplishments Lichtensteiger cited were the restoration of the Courthouse dome, saving money on County insurance with a savings $700,000 in the first year of bailing out of the previous plan, and saving the County $365,000 after an audit of a grant for a sewer project.

One of the most heated topics during the 2018 County Commissioner election has been the topic of renewable energy. Lichtensteiger stated that when wind originally made it’s way to Van Wert he was totally on board, but as he began talking to his constituents, he developed a different view of the topic.

“I don’t know how you ignore your constituents,” said Lichtensteiger who cited hearing many stories from those who do not support wind. “I have to make decisions on their behalf, but I also have to represent their wishes too.”

Lichtensteiger said, however, that he could debate either side noting that wind does brings substantial money to area schools, including Lincolnview and Crestview who have received substantial money from the Blue Creek project. He also stated, though, that he feels there is more to the issue than the money.

“One of the misconceptions though, I would say, is that somehow the Commissioners are keeping a project from moving forward, and that is not true,” said Lichtensteiger. “What’s keeping anything from going forward in the way of wind is the extended setbacks they (the State) put into place three or four years ago.”

“Ultimately, as County Commissioners however we handle this is going to be decided by the rules that the State Legislator gives us,” added Lichtensteiger. “It is now; that’s what’s preventing us from doing anything now.”

Lichtensteiger said he feels a vote by those affected by wind turbines would be appropriate. A purposed bill, Senate Bill 238, would give a vote to only those in the footprint of a perspective wind farm.

Lichtensteiger also spoke on the topic of Van Wert’s drug problem, noting that one of his first endeavors as Commissioner was speaking to then-Sheriff Stan Owens about what he needed to help the County keep drugs out of the hands of citizens.

From that conversation, a deputy was added to the West Central Ohio Drug Task Force to help prevent drugs from entering Van Wert County. Lichtensteiger also pointed to the recently established Drug Court as an accomplishment. Drug Court is an extensive program that holds drug offenders accountable with drug tests weekly, if not daily.

Lichtensteiger said that the drug problem will be an ongoing issue and is not something that the County can get rid of by throwing money at.

He also explained that the County recently worked with the Sheriff’s Department to purchase a body scanner in the County Jail to prevent visitors from smuggling drugs to inmates.

Lichtensteiger said he’s made it his goal during his time as Commissioner to listen to the people of Van Wert County and serve them as best he could. He addressed a recent advertisement insinuating that he would rather raise taxes on Van Wert residents which he said he finds “offensive.”

“The only conversation that we’ve ever had as Commissioners is ‘how can we cut taxes,’” said Lichtensteiger noting that he and the other Commissioners are fiscal conservatives. “If we can lower taxes, that’s just another way to get business to come here.”

Lichtensteiger said he’s never thought about raising taxes and instead focuses on living within the means available to the County.