With 27 years of township experience under his belt, Jon Rupp is ready to tackle issues on a county level.
The longtime Franklin Township trustee will begin a four-year term as a Fulton County Commissioner in January after handily beating opponent Jeff Mazurowski 13,413 to 6,702 in the Nov. 8 election. He will succeed Commissioner Paul Barnaby, a veteran of the board who chose not to run for a fifth term.
Rupp was sworn into office Thursday by Common Pleas Court Judge James Barber. He joins Bill Rufenacht, who begins his second term as a commissioner, and Jeff Rupp, who is presently serving his first term.
It’s a natural progression for Jon Rupp, 56, a 1978 graduate of Fayette High School and a lifelong farmer who also serves on the Fulton County Health Center Board of Directors.
“I live in Fulton County, and I just wanted to do my part and keep the county a great place to live and work in,” he said.
But Rupp begins his term with no agenda. While he became familiar with some aspects of county government during his tenure as a trustee, he concedes there’s much to learn.
“I have a good handle on a lot of it. Being a township trustee has helped me a lot,” he said. “I’m going to be learning a lot over the next few months, in general. My focus is to find out how it works, and then we can go into details later.”
He said Fulton County is in good financial condition, and that’s due, in no small part, to his predecessors.
“We’ve got good people working for us, and I just want to be able to keep that going,” Rupp said. “I want to make sure we stay in good shape and provide as many services as we can with the money we get in. The trick is to be efficient with the money.”
He does have a few items on his political bucket list, including building on the local economy and retaining area jobs. He also wants to take measures to sustain the county’s agricultural stronghold.
And Rupp will focus on the retention and expansion of industry in the county, despite what he believes is over-regulation by state and federal government.
“Fulton County can sell itself,” he said. “The work ethic and quality of life here is the best around. (But) when it comes to big industries you have to deal with state and federal. We face those challenges every day. I don’t think it’s Fulton County that has the problem, and we’re going to have to work through that.”
Despite the bureaucratic red tape, “I’m confident we can be as competitive as we need to be,” he added.
Addressing the commissioners’ recent decision to deny the villages of Archbold and Delta formal separation from their associated townships, Rupp said it was a tough call.
“I’m an old township guy. I see the value in townships, but I see the other side, too,” he said. “That’s something Fulton County is going to continue to struggle with. I respect what they decided.”
It’s an issue that will resurface, he said. “There’s always been a push to get rid of the townships…But I don’t think it’s clear how townships are going to get compensated for things they have to do, and who the burden is going to be put on.”
As for the present tussle between county government and affected citizens over the proposal to turn a section of County Road 24 into a new State Route 66, Rupp said he’s waiting for the results of an impending study to form an opinion.
“I think down, the road, eventually, we’re going to face this a lot as the county grows,” he said. “The best way to deal with problems in the county is to get the best information you can and make the best decision you can.”
Barnaby supported Rupp throughout his campaign, and highly recommends his successor.
“He has all the credentials to be a top-notch commissioner. He’s oriented in things within the county,” Barnaby said. “He has the ear to listen and follow through, and that’s important. He has been a great leader already. He’s had all the exposure that it takes.”
Rupp was bitten by the lure of public service at a young age. He credits his admiration for his father-in-law, former Archbold Mayor Bill Lovejoy, and former Commissioner Lowell Rupp, with inspiring him to pursue office.
“I’m excited. I’m really looking forward to it. I enjoy that kind of work,” he said.
David J. Coehrs can be reached at 419-335-2010.