Saturday, October 26, 2002

Small-county races have big impact

Gallatin, Owen picking sheriff, judge-executives

By Gina Holt
Enquirer contributor

In Gallatin and Owen counties, fast-growing Kentucky counties about 40 miles south of Cincinnati along Interstate 71, candidates are gearing up for the Nov. 5 election.

In Gallatin County, listed as Kentucky's fastest-growing county in 2001 and home to the Kentucky Speedway, two important county positions will be filled - judge-executive and sheriff.

In the sheriff's race, a Democratic candidate who beat 10 opponents in the primary is facing a Republican rival. One of the issues is establishing 24-hour patrol, which does not exist now.

Owen County, which like Gallatin is facing the transition from rural to developing, has a three-person race for judge-executive. There has been discussion of creating zoning laws in the county, something Gallatin did for the first time recently.

Owen Co. judge-executive

All three Owen County judge-executive candidates have held the office before. Incumbent William "Billy" O'Banion, D-Owenton, is challenged by former judge-executives Tom Olds, R-Owen County, and Horace West, I-Owenton.

Mr. West served as Owen County sheriff from 1978 to 1982. He served as judge-executive from 1983 to 1993. He ran in the 1993 Democratic primary but lost.

Mr. Olds was uncontested in the 1993 Republican primary and won the general election. He served as judge-executive from 1994 to 1998 but lost to Mr. O'Banion in the 1998 election.

Mr. West, 60, and his wife Betty have one grown daughter. He is between jobs right now but most recently managed a billiards hall and grill. If elected, he plans to work only as the county judge.

"I feel our county is headed in the wrong direction," he said.

If elected he plans to reinstate programs he had initiated when he was in office, such as the summer youth job training program and recycling.

Mr. Olds, 64, spends his days farming on his land since he retired from his management position at Cincinnati Bell in 1991. He and his wife Dot have two grown children.

If elected, he plans to use his management experience by delegating responsibilities with the Owen County Fiscal Court team and to implement a safe roads program providing access to all the schools. He also wants to create partnerships with political leaders in Washington and in the state.

"We have enough county resources for needs but for our extras we need to look at state and federal help," Mr. Olds said.

He also plans to have sound management of the county budget. "We are a growing county. Our county property assessments increased $14 million in 2001. The current administration has raised our tax rate for the last three years. I'm opposed to the increased tax rate."

"If elected," Mr. Olds said, "my first 100 days in office will be a time of listening. My administration will be spent working toward the needs we have learned about."

Mr. O'Banion, 37, and his wife Julie have two children, Jackson, 4 and Jonah, 4 months. He grew up in Owen County and moved back in 1996 so he could raise his children there. Before becoming judge-executive, he worked for the Cabinet for Health Services. He quit in 1998 so that he could be a full-time county judge.

"We started a lot of good projects here," he said. Under his administration, new activities for senior citizens have been started, new water lines put in place and jobs have been created, he said.

"I want to see more activities for our youth," he said. "We've had some land donated to us so we're going to expand our parks."

Gallatin Co. judge-executive

Bill LeGrand, R-Warsaw, is challenging incumbent George Zubaty, D-Warsaw in the Gallatin County Judge-executive race.

Mr. LeGrand, 53, and his wife Sue have seven children between the ages 12 and 33. He owns and operates Ewbank Insurance Agency and farms. He received a degree in animal science from Pennsylvania State University.

"I feel like my abilities and experience can make some improvements in this county," he said.

"One goal would be to institute a park and recreation program.

"We need to do some serious planning with our infrastructure," Mr. LeGrand said. "We have all the resources needed to attract good jobs. We have the railroad, the river and the highways but we need to improve our infrastructure.

"We need to develop our infrastructure so we can develop our tax base without putting more burden on our existing citizens."

He also wants to provide more activities and services for both seniors and children in the area.

Mr. Zubaty and his wife Rita have two grown children. He owns Warsaw Chiropractic and works there 15 hours per week.

"The first term is to get programs started," he said. "The second term is to finish them up. You can't get everything accomplished in one term.

"We instituted 911 in the county, countywide planning and zoning and a master plan. We have a traveling tourism commission and a chamber of commerce. We've gone from a volunteer ambulance service to a paid service."

If re-elected, he plans to see completion to the courthouse renovations making the entire facility handicapped accessible. He also wants to provide water and sewers throughout the entire county, bring more jobs to the area and provide more youth activities.

"The only thing I need is about $250 million," Mr. Zubaty said with a laugh. "No, (in all seriousness) we try to do a lot through grants."

Gallatin County sheriff

Gallatin County Sheriff Clifford Higgins has chosen to retire after nine years. Chad Murray, R-Warsaw, and Nelson Brown, D-Warsaw, will face off in the Nov. 5 election.

Mr. Brown, 46, faced 10 other Democrats in the primary and came out on top. He and his wife Carole have one grown child.

He is the current Gallatin County jailer and has served that position for three terms, twice in the 1980s and currently. Mrs. Brown also served as sheriff in the 1980s.

"I want to stay in this line of work," said Mr. Brown. "I'm pretty active with the officers out on the street. I told the guys I would be a spokesman for them. I'd try to get them everything they need.

"If elected, I'm going to establish a good policy and procedure manual. I will start the proper activity logs that we need to have so we can get some grant money."

He said the department needs to be brought up to 2002. "I think I can with the support I have."

Mr. Brown has not been through the police academy but believes he knows enough about the law to be an efficient sheriff.

Mr. Murray, 27, beat one opponent in the Republican primary. He owns Murray Bobcat Service, an excavation company. He and his wife Melinda have two small children, Kristian, 4 and Brett, two-weeks.

"There's a lot of changes that need to be made to the department," he said. "We don't have 24-hour patrol. I'd like to see that in place."

He also wants to implement more programs for children including a school resource officer.

"There are budget problems," Mr. Murray said. "I want to get more officers on the department. There are grants out there."

He said the department has some good officers and it has a lot of potential.

"They need a leader who is going to work with them on all issues. He needs to be fair and equal to all officers."

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