Western Licking County's township trustee races are important to the county as a whole, local officials say, partly because of the many issues facing those areas.

Western Licking County's township trustee races are important to the county as a whole, local officials say, partly because of the many issues facing those areas.

"It's a combination of the growth that has been occurring, which has really slowed down but is still occurring," Licking County Commissioner Doug Smith said.

Smith served as a Harrison Township trustee for 26 years prior to being elected as commissioner. He said the township has changed dramatically over the years.

"We were dealing at that time (1979) with half of our roads being gravel," he said.

There were fence disputes and other more rural issues that kept trustees busy. Development pressures, however, were nonexistent.

"Between 1980 and 1990, Harrison Township was the fastest-growing community in Licking County," Smith said.

It prompted officials from Harrison, Etna and then Lima townships to request the formation of a rural water and sewer district to handle systems from all of the development. That district is now known as the Southwest Licking Water and Sewer District, and Lima Township since has merged with Pataskala (1996) to become part of the city.

Smith said today's trustee needs more than just a knowledge of roads and people. He said today's trustee needs business experience and government experience to handle today's issues.

Rob Klinger, Licking County's economic-development manager, agreed, saying it is important for rural areas to show that government officials can work together. Companies seeking rural sites look at governments as one of the pieces in site selection, he said.

Harrison Township has four people running for two trustee seats. Raymond Foor of Wesleyan Church Road and Eric Smith of Beecher Road are the incumbents, running against Frank Trapp of Refugee Road and former trustee Mark Van Buren of Keller Road.

Marcia Phelps, the Licking County Municipal Court clerk and former county commissioner, said Etna Township's race is particularly important considering that board chairman Dick Knapp has chosen not to run for re-election and trustee Paul George died.

She said Jeff Johnson has been serving for only two years and would have to work with two new trustees.

"That leaves a challenge for the cohesiveness of the board," she said.

To the township's credit, it has a good staff, she said.

Six people are running for the two open seats: John Carlisle of Palmer Road, Randy Foor (Harrison Township trustee Raymond Foor's son) of Glen Crossing Drive, Charles Hagy Sr. of Palmer Road, Pamela Munce of National Road, Trent Stepp of Trail East and David Weber of Purple Finch Loop.

Both St. Albans and Jersey townships face development pressure as well, with the widening of state Route 161 running through both.

In St. Albans, three candidates are vying for two open seats: incumbents Charlie Reeves of Johnstown-Alexandria Road and David Lees of Jersey Mill Road and newcomer Bruce Kean of Raccoon Valley Road.

In Jersey Township, incumbents Roy Bailey of Mink Street and Derek Myers of Mink Street are running unopposed.

For a complete list of all township trustee candidates, visit www.lcounty.com.

lwince@thisweeknews.com