Friday, October 16th, 2020
Laffin and Holtvoigt square off in commissioner's race
By William Kincaid
CELINA -Long-serving Mercer County commissioner Jerry Laffin, Coldwater, will face off against Don Holtvoigt, Celina, in the Nov. 3 general election.
The board of county commissioners is made up of three seats. Holtvoigt is challenging Laffin for the seat with a term beginning Jan. 2. Commissioners are the county's primary taxing, appropriating and contracting authority.
Holtvoigt, a 65-year-old Democrat, is semi-retired after enjoying a 38-year career in human resources that spanned public service, defense contracting, health care, manufacturing and private consulting.
He and his wife, Mary Ann, together have six adult children and six grandchildren. Holtvoigt obtained a bachelor's degree from Wright State University, where he studied behavioral science and business. He also has three years of graduate study in applied behavioral science with a concentration in communications for consulting and training.
Asked about his experience that qualifies him to serve as commissioner, Holtvoigt cited a fine balance of business experience and dealing with people. He was president of the Greater Dayton Jaycees, Miami Valley Human Resources Association and Findlay Area Human Resources Association.
"When you take care of people, business takes care of itself," he said.
Additionally, he has served in various capacities with Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce, the Jaycee Housing Corp. and American Red Cross, among other organizations.
Holtvoigt, who said he's prepared budgets his entire career, describes himself as a fiscal conservative.
"Finances are finite and what's important is how you prioritize the spending of those finances," he elaborated. "I have no interest in advocating for increased costs to the citizens."
Holtvoigt said he has absolute respect and admiration for Laffin's commitment to the community but asserted that it's time for a change on the board of commissioners.
"What I'm advocating is a change, a change of thought, a change of process, a different voice, something that the citizens haven't heard before," he said.
He laid out his five-point pledge to the county.
Holtvoigt promised to host town hall meetings regularly in all of the county's political subdivisions.
"That's what's important to me, making sure that (citizen's) needs are satisfied, that I'm addressing issues that are of importance to them," he said, noting he lived on a farm for 20 years.
On health care, Holtvoigt, who said he's worked in two different hospital systems, spoke about the importance of helping build the area's health system to attract physicians and specialists.
He called for the creation of a county-based, affordable health care plan that would be made available for individuals and employers.
"Why shouldn't we be cutting edge? Why shouldn't we tackle something like this?" he asked.
Another of Holtvoigt's initiatives is the development of reliable broadband internet access.
"Why can't we assist in making sure that our students and our rural families, our farmers, have good, solid, reliable broadband access?" he asked.
Lastly, Holtvoigt said he would work to foster flood control in the county. He said he's worked for more than a decade with the Miami Conservancy District and would bring the right people to the table to design a flood-control system based on historical data that works for Mercer County, whether that be diversion, dams, levees or general improvements.
"There's no reason in the world … why we should be getting our carpets wet every year and our crops inundated," Holtvoigt said. "We need to protect our citizens and our farms. We need to protect our businesses from that type of flooding. It's predictable."
If elected, Holtvoigt said he would limit himself to two terms.
"I want to implement things that are important to the citizens of Mercer County and then find that younger blood or those new ideas that can carry on those things. We can do it. The citizens of Mercer County are so resourceful and they're so intuitive," he said.
Laffin, an 82-year-old Republican, has been a county commissioner since Jan. 2, 1981. He's seeking his 11th four-year term on the board.
"I still enjoy it," Laffin said when asked why he's running. "All in all, Mercer County, I think, is a very good place to live. It's a good place to raise our children and our grandchildren. We have good education systems in this county. We've got good people."
Laffin and his wife, Nancy, have been married for 61 years. They have three children and 11 grandchildren. A lifelong farmer, Laffin graduated from Celina High School in 1956. His time in FFA was a pivotal experience in which he learned parliamentary procedures, public speaking and leadership skills, he said.
He was elected state FFA vice president and was chosen to serve as one of two head ushers at the national FFA convention.
Laffin also served in the U.S. Army from November 1961 to November 1963. He was stationed at Fort Story in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and was named company clerk.
In addition to farming, Laffin worked for a decade at the company now known as Stoneco, a supplier of construction aggregates and asphalt materials.
He was defeated in his first political race, trying to replace his retiring uncle, Dwight Laffin, as county clerk of courts. Undeterred, Laffin turned his attention to another position. He successfully ran for Washington Township trustee, a position he held for three years.
Prompted by numerous trustees, Laffin later mounted a run for an open county commissioner seat.
Asked about his qualifications, Laffin pointed to his extensive experience in office, adding he's well versed in assembling budgets and making appropriations.
"We are sitting financially, I think, in pretty good shape. We do have a decent carryover," he said, explaining a surplus is necessary to carry the county through the first few months of a new year.
He also noted that he's made sure other county elected officials had the tools, equipment and personnel to perform their duties to the best of their abilities.
For that to happen, commissioners have kept a watchful eye on the county's general fund and exercised fiscal restraint, Laffin said.
"That's the one that provides the money for all the operations of those offices except the engineer's office," he said.
Over the years, commissioners have made major investments in water and sewer projects, Laffin said. They also ushered in a full-time community and economic development department and created a revolving loan fund that led to the startup or expansion of countless businesses that created close to 2,000 jobs.
The low-interest loans can be used to buy fixed assets such as land, buildings, machinery and equipment and as working capital to expand an existing or startup business.