Meet the candidates: Scioto County Commissioners

Staff Report

Cathy Coleman

Cathy Coleman


Mike Crabtree


Matthew Seifert


John McHenry


Marty Donini


Candidates were sent a questionnaire to answer questions for the upcoming primary election. Below are their answers.

Q: Why are you interested in holding office?

Crabtree: I want to continue to make our community better. I believe our best days are ahead of us and by working together we can do great things. I don’t serve for my own self-interest; I serve to help others.

Coleman: I enjoy serving the citizens of Scioto County. I enjoy seeing our area win and I get great satisfaction in being part of our joint success.

Donini: I first began my career in public service at the age of 21 at which time I was hired as a Deputy Sheriff with the Scioto County Sheriff’s Office. Now 42 years later after dedicating my entire life as a public servant for those who live and reside in Scioto County, I am concluding my career in law enforcement after serving the last 24 years as Sheriff of Scioto County. Our community has witnessed my unique and successful leadership abilities to bring about positive changes within the Sheriff Office. I believe our community deserves an elected official who has the “proven” ability to manage the financial affairs of Scioto County and to represent Scioto County in a professional manner that earns respect.

Seifert: In 2017, I moved back to Scioto County because I saw great things were happening and I wanted to be part of that movement. Since then, a number of those great things changed for the worse, and that seems to have happened because of actions in the Commissioners’ Office. I’m running for County Commissioner to correct those mistakes, and bring fresh ideas and direction to the County.

McHenry: For going on 50 years, I have gotten up in the morning and gone to the office. There, I have helped people, one at a time. In my first career as a psychologist and now as an attorney, I have sat beside folks who entrusted me with their problems. Together we formulated a plan to make things better. Now that my law practice is winding down, I do not want to stop helping people. This time though, instead of one at a time, I am asking the people of Scioto County to give me the honor of helping 75,000 people at a time. I want to make things better.

Q: What would your priorities be as a Scioto County Commissioner?

Crabtree: We must keep our fiscal house in order. 2. Continue the push for new and innovative jobs/workforce development. 3. Work with the legislature for more meaningful legislation for Foster/Kinship providers and to rethink the policy of family reunification. 4. Continue to clean up our community by taking down more blighted structures and pushing hard to clean up our communities. 5. Work with officeholders and community representatives to combat the opioid crisis.

Coleman: 1. Sound Fiscal Management 2. Economic and Community Development & Promotion. 3. Finding new and innovative ways to combat the opioid crisis and its effects on the children of our area. 4. Promote tourism. 5. Continue to clean up the blight in our community through work release programs, the solid waste district, and the county land bank.

Donini: My first priority as Scioto County Commissioner would be to restore credibility to the Commissioner’s Office by providing a serious and professional approach to leadership that is honest, respectful and fair to everyone, “regardless of one’s political affiliation!” I will serve our community by being mutually respectful to all who encounter the Commissioner’s Office including other elected officials, community leaders and most importantly the public! I will personally accept the responsibility and accountability of managing the process of budgeting and appropriations of funds from the Scioto County general fund to all county offices. I will continue to support our Sheriff’s Office by providing guidance and adequate funding to allow them to focus on their statutory duties of serving our community in these most difficult times.

Seifert: economic development would be a top priority, but we all know it will take more than just that to change the fortunes of Scioto County. We’ve been hit hard by the opioid epidemic, have crumbling infrastructure, and issues of corruption and petty fighting threaten to stop our progress before it starts. Yes, I’ll work hard to bring jobs and industry to this area and encourage entrepreneurship, but that’s only part of the process. We can make a difference as a county with the opioid crisis by working with government and local groups as much as possible. We can continue to be fiscally responsible without being afraid to invest in the things that can make us successful. We can also push to create and follow a county strategic plan. By setting a vision for the next five, 10 and 15 years, we can work positively toward a shared vision instead of constantly reacting to issue after issue.

