BOTKINS — In a tip of the cap to welcoming young blood into the local political scene, the Shelby County Republican Central Committee named Aaron Heilers of rural Anna and Lance Symonds of Botkins as their Republicans of the Year.
On Thursday, at The Palazzo in Botkins, more than 140 people gathered for the annual Lincoln Day dinner hosted by the committee. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine topped the bill speaking on political and ground level citizen issues.
Heilers and Symonds were chosen as co-recipients of the award by party leaders. Jim Buchy of Greenville, 84th District State Representative, presented the men with their honors stating, “We (at the statehouse) thank you for stepping forward and continue the fight for our freedoms.”
Party Chairperson Julie Ehemann said both men joined the committee in late 2013 just months apart. She noted their deep involvement and enthusiasm for continuing party standards as leading to the award.
Heilers and his wife, Sarah, have two children and work the family grain farm west of Anna. The Heilers also have a wine grape vineyard. He is a 2002 graduate of Houston High School.
Heilers graduated from Ohio State University with a bachelor’s degree in agriculture. He previously worked as the nutrient management technician at the Auglaize County Soil and Water Conservation District. Currently, he serves as program manager for the Blanchard River Demonstration Farms Network.
He is a member of the Shelby County Agricultural Society Fair Board and serves as the treasurer of the local Central Committee.
Symonds is a 2004 graduate of Jackson Center High School and is currently employed at Baumfolder Corp. in Sidney in Manufacturing Sales and New Business Development.
He has been a Botkins village councilman since April 2013 and serves as chairman of the Fire and Safety Committee.
He has been president of the board of directors for the Shelby County Counseling Center, and is the Central Committee Vice Chairman. He and his wife, Kimi, have two children.
DeWine stumps for party unity in November election
AG DeWine opened his address by simply stating that “elections matter”. Asking the crowd to quickly review the terms of office for President Obama in asking, “What would the world be like if John McCain or Mit Romney had been elected?”
Smiling while stating the current presidential primary races are creating unique headlines, he seriously stated party unity is more important than ever. Publicly backing John Kasich as the presidential candidate, DeWine said, “No matter who gets the nomination, we need to stand behind them. Look at what has happened under the current administration, so we can’t have four or eight years of Hillary Clinton being in office.”
DeWine said keeping Republican control of the Senate was paramount. “We need to have enough people to start to roll back what Obama has done and block what Hillary is going to do, if she gets in.”
As an example, he explained that by the time Obama leaves offices, the president will have had the ability to appoint half the members of the Supreme Court. “If Hillary gets in there for four to eight years, there’s a chance that no one in my age group that would ever see a conservative court again in their lifetime.”
DeWine spoke of his accomplishments during his time in office. He spoke of opposing federal mandates, updating crime investigation practices and improving the length of time officers investigate rape cases.
When he took office in 2012, DeWine said it was taking up to 125 days to process rape kit testing. Now it is 22 days. Last month, the 10,000th kit, some collected nearly 18 years ago, was processed. He claims DNA matches occurred on 37 percent of the tests.
“I felt we owed it to the victims to get this testing done.”
DeWine spoke of the recent mass killings of the family in Pike County and the importance of people to understand the heroin epidemic is real.
More than 40 agents from the AG’s office have worked on the Pike County case. He said such an incident overwhelms local law enforcement and his office provides support.
Three years ago, a six-member team was formed to help local officials combat heroin usage. Up to eight Ohioans a day die from heroin use, most in rural and suburban settings.
Later in the meeting, it was announced that Shelby County Sheriff John Lenhart, Prosecutor Tim Sell and Juvenile Court Judge William Zimmerman had created an awareness team to work with local schools.
DeWine said members of Mexican cartels have a perfect business model to fuel their crimes. Growing occurs in Mexico, brought across the southern U.S. borders then trafficked to Ohio. He referred to the “pizza plan” where a phone call can result in a delivery of the drug for $10 to $15, basically the cost of a pizza.
Once hooked, addicts’ need will increase leading to crimes that result in quick cash. He claims the answer lies on the grass roots level with parents, clergy, educators and businesses uniting to find a local solution.
The writer is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.