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BELLVILLE -- Three candidates are vying for one open seat on the Jefferson Township board of trustees.

Newcomers Tory Gorka and Robert McConkie Jr. are challenging current board member Frederick “Fritz” Ackerman, who hopes to retain his seat in the November election.

Ackerman, of 1422 Cutnaw Road in Bellville, is a lifelong Jefferson Township resident. He received bachelor’s degrees in English and Psychology at Otterbein College and completed a legal assistant program at Capital University Law School, where he earned honors in civil procedure.

Ackerman, 72, has been owner and safe technician at Mid-Ohio Safe & Lock since 2005.

Frederick Ackerman

Frederick "Fritz" Ackerman

He is wrapping up his 40th year as a trustee. 

“The township was operating on a shoestring. At the time that I became interested I was helping them with repair jobs, I’d give them a cut rate on things,” said Ackerman of his start on the board. “The more I saw how much they got done with nothing, it kind of inspired me to become a part of that.”

If elected to another term, Ackerman said he’d like to maintain the good state the township is in. 

“We’re on a pretty even keel right now. We, thankfully, are pretty well-funded. Our roads are as nice as they’ve ever been,” he said.

Ackerman also cited the Jefferson Township Bellville Fire Department as a point of pride. 

“The department is pretty much second to none,” he said.

Township funding has allowed a recent transition from a completely volunteer force to a combination of volunteers and part-time paid firefighters, ensuring 24/7 availability to the public. The fire department has also begun a collaboration with Knox Technical Center to train Clear Fork High School students in firefighting and emergency medical response.

“I’m real comfortable with where the township is and I hope the people are too,” Ackerman said. “We’re an example to be followed ... We operate within our means.”

Tory Gorka

Tory Gorka 

Tory Gorka, of 5952 State Route 13 South, works as an apprentice for Alpine Electric and is in the final year of an apprenticeship program administered by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 688 and accredited through North Central State College.

Gorka, 24, studied sports medicine at Pioneer Career and Technology Center and graduated from Lexington High School.

“I’ve been telling people, as I’ve been knocking on doors, not to hold that against me,” Gorka joked. 

If elected, Gorka would be new to the board of trustees, but he said he has been attending meetings to learn as much as he can and studying up on the Ohio Revised Code. 

“I guess I’ve always been interested in politics,” he said. “I saw that there was a race up ... I think it’s time for a new generational change, a new wave of leaders, so you don’t have some sort of gap in leadership.”

Gorka has been an active member of IBEW Local 688 and was president of the union’s RENEW chapter during its first two years. The group’s purpose is to educate and promote union participation among younger workers and foster relationships between RENEW members and local union leadership.

If elected as township trustee, Gorka hopes to make the board more accessible to the public.

“I’d really like to improve the transparency and visibility ... A lot of the people I’ve talked to didn’t even know the numbers of the trustees,” he said.

Gorka stated that he’d like to establish a user-friendly website for the board that would include minutes from previous meetings.

“I don’t feel like Jefferson Township as a whole is too bad off, I really just want to improve anything I can,” he concluded. “Even if it’s efficient, I’d like to look at it and see if there’s any possible way I could make it more efficient.”

Robert McConkie Jr.

Robert McConkie Jr.

Robert McConkie Jr., of 6294 Durbin Road, is a lifelong resident of Jefferson Township. The 48-year-old farms 680 acres of grain and drives a school bus for Clear Fork Valley Local Schools. He’s been involved with the Bellville Fair Board for approximately 20 years.

McConkie served as road superintendent for Jefferson Township from 2005 to 2015 and spent two additional years as road superintendent for Perry Township.

“I just like being part of the community and helping the people,” McConkie said about his decision to run. “I have quite a bit of knowledge in what’s entailed in the job.”

McConkie added that his experience working with state and federal entities on road cleanup efforts have helped him develop people skills that would serve him well as trustee.

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Katie is a features, business and economic development reporter for Richland Source.