McHenry: Priority No. 1- I’ve seen a fair number of Scioto County Commissioners and candidates come and go. They all say the same thing- we need jobs. Well, like everyone that gets my vote too, every time. So, one must ask, where are these jobs that candidates and commissioners have for years professed their support for? What year after year do we continue to be above the state average in poverty and unemployment? I believe that to leave it at “jobs” is to miss the big picture of what ails us. We are being held back by the social epidemic of our time-drug addiction. Scioto County will not have the job growth we want until we overcome the subculture of rampant drug use throughout our communities. Then and only then will we begin to see things turn around. Inexcusably the County Commissioners have chosen not to be a part of this effort. In fact, they have undermined the effort by demanding exorbitant lease payments from agencies tasked with that mission. My mission as your Scioto County Commissioner is to make the Board of Commissioners an integral part of this struggle. Not only would success in this endeavor be a job development program, it also means crime prevention, community improvement and, to the degree possible, healing broken hearts.

Priority No. 2 – Like every county, we have certain agencies that minister the needs of certain groups. For example, children’s services and developmental disabilities. Each agency has a board of citizens appointed by the County. Commissioners and charged with certain responsibilities appropriate for the agency. Too often though, far, far too often, some people are appointed who are “connected.” This type of cronyism must stop. While there are qualified citizens on these boards, they find they must serve beside others who are not.

Additionally, the County Commissioners need to be involved in the agencies they oversee. Require reports, sit in on meetings and closely examine applicants for vacate seats. Just as a police background check is required before you can get a beer license, it should be a requirement of every applicant to any human services agency.

Q: Why do you feel you are more qualified to make decisions for the county than your opponent(s)?

Crabtree: I worked 30 years working construction for a major construction company, mostly as a surveyor. My military background working in finance gives me a unique perspective on budgets and how to stretch a dollar and work as a team. I’ve served over 15 years as a commissioner and my knowledge of how government works and my experience at the local, regional, state and federal levels allows me to make informed decisions.

Coleman: I would never presume to state that I am more qualified to make decisions over anyone else, but I will tell you why I am qualified. Having spent 42 years working as an office manager for a major construction contractor, five years as a Washington-Nile School District School Board Member, and now four years as Scioto County Commissioner, I have the experience and knowledge to keep our county on a positive upward track. I have the relationships needed locally, regionally, and at the state and national level, to foster better cooperation between economic and government entities.

Donini: Unlike my opponent, I have been a life-long public servant here in Scioto County and for the past 24 years, I have successfully served as the longest elected Sheriff in Scioto County. Again unlike my opponent, I have been responsible for managing the Sheriff’s Office, which includes managing approximately 80 employees of which most are members of the Fraternal Order of Police/Ohio Labor Council Inc. and who are covered by an Ohio collective bargaining agreement. This fact alone indicates I am more qualified to manage the affairs of Scioto County because to be successful as a leader; you must be able to negotiate and communicate in a fair and impartial manner for and with those of whom you are responsible and accountable to. Year after year, I have been responsible for managing one of the largest elected offices in Scioto County and being responsible for the largest financial budget of which includes revenues from both, the general fund and non-general fund accounts of which amounted to approximately $6,037,272.00 in 2019.

Seifert: Because I bring a fresh perspective, ideas and experience to the table. Scioto County has been fortunate to make progress despite the current County Commissioners. We can get beyond the partisan and personal bickering that keeps holding us back from achievement. I don’t want this job for personal glory; I want to make Scioto County a better place for all of us to live and work. For the past three years, I’ve worked in the private sector to help improve my adopted home. As one of the founding members of Friends of Portsmouth, I’ve helped with an organization that has helped bring a community together. The connections and experience I’ve built will be a great benefit as Commissioner.

McHenry: My opponent is Cathy Coleman. I do not know her well, but the few times we talked, she was pleasant, and I felt she had the interests of the county at heart as she thought them to be. However, I think she, as well as the other commissioners on the county board, are unequipped by training or experience to confront the gigantic problem facing Scioto County today. Throwing money at projects here and there will not loosen the stranglehold the drug culture has on our communities. Every picture I see in the paper of a ribbon-cutting over some pet project of the commissioners tells me they have no notion of how the drug problem rips through us economically, socially and our families. While they are smiling for the camera, good people are moving away. From 79,000 in 2010 our population had dropped to 75,000 in 2019. And it is not the drug dealer next door getting out of town. With my background in psychology and law, I feel I have a better understanding of our ‘modern plague’ and the community effort it will take to come to grips with it. I have seen this problem up close.

Q: What would you change about the way things currently operate on the Board of Commissioners or what would you continue to do?

