Don Shaffer, left, of Brookville and Carolyn Rice of Kettering are facing off in the Democratic primary for Montgomery County Commissioner. SUBMITTED

2 Democrats on Montgomery County Commission primary ballot

Carolyn Rice, Montgomery County’s treasurer for 11 years, and Dr. Don Shaffer, a former Clayton council member and practicing chiropractor, will face each other in the May 8 Democratic primary for an open Montgomery County Commission seat.

Both said the county needs to remain focused on bringing a devastating opioid crisis to an end and put a priority on increasing access to health care and creating more good jobs for citizens.

Shaffer said that, during his four years on the Clayton City Council, he learned the nuts and bolts of local government from leaf collection to law enforcement to street paving. He was also on the council when the land deal was struck to bring the giant Caterpillar Logistics Services to Clayton, which expanded its tax base.

“Caterpillar meant a lot,” Shaffer said. “That helped our growth and our income and allowed us to give more services to people in our community.”

MORE: Caterpillar officials boast variety of jobs at Clayton distribution center

Shaffer now lives in Brookville. He has been a chiropractor for more than 50 years, now practicing part time from offices in West Milton and Fairborn.

Rice, a Kettering resident, said decisions made at the county commission “actually help or hurt people.”

She said the county commission is responsible for making economic development funds available through programs like the ED/GE grants which support local governments’ efforts to attract jobs.

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But Rice said she would also spearhead a new initiative called Global Dayton to better market the county to companies across the world.

“We need to do a better job of telling our story,” she said.

Shaffer said he would work with others on targeted tax abatements to draw new factories and promote business expansion. He also proposes raising the county’s minimum wage to boost the locally economy.

Rice spent 14 years working for local corporations Reynolds and Reynolds and LexisNexis. She said her experience allowed her as treasurer to recognize one solution to the housing crisis resulting from the Great Recession.

“We saw massive foreclosures, families struggling with financial issues, abandoned houses, and neighborhoods succumbing to blight,” Rice said. “I worked with state and local officials to create the Montgomery County Land Bank, which has generated more than $25 million in neighborhood investments in our county.”

The county administrator has proposed a 0.25 percent increase in retail sales tax to deal with a $9 million budget shortfall in 2019. Any decision will likely be made by the current board before the open seat is filled, but Rice said budgeting is a perennial challenge given the county has lost $30 million in state revenue in recent years.

RELATED: Montgomery County proposing sales tax increase

“We have absorbed those cuts and have still managed to maintain a high level of services, despite cutting more than 500 county jobs in recent years,” she said. “We must find ways to meet the goals we set and continue to serve the needs of our residents.”

Rice, the candidate endorsed by the Montgomery County Democratic Party, said she is waiting to hear what recommendations come from a budget advisory process. Shaffer said he would like to see taxes ultimately go down, but said he’s not opposed to an increase if the revenue goes to programs that improve people’s lives.

“How you spend money is very important,” Shaffer said. “I’m not against a 0.25 percent increase if we handle it right and spend it right.”

A general fund education session for the public is scheduled for Monday, April 30, at 5:30 p.m. at the main Dayton Metro Library’s Eichelberger Forum. If current commissioners agree to move forward, two public hearings required by state law, would be scheduled for June before commissioners vote to approve a retail sales tax increase.

The county commission still has more work to do combating the opioid crises, both said.

RELATED: Your questions answered about the opioid epidemic

“The general consensus is we need more mental health services,” said Shaffer. “If we could get these people into counselors more quickly and more voluminously so that we get this service to the people, it could prevent a lot of addiction.”

Rice said the epidemic has taken a toll on families, health care and mental health systems, as well as the criminal justice system.

“It is the result of a perfect storm of circumstances,” she said. “Montgomery County has approached this as a public health crisis and we have made some progress, but we are still seeing far too many families destroyed by these tragedies.”