Delaware County Commissioner Jeff Benton has announced his intention to seek reelection to a third term following the expiration of his current term on Jan. 2, 2025.

In a press release announcing the decision, Benton stated, “It has been a genuine honor and privilege to serve the citizens of Delaware County as a commissioner for the past seven-plus years. I have been busy implementing the long-term plans we developed for roads, sewers, facilities, and economic development to carefully invest taxpayer dollars to make Delaware County an ever-improving place to live, work and raise a family. We have had many successes during my time as a commissioner but there is much more to do so we can continue to have smart growth in our prosperous, dynamic community.”

Benton was first appointed to fill an unexpired commissioner term in August 2015 before being elected to his first full term the following year. At the time, Benton said he wanted to play a role in mapping out the county’s future at a juncture when its growth was beginning to move rapidly.

“I really thought Delaware County was sitting in a great position and needed to build up a comprehensive plan for growth, whether that involved roads, sewers, economic development, or facilities,” he told The Gazette. “That was a big factor (in running); we really needed to get in front of and control and plan for the county’s growth because in these seven years, it has really accelerated, and the future looks like it’s going to continue to be even faster and grow bigger very quickly.”

Alongside fellow commissioners Gary Merrell and Barb Lewis, Benton said the initial goal was to build a team of leaders in all the various key areas of the county, something he feels the county has been able to accomplish.

“We’ve put an outstanding team together, headed by Tracie Davies, our county administrator, so we could focus on the long-term strategic initiatives — roads, sewers, economic development, facilities — as well as relationship building,” he said.

By building those relationships, whether it’s been with townships, cities, villages, or the various central Ohio economic development organizations the county partners with, Benton said everyone is working together to improve both Delaware County and all of central Ohio.

“I think we’ve largely accomplished that, and now we need to execute those plans,” he said. “We have long-term plans in place for all those areas, and we’re executing on them but there’s just so much more to do. That’s what I get really energized by, that there are so many positive things to work on.”

Should he be reelected, Benton identified the need for continued economic development as one of the challenges facing the county he’s most looking forward to continuing to address. Led by Economic Development Director Monica Conners, who Benton called an “economic development superstar,” a plan is in place with the mission to provide ways to attract new businesses while also helping existing businesses to expand in order to provide economic activity and jobs for residents to diversify the county’s tax base, according to Benton.

“Right now, we’re so heavily dependent on our residential tax base,” he said. “We need to expand our commercial tax base to help balance that and ease the burden on the residential taxpayers. And then also to provide jobs and economic growth, which are positive things in the community.”

With a wealth of experience in financial planning, including more than 30 years in executive positions in the banking industry, Benton feels he’s been an asset to the county’s overall ability to formulate and execute financial plans to ensure the county’s viability in the years to come.

“It’s been really helpful,” he said of the experience he’s brought to the table. “One thing I recognized when I got into office was we just didn’t have very good financial planning in place as a county. We’ve now developed a long-term financial plan. One of the things we have done is, by virtue of our conservative fiscal practices, we’ve become one of the few AAA-rated counties in the country. Culturally, we were very good at managing money, but we didn’t really have good long-term financial plans in place.

“We’ve developed those now so we can make sure we maintain that AAA rating as well as being able to fund all these initiatives, whether it’s new roads, new sewer plans, economic development incentives, facilities, etc. … That has been a big part of it, and we’ve actually reduced our debt in the last few years in particular even though we continue to grow. And with our new financial plans in place, we can take advantage of the AAA rating to provide lower interest rates and then also provide a good road map to when we need to borrow and for what purpose.”

As for some of the favorite accomplishments he’s had a hand in since serving as a commissioner, Benton cited several “home runs” in terms of facility upgrades, including the Byxbe Campus, which is nearing completion, as well as the Historic Courthouse and construction of the new Delaware County Courthouse.

Benton went on to say, “I really appreciate the support I’ve had. It’s been phenomenal. I would like to continue to execute on the long-term plans we’ve developed for all the different areas. We’ve developed really good, strong relationships throughout the county, and I think we’ve represented the county in a positive way, both here and elsewhere around the region. I would like to have more time to continue to make progress and implement those plans.”

Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.