Crabtree: We must continue to stay fiscally healthy. Our future depends on it. The tax and spend culture of the past just won’t work. When Doug Coleman and I took over control of the Commissioners office we erased a $3 million deficit and brought us out of fiscal emergency in record time. State auditor Yost called us the Comeback County! We must work together to keep county offices funded and running smoothly. We have a great relationship with regional partners on economic development. We must work harder to keep the City/County relationship strong. I’m always fighting for our citizens. Pushing for grants, etc. Since we are healthy fiscally we can afford to do this. I am always looking for more avenues of funding. We can’t wait for Washington or Columbus to help us. We must do more locally. Uncovering more opportunities is a major focus of mine now and in the future.

Coleman: I would continue to work hard to stay fiscally sound, keep county offices fully funded, continue to build on our economic development and recreation successes, and continue the cooperation between officeholders and other government entities. We have made progress on many fronts and I want to continue this progress in a fiscally responsible way. What would I change? I will work even harder to cut more red tape and work with the Prosecutor and Courts to do more to lessen the incarceration cost burden on our taxpayers through work release and community sanctions.

Donini: With all of my vast experience in budgeting and generating revenue while serving as Sheriff, as Commissioner I would take an “active” role by personally reviewing every budget submitted by every officeholder to ensure that they are allocated the necessary funds at the beginning of each year and stop the current practice of slashing officeholder budgets only to add more stress and work for the office and the elected officials who are responsible for the duties of their office.

I would conduct routine meetings with each elected officeholder or their designated representative for the purpose of soliciting their unbiased ideas of what they feel really needs to be done to improve our ability to serve our community in a more positive and productive way. When leaders earn mutual respect from others by their positive behaviors, they are then empowered to develop positive changes and encourage others to accept responsibility and invest in the larger picture of doing what’s best for our entire community as opposed to simply catering to a select group of individuals who have their own personal agendas.

I would prioritize the issue of resolving the overcrowding inmate population within the Scioto County Jail by actively interacting with our local judges who have the greatest influence and ability to control the issue of overcrowding. For nearly 10 years, the Scioto County Sheriff’s Office had accepted and housed inmates from other local counties which had resulted in generating approximately $1 million of additional revenue each year, which was placed into the Scioto County general fund. As Commissioner, I would work closely with the newly-elected Sheriff to assist him in re-implementing the past practice of housing inmates from surrounding counties to once again generate additional revenue, however instead of snatching up the revenue by placing it into the general fund where the Board of Commissioners have the sole control of using the revenue as they choose, I would allow the Sheriff to retain 100% of the revenue since he and his office generated it and I will show him the respect he deserves by allowing him to make the final decision on how best to use additional revenue in the operations of the Sheriff’s Office.

Seifert: I appreciate that the Commissioners have managed to save some money in the past few years, but I still think we can manage our money better. Nobody builds wealth by just saving money, we build wealth by making strategic investments in our future. We can stop reacting to everything happening around us and start being proactive. We can have sites build-ready when new infrastructure is built. We can create a vision and a plan for our future over the next five, 10, and 15 years to give us a direction. We can make Commissioners’ meetings more accessible by at least occasionally holding them in the evenings when more people can attend. We can improve the communication and collaboration between the many County elected officials and their offices to save money and get more done.

McHenry: My response to the previous question should answer this question. The Board of Commissioners needs to join the struggle against the drug culture in Scioto County and it needs to appoint without exception qualified individuals to our various human resources boards. As I mentioned, the biggest job development program we can have is to succeed in this endeavor.

Q: How would you ensure that the decisions you made best represented the needs and concerns of Scioto County residents?

Crabtree: I’ve always made decisions leaning heavily and taking into consideration how others feel. I often bounce ideas off others and LISTEN to what they say. My experience and knowledge help me make educated decisions, not guesses.

Coleman: Transparency is something we have worked hard on. We often exchange information with citizens via our meetings, social media and by phone. Also, I love to be out in public. I often speak with people about our county and how we can do better. The best way to learn is to listen.

Donini: What I have learned while serving as Sheriff is that successful and effective leaders must possess excellent communication skills and must be willing to seek input from others in order to make important sound decisions. That’s the way I operate! I am not a “what’s in it for me” person.

The amount of effort and individual invests into a project will have a direct influence on the result. Successful leaders are those who don’t have to be the center of attention, nor do they need to always take credit for accomplishments.

