Democrat John O'Grady and Republican Jeffery J. Miller are seeking the Franklin County Commission seat being vacated by Congressional candidate Mary Jo Kilroy.

Democrat John O'Grady and Republican Jeffery J. Miller are seeking the Franklin County Commission seat being vacated by Congressional candidate Mary Jo Kilroy.

If O'Grady and incumbent Paula Brooks are elected in November, they would join Marilyn Brown to maintain an all-Democratic board of commissioners. If Miller and Angel Rhodes prevail, the balance of power on the commission would swing to the GOP.

O'Grady, 43, is in his second term as Franklin County Clerk of Courts. He worked for nine years as an administrator for former state treasurer Mary Ellen Withrow. O'Grady is a graduate of Ohio Dominican University with a degree in business.

Miller, 53, a former mayor of Canal Winchester, is a security and management consultant. He is a retired sergeant and hostage negotiator with the Columbus Division of Police and is a former Summit County deputy sheriff. Miller is also an Ohio Dominican University graduate. His degree is in criminal justice.

O'Grady said the Wall Street financial crisis is the single biggest challenge facing the nation and Franklin County.

"As we begin to address this issue on a countywide level, we are going to have to ensure that all relevant parties are being brought to the table to figure out a solution," he said.

O'Grady said that means sitting down with homeowners and lenders to solve the foreclosure crisis and with public leaders to figure out how to provide social services.

"We're going to be faced with some tough decisions and with some expenditures to cut," he said. "However, as Franklin County commissioner, I will bring my business sense and experience to my position, and ensure that we are making the most prudent, responsible choices possible."

Miller said he thinks the county will need to tighten its belt and look at both personnel and programs.

"Prioritizing our critical services and preparing an adjusted, responsible budget is the first place to start," he said. "We need to make sure that each public service position is vital to the success of our organization and that each person employed is providing a professional level of performance that reflects excellence of service.

"Moving forward, I would approve only those select programs that will efficiently and effectively deliver the most significant services."

If elected, Miller said he will concentrate on fiscal responsibility, something he said he did as mayor of Canal Winchester.

"My administration created the largest capital improvement plan in our town's history," he said. "Projects vital to basic needs and economic growth will receive first priority, and just as I did as mayor, I will award contracts based a sound policy, using the lowest and best bid for the project. And again, just as I did as mayor, I will complete these projects ahead of time and under budget."

O'Grady said job creation will be his top priority as a county commissioner.

"My top priority will be creating jobs, jobs and more jobs," O'Grady said. "I believe that the key to maintaining our county and our social services in the face of a possible recession is to continue to look for and help bring new industry and investment to Franklin County."

One possibility, he said, would be to expand and in the intermodal facilities at Rickenbacker International Airport to attract logistics companies to the area and bring in opportunities for job creation, economic development and education.

Despite a troubled economy, O'Grady says the county must continue to provide basic services, but will have to streamline its business practices and pay attention to expenditures.

"I believe that I am uniquely suited to help Franklin County meet this challenge," O'Grady said. "I began my tenure at the clerk's office with a $12-million dollar budget. Nearly eight years later, my office employs 10 fewer employees, has maintained its budget and has dealt with a dramatic increase in fee-based transactions and auto titles, among other services, all while maintaining the high level of service our county deserves. I have built my reputation as clerk on fiscal responsibility, and I believe that I can bring that same commitment to financial stewardship to the board of commissioners.

Miller said the county faces two major challenges -- unemployment and safety -- and he thinks he is qualified to deal with both.

"I know how to bring jobs back to central Ohio by practicing sound economic development strategies," he said.

As for safety, Miller said, "Combining law enforcement resources from around the county, we can begin to take back our streets. A safe community creates new economic opportunities. The two are synergistic in their relationship."

O'Grady said that despite controversy surrounding the awarding of contracts for the new Huntington ballpark, he thinks the current processes are adequate, but he would welcome a review of the standards.

"The important thing to remember is that if any potential inadequacies do exist, they will not be remedied overnight," he said. "The first and most prudent step for the board to take is to conduct an internal review and proceed accordingly."

Miller said he has already been working with state lawmakers on "soon-to-be-introduced legislation" that he said will prevent what he referred to as "steering contracts."

"The proper interpretation of the existing bid policy has even been questioned by one of the seated commissioners," Miller said. "This change in law will restore fairness and return a level of integrity back into the competitive bidding process. Best of all, it will return those nonunion companies to the bidding process that will ultimately save the county hundred of thousands of taxpayer money for additional projects."

jdonahue@thisweeknews.com