Licking County News

Republican commissioner candidates

Black, Fox, Kanuckel will vie in primary

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Republicans Rick Black, Mike Fox and Doug Kanuckel will be on the ballot for Licking County commissioner in the May 6 primary election.

The winner will advance to the general election in November against Democrat Mark Van Buren, a Harrison Township trustee, and Libertarian James Snedden. Van Buren and Snedden are unopposed in the primary.

The commissioner seat up for election currently is held by Republican Doug Smith, who will retire at the end of his term after serving since 2005.

* Black, 60, of Hebron, is a self-described lifelong family farmer who owns Sandstone Canyon Farms and is president of the Union Township board of trustees.

Black said he became interested in running for commissioner while serving on the Lakewood school board from 1998 to 2005.

He said he ran for Licking County commissioner in the May 2008 primary and was defeated.

"I believe this county needs the type of leadership I can bring," Black said.

Black said he has a varied background, with business skills, government experience and community service. He has served as the organist and music director for the Second Presbyterian Church in Newark since 1976.

Black has a bachelor's degree in agriculture from the Ohio State University.

* Fox, 56, of Pataskala, is a member of Pataskala City Council and the owner of Fox's Locks and Security on Main Street. He is running for commissioner for the first time.

"I think the city of Pataskala is in pretty good hands right now and things are working well with the new (City) Council people," Fox said.

Fox said he sees a need for change at the county level, especially in the additional 0.5 percentage point of sales tax collected by Licking County since 2006. The total Licking County sales tax is 7.25 percent, with the county rate at 1.5 percent, according to tax.ohio.gov.

Fox said he'd like to phase out at least 0.25 percentage points of the county's sales tax rate over a period of time by taking a look at how the county could operate without the extra funding. He said spending perhaps could be reduced on such programs as the Licking County Transit Services and county employees' travel and training expenses.

Fox has an associate degree in public administration from Franklin University and has lived in Pataskala for 25 years.

He served three years on Pataskala's planning and zoning commission and most recently was elected to City Council in 2011.

Fox received a reprimand in January from Pataskala City Council and had to issue a public apology for charges levied against him, per an agreement with Pataskala City Council.

He publicly apologized for malfeasance charges resulting from his alleged participation in disciplinary proceedings for West Licking fire Chief David Fulmer after City Council directed him not to do so; for voting on a City Council budget amendment related to a hearing on the malfeasance charges; and for an incident that occurred July 22, 2013, when heavy rainfall caused a section of foundation to collapse at the building in which his business is based and Fox attempted "to obstruct official business by interfering with the fire department trying to secure the area for the purpose of protecting the public," according to the agreement with City Council.

New allegations recently were brought against Fulmer, who again is under investigation.

"There is an ongoing investigation against David Fulmer, who prompted charges against me through (Pataskala) City Council and in the end I think that will clear things up," Fox said. "In my opinion, (the charges against me were) a political attack to discredit me by the previous administration to help Chief David Fulmer retain his position and to discredit me and stop me from running for mayor (of Pataskala)."

Fox announced his candidacy for mayor last year but stepped down after Mike Compton entered the 2013 race. Compton defeated Steve Butcher in November 2013 and took over as mayor in January.

* Kanuckel, 71, of Frazeysburg, is retired and serves as president of the Fallsbury Township board of trustees.

He is a Licking Valley High School graduate who worked for 12 years as a supervisor for the Licking County Sheriff's Office and as a truck driver for Yellow Transportation for 11 years.

"I wanted the opportunity to try to make a difference and I feel it's a natural progression from township trustee to the county commissioner's office," Kanuckel said. "I see some problems that I think I may be able to make a difference in."

Kanuckel mentioned Licking County Transit Services as a problem, calling it "broken."

"I have a transportation background and as I see it, the transit authority is broken," he said. "Every time you see one of those big buses, there never seems to be more than one or two people on them and most of the time they are running around empty. "

Kanuckel said he would like to take an aggressive look at the department, even though it receives federal funding. He said federal funding is generated from taxpayer dollars, just as local funds are.

He said he also is concerned about the county's infrastructure, saying there are roads and bridges that need work.

"They've needed repaired for decades and it's finally caught up with us," Kanuckel said.

The Republican primary field originally included a fourth candidate, but former commissioner Brad Feightner dropped out of the race in February.

Feightner said he turned in his petitions to run for commissioner before he was offered a job as regional sales manager for the Ohio Lottery Commission, which he was told caused a conflict of interest.

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