As Commissioner, I will continuously work hard to resolve issues and seek input from other elected officials, community leaders and the public. My sound decisions will be made only after researching the issues at hand and soliciting input from others.

Seifert: Nobody has all the answers, and nobody should be too proud to ask others for guidance. One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned in life is to be realistic about what I do and don’t know. In addition to keeping in constant touch with local, county and state officials, I’ll work tirelessly to find out what the people in our area want by meeting and speaking with them frequently. How would you respond to those who question your ability to make informed, non-biased decisions on behalf of the county?

McHenry: I am a life-long resident of this county. Except for the time I was in the Army and away at college Scioto County has always been home. (For a couple of years, I lived out West after my stepfather lost his job and we had to move.) I do not believe my “needs and concerns “are any different from other people here. I want to know my children and grandchildren are safe. I want stable neighborhoods. I want to earn enough to support my family, pay my bills and have some leftover. I want to feel Scioto County is on its way up that we’re getting a grip on what has held us down. I don’t want outsiders to look at Scioto County as ground zero of Ohio’s drug problem. If the good people of this county give me the honor of representing them as one of their County Commissioners, this will be my vision- Bring Back Scioto County!

Q: How would you respond to those who question your ability to make informed, non-biased decisions on behalf of the county?

Crabtree: I would hope this wouldn’t happen. I have always been fair and consistent in how I make decisions. I don’t see letters like R and D nor do I see labels. We are all together and we will win or lose together. I choose to win, but we can only do it together.

Coleman: I would simply say, “I listen, I have the experience both public and private, and I care about every citizen.” I would ask them to look at the results. My decisions have always been based on what is best for our county. And the voters know our county is on the rise. Our success isn’t and cannot be based on political or other biases. Our success is based on helping everyone do better and to transform our community into a place that all can succeed. We’ve done that for many citizens, and we must all work together as one.

Donini: For those who really know me, they know that I am a no non-sense “honest” Sheriff. I take my responsibilities as Sheriff seriously! My decisions are based on what’s best for the Office and “our” community in general! For the past 24 years the residents of Scioto County have elected me as Sheriff and they clearly and obviously agree that I have the ability to make informed, non -biased decisions on behalf of “all” Scioto County residents without regard to any political affiliation! Those who disagree, have the right to do so, however as Scioto County Commissioner, I will always communicate with others with mutual respect and refrain from ridiculing or criticizing those who don’t always see it my way!

Seifert: Every single one of us has biases. I’m not one of the “good old boys,” and I’m not afraid of talking to and working with people who disagree with me. I will continue to get out in the community and talk to the people whose lives are affected by the Commissioners’ office.

McHenry: I believe this question is best directed to the current members of the Board of Commissioners. No one has questioned my ability to make informed, non-biased decisions. Well, maybe my wife-but she’s the only one. Really.

Q: In 50 words or less, what would your term as Scioto County Commissioner look like?

Crabtree: Continued Fiscal Responsibility and Sound Financial Decisions. Full funding of each department. Continued efforts in economic and community development. Continued restoration of the courthouse. Fighting for the citizens of Scioto County. Better recreational opportunities. More funding to combat and remedy the opioid crisis. More progress, more opportunity.

Coleman: A continuation of sound fiscal management, strong economic and community development support and initiatives, and a continued effort toward working together with local governments to better our community. I will continue to work hard to clean up our community and make it a better place to live, work and play.

Donini: During my term as Scioto County Commissioner you will witness: Non-Partisan Leadership, Honesty and Integrity, Respectfulness, Confidence, Inspiration, Commitment and Passion, Effective Communications, Sound Decision Making Capabilities, Accountability, Entrustment and Empowerment, Creativity and Innovation, Compassion, Resilience, Emotional Intelligence, Humility, Vision and Purpose and finally, Transparency (without the Facebook drama)

Seifert: Scioto County is blessed with so many resources, I know many of us are surprised we aren’t doing better, and we often feel forgotten or left behind. As Commissioner, I’ll help us take stock of our situation, create a plan for success, and work together for a better future.

McHenry: Adventurous.

Cathy Coleman Coleman Submitted

Mike Crabtree Crabtree Submitted

Matthew Seifert Seifert Submitted

John McHenry McHenry Submitted

Marty Donini Donini Submitted

Staff Report