Friday, July 06, 2001

Office seekers love a parade




By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        FORT THOMAS — Two Campbell County political hopefuls used Wednesday's Fourth of July parade here to essentially announce their campaigns for county office.

        Ben Neltner, a Fort Thomas Democrat, marched with signs and T-shirts reading “Neltner for Coroner,” indicating he plans to challenge Republican incumbent coroner Dr. Mark Schweitzer — also of Fort Thomas — in the 2002 election.

        And Campbell County Republican Constable Steve Taylor, another Fort Thomas resident, participated in the parade to reveal his plans to run against Sheriff John Dunn, a Democrat from the small rural community of California.

        Mr. Neltner and Mr. Taylor realize they must begin campaigning early — barring any primaries, the general election is still 16 months away — to take on incumbents who have proven political prowess.
       

"Let them know'
        Sheriff Dunn, 50, has been elected to three terms as a Democrat in a county where Republican registrations are growing. Dr. Schweitzer was elected to office in 1998 by beating Ken Cooper, a well-known Democrat and funeral-home owner who had run five previous times for the office.

        “When you're taking on an incumbent who has been in office for almost 12 years, you want to get out anytime you can to meet people and let them know about your campaign,” Mr. Taylor said.

        Mr. Taylor, 47, is the owner of two Fort Thomas businesses — property inspections and pest extermination — who was elected constable in 1998.
       

Key plank
        Mr. Taylor fully admits that the office of constable has little actual power and few duties. State lawmakers stripped the office of its law enforcement powers years ago but have not entirely done away with the office.

        But Mr. Taylor uses his position to work with law-enforcement agencies in the region, including Fort Thomas, where he has done undercover drug work with the police department.

        A pilot and a member of the Civil Air Patrol, Mr. Taylor flies with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency on pot eradication missions in eastern and southern Kentucky. He is making such a flight next week.

        Improving the law-enforcement activities of the sheriff's office, including exploring a merger with the county police, is a key plank of Mr. Taylor's platform.

        The Boone County sheriff's and police departments recently merged. And in neighboring Kenton County, Sheriff Chuck Korzenborn has worked to increase that department's involvement in law enforcement, a major focus in Mr. Korzenborn's 1998 campaign.

        “John Dunn hasn't done a poor job ... but the department needs to get out of the 1970s and '80s mode,” Mr. Taylor said. “After 12 years, I think it's time for the sheriff to move on.”

        Mr. Taylor said sheriff's deputies need to be trained and certified by the state in law enforcement so they can assist county and other police officers.

        Sheriff Dunn, a former county police officer, said he expected to have opposition because of the growing activity of the Campbell County Republican Party, which has picked up Courthouse and Statehouse seats in recent years.

        “I hear the talk about increasing the law enforcement in our office all the time,” Sheriff Dunn said. “But the (county fiscal court) would have to double our budget to do it right, and I don't think that is going to happen.

        “It would be a duplication of services anyway,” he said. “You have 13 agencies that have arrest powers in the county and all the cities in the county. We need to concentrate on our main duties and let law enforcement do its job.”

        Sheriff Dunn said his office has been efficient and successful carrying out its duties of providing courtroom security and serving court papers and warrants.

        In the county coroner's race, Mr. Neltner, 25, said he is running to bring his professional expertise — he is a funeral director and embalmer for Chambers & Grubbs Funeral Homes — to the office.

        Mr. Neltner also worked for two years for Stith Funeral Home under Doug Stith, the Boone County coroner. He has been in the funeral business for seven years and graduated from the Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science in 1996.

        “This is also an opportunity for me as a funeral director to expand professionally,” said Mr. Neltner, a Newport native. “And I'm a hometown boy. I know a lot of the families in this community, and I'll be able to provide some empathy and comfort in their time of need and grief.”

        Dr. Schweitzer, 34, a chiropractor, said he will run on his record of professionalism in his office and improving the technology and capabilities of the coroner's office.

        Dr. Schweitzer said he has not only brought the office in under budget each year but also purchased new equipment and gear, including new radios, for his deputy coroners and staff.

        “We anticipated having an opponent, and that won't change anything we do with the office or with my re-election campaign,” he said. “Having done the job, I'm going to run on my record. The last time I ran, nobody knew who I was — so I know I can get my message and my name out to people.”

       



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