Candidates Debate At Rotary

Wapakoneta's Steve Henderson answers a question during Wednesday's debate on the next Auglaize County Commissioner ahead of March 17's primary. Henderson and New Knoxville's Dave Bambauer are vying for Don Regula's seat that he will be vacating early next year.
Managing Editor

Candidates for the next Auglaize County Commissioner were given a warm Rotary welcome on Wednesday at the St. Marys club as Wapakoneta’s Steve Henderson and New Knoxville’s Dave Bambauer participated in the second of two debates hosted by the New Bremen New Knoxville and the St. Marys clubs in back-to-back days. 

Each candidate is vying for the soon-to-be-vacated seat by Don Regula, who will be stepping down from his position Jan. 3, 2021. With no Democratic candidate, the winner of the March 17 primary will be the next commissioner who fills that vacated seat.

Each candidate began the debate with an opening statement and answered some already-submitted questions  before concluding with a closing statement.

Opening Statements

Henderson opened the debate citing his 22 years as president of Wapakoneta City Council and vice president of the Wapakoneta Area Economic Development Council for 15 years.

“The commissioners, for some reason, trusted me and they appointed me to the board … to the Mental Health and Recovery Services of Allen, Auglaize and Hardin counties,” he said. “I have been on many boards of directors, but not as rewarding as this one.”

A 1985 graduate of Wapakoneta High School, Henderson is an Ohio University alum who fell in love with his high school sweetheart, Tanya. They have been married for 30 years with four children. 

Bambauer is a 1978 graduate of New Knoxville High School and a graduate of the Northwest Business College, which is now the University of Northwestern Ohio in Lima. 

He told Rotarians he has been in private business with his family at Bambauer Fertilizer for 40 years and now his nieces and nephews are owners of the business, making Bambauer chief financial officer. 

Bambauer pointed out that he has an understanding of how county, city and township governments work while working for the Washington Township Fiscal Officer for 23 years and has been on numerous boards within the village of New Knoxville.

“My involvement in the community has been quite intense the last 40 years,” he said. “I have served quite a bit with my church at First Church of New Knoxville, I teach Catechism to the junior high kids and I served our church as a board member of Agape Ministries here in St. Marys”

He and his wife Jeannie have two daughters. 

Question: It seems like there are a lot of “help wanted” signs all over the place. The problem seems to be that there is no affordable housing available. Is there a county program available to address this problem or does it fall on private contractors and individuals?

Bambauer: “There’s no county program that I know of that deals with housing and I don’t feel that it’s the county that needs to address this issue,” Bambauer said. 

He believed that housing is generally left to the cities or villages because they have the resources and utilities to accommodate homes better than townships.

“I think it would be very unfair as a commissioner if you would pick and choose to where the homes should go in the county,” he added.  

He concluded by saying everybody has a different view on the kind of housing they want to live in. He thought the younger generation would be more swayed to rental or condominiums, while the older generation is more enticed with owning a home — with those preferences in mind, Bambauer believed it should be up to the private market or contractors.

Henderson: He stated that the area does have a housing issue, citing the issue being addressed in a forum a few years ago at Memorial High School, and added that the area has seen a substantial about of job growth.

“We’ve got the workforce, [but] where do we house them?” Henderson said. “Hopefully that is addressed it’s not necessarily a county issue, but I know [in] Wapakoneta, there has been various meetings trying to address that problem.

“It is on the commissioner’s radar and it should be.”

Question: How will you work in the best interest of all entities in Auglaize County, the townships, villages and cities?

Bambauer: The former fiscal officer reiterated that taxes come from everywhere in the county and commissioners have to benefit everyone equally when making decisions. 

“We can’t pick and choose villages or cities or certain townships that we want to help in a certain way,” he added. “Those tax dollars have to be spent where all individuals or all people within the county benefit.”

He cited that Rotary’s Four-Way test applies to county government or that they should apply to the national government.

“We have to look at the county as a whole and all the taxpayers and try to make decisions as benefit everyone,” Bambauer concluded.

Henderson: Added that he would like to see county commissioners become more involved with not just the villages but all the municipalities.

“When I get elected county commissioner, I want to do what’s best for all the citizens in Auglaize County,” Henderson said. “Every single one. Every village, every city.”

Question: Virginia has 96 of its 99 counties that have passed legislation to make them Second Amendment Sanctuary Counties. What would be you feeling about that for Auglaize County?

