Having a high-quality, well-funded fire department is so important to John Hartman that he's basing his entire campaign to become a Liberty Township trustee on the issue.
Previously, Hartman had said he would survey ThisWeek Community News readers to determine which issues were important to them before building his campaign platform, but he changed his course after speaking with firefighters.
Instead of running the survey, he said newspaper ads promoting his campaign will include his endorsement of another fire levy that would help bolster the $7.1 million budget the department will be working with come February 2014.
"I think it's the most important issue facing us in Liberty Township, and as a candidate, I need to address it specifically because I think it's too important to talk about in a general way," he said. "That's why I've decided that I'm going to come forward and take a strong position in favor of additional money for fire and EMS -- and if additional money can't be obtained from the county EMS fund, then I believe we need to go to the voters.
"It has to be talked about directly and all the trustees need to come out and state categorically what their position is on this topic," he added.
The department had to cut staff by 20 percent this year after a November 2012 fire levy failed by 17 votes. A subsequent levy in February passed.
Hartman is one of five candidates aiming for two available seats on the Liberty Township board of trustees. He'll face Shyra Eichhorn, Peggy Guzzo, Vincent Margello and Tom Mitchell on the Nov. 5 ballot. Current board members Curt Sybert and Mary Carducci will step down at the end of the year.
Hartman first got involved with township government by joining the Save Our Services committee that advocated for the passage of the emergency fire levy on the February ballot. If it hadn't passed, the township fiscal officer said at the time, the department would have had to shut down.
Through the committee, Hartman said he connected with township leaders and was appointed to the township zoning board in the spring.
Although he's made up his mind on how he'd deal with balancing the fire department budget, Hartman said when making decisions on any other township issues, he'd defer to his original plan of supporting a majority of constituents.
"I'm still going to be looking for feedback on other issues and many aspects of the township operations that I'm currently learning more about," he said, mentioning he'd like residents to guide him on their vision for development within township limits.
This isn't the first time Delaware County voters will see Hartman's name on their ballots. In 2010, he ran for county auditor; in 2012, he was a county commissioner candidate. Although both those campaigns were unsuccessful, from 1978-97, Hartman was elected to five terms as a Bowling Green school board member.
He currently is a journalism professor at Central Michigan University, where he is entering his 30th year as a faculty member.
Hartman, 67, and his wife have lived in Liberty Township for five years. They have three daughters and six grandchildren.
Voters can learn more about Hartman's campaign by emailing him at john.hartmann@ dacor.net.