Republican incumbent Jim McGregor is facing Democrat Nancy Garland in the race to represent the Ohio House of Representatives 20th district.

Republican incumbent Jim McGregor is facing Democrat Nancy Garland in the race to represent the Ohio House of Representatives 20th district.

Garland, a New Albany resident for the past six years, was raised on a farm in Washington Court House. She is an Ohio native but lived in Washington, D.C., for 23 years, working for two health-care organizations and advocating for patients and providers.

"I've been in legislation and regulation all my life," Garland said.

Currently, she is the chief executive officer of the Ohio Physical Therapy Association and a clinical assistant professor at the Ohio State University School of Allied Medical Professions. She graduated from Ohio University with a bachelor's degree and from George Mason University law school.

"I feel that I have literally 30 years of experience in passing legislation and dealing with rules and regulations," Garland said. "I certainly feel I have the background to do this."

Garland said she decided to run for office because she believes it is her time to give back. She worked with Gov. Ted Strickland in Washington, D.C., and Ohio.

"I have the utmost respect for him," Garland said. "I really feel this is an opportunity to make a difference, especially in the area of health care."

The health-care system is broken right now, Garland said, and legislation could help fix the health-care crisis. She said she has the expertise and background to help.

Incumbent representative Jim McGregor has lived in Gahanna for 30 years. He received his bachelor-of-arts degree from the University of Cincinnati and completed some postgraduate work at the Ohio State University in natural-resource administration and land-control law.

McGregor worked for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources for more than 10 years when he was offered an opportunity to become the chief of the Civilian Conservation Corps.

"We gave it a lot of prayer," he said. "It was a promotion because it was a governor-appointed position. If I took this opportunity, we would have to leave ODNR at the end of the (Gov. Jim) Rhodes' administration).

As the CCC chief, McGregor had an opportunity to work with 16- to 23-year unemployed young adults teaching them how to give a day's work for a day's pay, good work skills in a "beautiful outdoor setting," building shelter houses, ball fields and other park infrastructure.

After he resigned from the CCC, the Gahanna mayor was recalled midterm. McGregor thought the skills he acquired at ODNR would be applicable to the city of Gahanna. He was appointed to fill the vacancy and won his first election in November 1993.

McGregor was mayor for 18 years. In 2001, when David Goodman moved from state representative to Ohio Senate, a seat opened in the Ohio House.

"I had always been concerned about how state laws affected the budget as an employee of ODNR, citizen and mayor of Gahanna," he said. "This was a wonderful opportunity to have an impact on those laws."

Garland and McGregor also weighed in on the economy.

Garland addressed the importance of fostering economic development in Ohio. She said Ohio is losing its manufacturing base and needs to look at the 21st century. Ohioans have expertise at generating alternative energy that could be used to bring some alternative-energy jobs to Ohio, she said.

"I think that is something that the legislature can be involved in encouraging," she said.

The legislature also could encourage companies to hire firms in Ohio by providing tax incentives. She points to Gahanna's Creekside as a successful public-private partnership that could be emulated throughout the state.

"What has been done there with the Creekside development is a great example of keeping people here in the community," Garland said.

Ohio is 600 miles from the majority of the population in the country and very close to most of the corporate headquarters in the country, she said. More than half of the manufacturing jobs are within 600 miles from Ohio, Garland said. Ohio is strategically located, in terms of transportation and warehousing.

"Those are the kinds of things we need to encourage," she said.

McGregor agreed that alternative energy is key to the future.

"We have a wonderful opportunity to listen to sciences and the business community talk about alternative energy and opportunities for energy production in Ohio as chair of the alternative-energy committee," he said.

As a result of those conversations, McGregor helped write House Bill 487, which was rolled into Senate Bill 221 and became law a few months ago. The bill is expected to help create 20,000 jobs in alternative energy in Ohio very quickly.

"We can do much more than that," McGregor said. "There are numerous other energy initiatives in Ohio to undertake."

McGregor said further legislation could make Ohio the biggest exporter of alternative energy.

Both candidates seemed to agree that the state's grading system for school districts has flaws but overall is a good concept.

Garland said the state report card gives guidance to schools. She said she likes this year's "value-added" component, which strives to make sure each child gets a year's worth of growth for a year's worth of education.

One concern is that teachers are teaching to the test, Garland said, adding she strongly believes accountability is needed. Still, she said, educators need to individualize teaching.

"Just because one child at age 10 is able to do something does not mean another is," she said.

Early childhood development also is an important component of education and results in a large payoff down the road, Garland said.

Garland said educators need to determine if young people are being equipped for the 21st century. How they learn is just as important as what they learn, she said. In the job market, skills are changing rapidly. Employees need to be able to think and adjust.

Internships are a key component of education, she said, and put students in position to learn on the job. They encourage college students to stay in Ohio after they graduate, Garland said.

McGregor said the state report card might need some tweaking, but it gives educators a rough idea of how students are performing.

"It is not perfect by any means," he said. "It needs to be changed in some ways but gives you a pretty dramatic idea where we are at and where we are going."

Education is changing and evolving, in ways people could not have imagined 10 years ago, McGregor said. The huge changes have made education better, he said, referring to Columbus City Schools' downsizing in the past few years.

It is difficult closing schools, but closing some schools has allowed Columbus to improve academic performance and create wonderful schools, has fostered relationships to create science schools and increased freedom for children with special needs.

The voucher program is a huge asset, McGregor said, because it allows parents to move their children from failing schools to schools where children are welcome, learning and safe.

Home-schooling is another program that is working, McGregor said. He said 3 percent of all students are now home-schooled. Many of those students are performing well, he said.

"We see them succeeding," McGregor said. "That is not to say it is for everyone. Every child is different and needs to have options for each one to succeed."

Garland and McGregor also agreed that health-care costs are among the most pressing issues.

During Garland's campaign, people have expressed concerns about health care, regardless of whether they have insurance.

"They are all concerned about health care," Garland said. "We need to do something in Ohio to make sure all businesses in Ohio can purchase affordable health care."

Health-care costs of risen sharply, Garland said. Ohioans have bake sales to raise money for surgery. Others have had to declare bankruptcy, she said.

McGregor said Ohio has a great health-care system, but it is not integrated very well. The state needs to research how the medical-payment system works worldwide, he said. Singapore received a gold medal for revitalizing the payment system, McGregor said. Everyone in Singapore has a health savings account that follows them from job to job.

"It works," he said. "People are happy with it in all walks of life. Hospitals and medical providers have had a successful experience."

A foundation needs to be formed in Ohio to fill in the gaps and prevent people from falling through the cracks, he said. There are medical options that weren't available 10 to 20 years ago, such as clinics operated by CVS and Walgreens, McGregor said.

The pharmacies operate neighborhood clinics. The patient is in and out in 15 minutes; the cost is a small portion of the cost for an emergency-room or doctor's-office visit, and no appointment is necessary, he said.

"It is an access point not served," McGegor said. "They have done it in a wonderfully efficient way. It is affordable to citizens in the most difficult financial situation."

tstubbs@thisweeknews.com