Henderson: “I’ve been added bowhunter,” he said. “I’ve traveled all over the country hunting … so don’t mess with my guns … don’t take away my constitutional rights that our forefathers put into place over 200 years ago.”

Bambauer: “My view on that what has happened in Virginia is probably a little different than what could happen in the county level here in August County,” he said. “County commissioners cannot legislate. The legislation is done at the state level so county commissioners do not have the ability to make a law.

“A lot of counties in Virginia passed resolutions to become second amendment sanctuary counties. Our county could do the same thing if they wanted to but it really would be just something. That would happen it could get in the paper people could see it maybe it would look good politically.”

Baumbauer pointed to the fact there is only one county facility that does not allow concealed carry — the county courthouse.

“So that tells me what view our county commissioners have on that idea,” he added. 

Bambauer said he is a gun owner and a deer hunter and he would never vote against the second amendment. 

Question: Driving around the county recently has me confused. My understanding was that farmers could not spread manure during part of December, all of January, February and part of March, yet I see farmers with their big tractors and manure spreaders loaded and headed to the fields. Can they legally do that? Who is in charge of enforcement and who should I report it to?

Bambauer: He said it can be confusing for people who are not typically involved with farming because there are three sets of laws that apply. 

The first law is for the Grand Lake [St. Marys] Watershed where manure cannot be applied between Dec. 15 to March 15 no matter what. The second law comes from the Ohio Department of Agriculture that says not manure can be applied from Dec. 15 to March 15 in Ohio on frozen or snow-covered ground or when the weather forecast calls for rain within 24 hours.

“There’s a lot of gray area in that because if you ever notice the size of the tractors and the equipment that some farmers have they can go through two to three inches of frost in that ground,” Bambauer explained. “So the ground will carry the equipment they [farmers] can legally get it [their equipment] to till even though they don’t get a till … they’re in the right, they’re not being illegal with what they do.”

The third set of rules applies to businesses, such as Bambauer Fertilizer, who needs a license because of the amount of tonnage of manure spread during the year. Those regulations are stiffer than what it is for the individual farmer.

“As far as setbacks, timing and the amount of paperwork that we go through when we spread manure, we have to have a weather report printed out, we go through a yearly license and inspection and our records are checked to make sure that we’re doing things the right way,” he added.”[It’s] no wonder that people are confused out here with what goes on. If they have a problem or somebody sees something they don’t think it’s right, they need to call the local soil [and] water conservation district or you can call the Ohio Department of Agriculture.”

Henderson: Despite limited experience in this field, Henderson said he attended the H2Ohio program and while people near GLSM and Mercer County are continuing to deal with phosphorus runoff, he praised Gov. Mike DeWine for “putting his arms” around the issue by investing in $30 million in the first year for the 30 counties in northwest Ohio as they deal with the Lake Erie Watershed. 

“Auglaize, Allen and many other counties will benefit from the hunt and additional $172 million that has been allocated.”

Question: Women’s domestic violence against their spouse seems to be on the rise. Do we need a male facility for the county that houses those involved with domestic violence, similar to what exists for women?

Henderson: Praised the Auglaize County Crisis Center and the services it provides to women who have suffered some kind of domestic violence and speaking along those lines, as a board member of the Mental Health and Recovery Services, he understands how high the suicide rate for ages 10 to 14 and 15 to 34.

“I know there’s probably no one in this room that hasn’t been affected by that and one way or another unfortunately, so I’m glad that I’m on the board of directors working in conjunction with the county commissioners,” Henderson added.

Bambauer: He and his wife have volunteered for the crisis center in the past and while it has the ability to house women in the county and provide them with all kinds of different services, the crisis center also provides the same services for males who have been abused. 

Bambauer said while the center does not provide the same housing as women, it will provide some sort of alternate housing to men.

Closing Statements

Henderson: He said this race is not about the amount of yard signs one candidate has against another, it’s about getting out and solving the whatever problems the county has. 

“One of the questions was what’s the biggest problem in Auglaize County and my simple answer is I didn’t know we had any problems in Auglaize County,” Henderson said. “I think they’ve done a strategic, mathematically-sound job of doing what county commissioners are elected to do and I look forward to that continued leadership that I’ve done over the past 22 years.”

Bambauer: Bambauer stated that he loves Auglaize County and he has always had an interest in county government.

“I think I suit that position well because of my past experience serving as a Washington Township fiscal officer, being in private business, doing my service in my community,” he added. “I just feel like I have a big overview picture of what goes on in our county and hopefully I can uphold and do as well as our county leadership has as long as I can remember.”