At the top of the list of concerns were veterans affairs and the future of Gallipolis Developmental Center.
Guest Thelma Barcus said her main focus is veteran affairs.
“I want the candidates to work for the veterans,” said Barcus. “If it weren’t for veterans, we wouldn’t be here. They are the most important people in Gallia County.”
Gallia County Veterans Service Commission Secretary and DAV representative Dick Moore echoed Barcus’ concerns.
“We need elected officials that will stand up for the veterans,” said Moore. Moore said while the Veterans Service Commission has received support from elected officials, he would like to see even more cooperation concerning the 2,700 veterans in Gallia County.
According to Gary Fenderbosch, vice-president of the Gallia County Veterans Service Commission and Vietnam Veteran representative, there is an estimated $7 million brought into Gallia County through veterans benefits.
“We need to be a little more in the forefront with representation,” said Fenderbosch.
On a personal note, Moore questioned the proposed veteran’s clinic in Gallia County.
“Approximately two years ago we had a full fledged veteran’s clinic coming to Gallia County,” said Moore. “And now we are sitting here wondering what is going to happen.”
It was recently announced that the clinic will operate two days a week.
Candidates in attendance had a chance to speak to the public, who then were offered the opportunity to ask questions.
Candidates for the 17th Ohio Senate District, Clyde Evans, R-Rio Grande; David Daniels, R-Greenfield; and Justin Fallon, D-Patriot, answered guest questions regarding GDC and Extension following their introductory speeches.
All three candidates said the future of institutions like GDC should be at the forefront of discussions.
On the local level, Fallon said the loss of GDC would be detrimental economically to Gallia County. “That will affect and have a ripple effect all through our county. It would be absolutely devastating,” said Fallon. As far as the residents of GDC, Fallon said questions need to be answered about their well-being, where they would go, who would take care of them and how it would be funded.
Daniels said, with the future financial difficulties the State of Ohio will be facing, it’s time for elected officials to reexamine their priorities.
“We’re still doing lottery billboards. We’re still giving away golfballs and free calenders, when we’re looking at taking vital services and making reductions,” said Daniels. “We need to make sure we are funding our priorities and everything else will have to go off to the side and if there is additional money then we bring those things back into the mix.”
One of those priorities, Daniels said, are institutions like GDC.
Evans said he has always been a strong supporter of GDC and will continue to support the institution.
“We as a group met at the University of Rio Grande with some of the Taft administration and they conducted a study,” said Evans. “They assured us as a result of that study that this institution would never be closed. I didn’t know until I walked in here tonight that this was a challenge.”
Evans agreed the financial circumstances of the State is dire and that hard choices would have to be made.
“But I will continue to fight with the Department of Mental Retardation to save anything at GDC,” said Evans. “And I would hope the Governor would too, because he’s represented this area and he’s been there and understands it.”
Candidates also in attendance were: Darla Saunders (D) and Larry Betz (R), both running for Gallia County Auditor; Jason L. Sherrill (D), Harold Montgomery (R), David K. Smith (R), running for Gallia County Commissioner; D. Dean Evans (R), Gallia County Court of Common Pleas.