Current Delaware County Commissioner Gary Merrell has announced he will seek reelection in 2024 ahead of the expiration of his latest term, which is set to end on Jan. 1, 2025.
A press release announcing the decision states Merrell is honored to have served alongside past commissioners Dennis Stapleton and Ken O’Brien, as well as current commissioners Jeff Benton and Barb Lewis. In the release, Merrell thanked his family, team, and Delaware County residents for their continued support.
Merrell was elected to his first term as a county commissioner in November of 2012 and has since been reelected twice. During his 10 years on the board, he has been elected board president four times.
While he said much consideration was given to the decision of whether to run again or not, Merrell told The Gazette he’s “really enjoyed serving our county” and feels there are some areas where there is still work to be done. Specifically, he pointed to commercial growth as a healthy challenge presently facing Delaware County.
“We do a great job in this county with residential and with retail, but the area where we have work to do is the commercial employment area,” Merrell said. “With Intel coming on board, I think there is an opportunity here, and working with our partners, our trustees in Berlin (Township), Delaware city, and out in the Sunbury area, I think there is an opportunity to create some of those job opportunities, and I just want to be a part of that.”
Merrell also cited the opportunity to work with Delaware County Economic Development Director Monica Conners, who joined the county last October, as another factor that led to his decision to seek reelection.
As the area continues to experience rapid growth, there will be no shortage of challenges facing the commissioners as they lead Delaware County through a critical juncture in its history. Merrell said that growth and the challenges associated with managing it keep the role fresh, another factor in his continued interest in serving as a commissioner.
“This county has grown so fast, and as we transition from rural to, say, suburban to some urban, how we handle that as a county is very important,” he said. “To me, the most beautiful part of our county is the northern part of the county, the rural areas. That’s important to me. But it’s also important to make sure we can create the jobs in our county, and so how we handle that transition that we can’t necessarily control, we can certainly have an input in how it affects the residents of our county, and that’s very, very important to me. And so far, I think we’ve done a pretty good job of that, and I think most of the constituents in our county would say we’ve done a pretty good job with that.”
As for how that growth will likely affect the rural areas of the county in the coming years, Merrell said it’s all about finding a balance while giving landowners the ability to make the best decision for themselves.
“I don’t think there’s one cookie-cutter approach where everyone thinks alike,” Merrell said. “Obviously, this county was rural at one time, and slowly, landowners have made the decision to sell their properties for development. That’s going to continue to happen, and the hope is some of that will end up as commercial job creation opportunities.
“But we still want to protect as much of the farm community as we can. Preservation Farm is something we started in conjunction with the state and our county four to six years back to do that the right way. Farmers who want to be a part of the program, that’s great. But we also need to protect those landowners who may have a different perspective long-term for their property. I think we’ve found that balance.”
Merrell went on to say every decision he’s made has been with the best interest of the taxpayers and citizens of Delaware County in mind. He noted his business background has been beneficial to the county when evaluating challenges and ensuring the county remains fiscally responsible.
He also referenced the work the county does with the local nonprofit organizations to ensure those who are struggling are taken care of, something he believes is done better in Delaware County than anywhere else.
“I’d just like to continue all of the things we’ve done and build on those as the opportunities present themselves, some of which we may not even know about today,” Merrell said. “But we have a track record of when we identify the issues or the challenges, we make good on them. We get a good result.”
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.