This story has been corrected.
There hasn't been an open seat on the Allen County Board of Commissioners since 2010, when Therese Brown was elected in the 2nd District. Brown, a Republican, is running unopposed for a third term this fall. Nelson Peters has represented the 1st District since 2004; he was elected to a fourth term in 2016.
Linda Bloom, who has served as 3rd District commissioner since 1994, is retiring this year at the end of her sixth term. On Nov. 6, voters must choose between Republican Rich Beck and Democrat Grant Walmer.
Beck, a senior vice president of STAR Financial Bank, has served 13 years on the Allen County Redevelopment Commission and has been its president since 2008. Wallmer, who runs a massage therapy business, has not held a public position but has served as a delegate to state and national Democratic Party conventions.
In addition to overseeing county departments and facilities, the commissioners approve policies, pass ordinances and make final decisions on planning and zoning. The seven-member County Council controls the purse strings – setting the budget, approving expenditures and levying taxes.
Walmer, 27, approached his first political race methodically, studying minutes of the commissioners' meetings and asking citizens for ideas before focusing on three issues. He believes the commissioners should set meeting times more convenient for people who work and set up a Facebook page where agendas could be posted and neighborhoods with pending issues could be tagged. He would like to see the county focus more of its development strategy on higher-wage jobs and keep the environment in mind.
The 66-year-old Beck says he would “hit the ground running” on economic-development issues as a commissioner; the Redevelopment Commission nurtured impressive growth during Beck's years as president. He would use his experience in the financial industry to look for efficiencies in county government. Beck could also bring a valuable perspective to jail overcrowding and other concerns at the Sheriff's Department, where he has served 40 years as a reserve deputy.
Walmer's millennial-eye assessment of the issues is refreshing, but voters should choose Beck, who is uniquely qualified to replace the long-serving Bloom.
Coming Saturday: County Council endorsements