Newly selected Delaware County Commissioner Jeff Benton is tentatively scheduled to be sworn into office on Sept. 8.
In the meantime, the former Delaware County Bank CEO is working on getting up to speed on the issues he plans to tackle.
“There’s a lot to learn and I’m meeting with a lot of the folks already,” he said.
The seventh-generation Delaware County resident says he will focus on long-term plans for road and sewer infrastructure, economic development and emergency medical services.
Benton said one of his goals in terms of economic development is to help diversify the business community in the county by attracting more industry.
“Cities, counties and states that depend on one industry or one company, that’s a risk that can be very damaging,” he said. “I would like to see more warehousing, distribution and manufacturing companies.”
On EMS, Benton said the focus will be on the financial side, including potential “soft-billing,” in which the county would bill a patient’s insurance company for emergency runs, and duplication of service in some areas.
“What is the most efficient, good way of providing good EMS services to everyone in the county?” he asked.
Benton said he believes the county is already taking a step in the right direction by developing a new master sewer plan. He also said recent investments the county has made in the extension of Sawmill Parkway and improvements near a planned Berkshire Township outlet-store shopping mall are good moves.
“We just need to be very diligent in what’s next,” he said. “There’s so many priorities and so many things to look at.”
Despite the inevitable development that will come to the county, Benton said it is important to balance that with the rural nature of much of the county.
“That’s always a tug of war. The northern half of the county is very agricultural today and I don’t see that changing for a very long, long time,” he said. “I think the southern half and the city of Delaware will continue to see that growth and development.”
While Benton hopes to leave his stamp on county government, he acknowledged that most of the problems facing Delaware County are good problems to have.
“We have good challenges,” he said. “I’ve been around the state a lot and so many of the counties outside central Ohio have declining population and economic activity.”
Benton was appointed to the commission post last week by the Delaware County Republican Party central committee. The vacancy on the board was created by the surprise resignation of Ken O’Brien in June.
Benton, a lifelong county resident, has also been active in the community, including roles with Ohio Wesleyan University, the Little Brown Jug Society and the Central Ohio Symphony.
To retain the seat, Benton will be need to win a Republican primary in March and a general election in November 2016. The term to which O’Brien was elected ends at the end of 2016.
Dustin Ensinger can be reached at 740-413-0902 or on Twitter @EnsingerDG.