Many candidates are running for commissioner and council seats in Ripley and Franklin counties (please see box). Both positions wield a lot of power, so voters need to explore which persons will do the best jobs.
“When there are multiple candidates, the primary is the place they select the candidate to represent them in the fall election. It’s very important that you educate yourself on all the candidates,” believes Robert Reiners, Sunman, Ripley County District 1 commissioner who is retiring after 16 years in the position.
Tom Wilson, 17-year Franklin County District 3 commissioner, stresses, “Your county council is very, very important. It is the fiscal body that deals with the money and finances. The commissioners, of course, spend the money and take care of the roads. It’s very important they both work together in unity to have a well-run county.”
He suggests voters should “call the candidates and find our why they’re running and what their views are on various topics.”
The economy and road conditions are the top problems Wilson faces. He reflects, “In a county like Franklin, it’s pretty rural ... and very low industry for a tax base. Expenses keep going up and revenues do not.” He says some decisions are made about “everyday life” topics – “guns, religion and national issues.”
When asked about feedback from constituents, Wilson remembers a Nativity scene on the courthouse lawn “was a big deal .... One person complained. Everybody else was in favor of it.” Other hot-button topics range from potholes to “Are we going to raise taxes?”
The No. 1 issue for Ripley County Commissioners is insuring a balanced budget, “one of the most important things any county can have,” according to Reiners. The others that stand out are EMS and paramedics; economic development; road repair money (which comes from gas taxes. “We get whatever the state gives us. Definitely it’s hard to make the repairs you want to make and keep the equipment in good order to maintain the roads”); and health insurance for county employees (”It constantly goes up. We try to be as fair as we can with employees” about their contributions).