Mahoning Matters reached out to candidates running for local office with a standard list of questions aimed at helping voters make an informed decision in the 2020 election. Each campaign's response will be published in the Mahoning, Trumbull or Columbiana County Voter Guide as it is received and all responses are subject to minimal editing for clarity and/or length. Mahoning Matters does not endorse any candidate.
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Candidate Name: Grant W. Williams
Office Sought: Mahoning County Commissioner
Candidate's Party Affiliation: Republican
Candidate's City of Residence: New Middletown
Grant grew up in a working-class family in Springfield Township with long ties to the Mahoning Valley. One of Grant's grandfathers worked in the steel mills, while the other one was a heavy equipment operator. Over the past few years, Grant worked his way up in the construction business and now helps to run the construction company that his father has tirelessly built over the past 40 years. Working hard in the Steel Valley runs in Grant's blood. On any given day, you can find him doing anything from swinging a hammer up on the roof, writing up job estimates out on sales calls, or simply searching for ways to cut costs while keeping quality high. Growing up, Grant attended Holy Family School in Poland and then went on to Cardinal Mooney High School, which helped to form the faith foundation that still guides him each day. After high school, he attended Youngstown State University where he received a Bachelor's Degree in History and Political Science. Upon finishing his studies at YSU, Grant attended graduate school at the Franciscan University of Steubenville for a Master's in Business Administration. Grant now lives in New Middletown with his wife Jenn. They are active members at St. Paul the Apostle Church in New Middletown, where they teach Sunday School and assist with Youth Ministry. Grant also serves on the Pastoral Council of St. Paul's.
1. What qualities do you possess that qualify you for the job you are seeking?
Over the past several years, I have worked my way up in the construction business, while paying my way through my Business Administration graduate school program. In the business, I have personally been involved with budgeting, marketing, sales, project management, customer service, product installation, and more. If it has something to do with running a business or the construction industry, I have probably done it. I'm looking to bring that same hardworking, hands-on, business-oriented mindset to our county government.
2. If you are elected, is there anything in particular that you hope to accomplish? And briefly, what is it and why is it important?
The people of Mahoning County have settled for the status quo for far too long. We have faced job loss, business closures, and crumbling infrastructure for my entire life. I'm running to Rebuild Our Valley, and I have a three-part plan to do that. 1) Restore Accountability, Transparency, and Trust to County Government. True accountability in government is impossible if we allow politicians to serve with de facto lifetime appointments. True accountability requires electing new people with fresh ideas. Additionally, accountability cannot exist without transparency. I will work to make information on all the proceedings of the county commissioners easily accessible online. 2) Rebuild Our Economy By Bringing Back Businesses and Jobs. Mahoning County has continued to hemorrhage jobs ever since the closure of the steel mills. While surrounding counties have begun to see increased economic activity, Mahoning County still lags behind. Our county government needs to do a better job of forming an environment where businesses of all sizes can thrive. 3) Repair and Rebuild Our Infrastructure. Pothole-filled roads are the most common complaint I hear in many parts of counties. While our infrastructure cannot be fixed overnight, we can create a publicly available plan and timeline that lets people know that the county is actively working to repair and rebuild our roads.
3. What do you feel will be the top issue facing this office over the next term? How would you focus your efforts to tackle it?
Economic development and the ongoing economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are the greatest issues facing our area. While the pandemic has caused issues with many household and government budgets, it also presents an opportunity for areas like ours. With the resultant increase in those working from home, many companies are now faced with large office buildings in high-cost areas that are significantly below capacity. Looking to cut costs some of those companies will be open to relocating to lower-cost areas, such as Mahoning County. Similarly, many employees who have now transitioned to long-term work from home positions will also be looking for lower-cost living options. If we can persuade some of these businesses and their employees to relocate to our area, we can begin to increase economic development in the county, while also helping to alleviate the negative effects of COVID-19.
4. What are your plans to ensure that all of your constituents would have access to the same resources and opportunities, regardless of race or socioeconomic status? In your view, where does the system fall short?
For all constituents to have the same access to resources and opportunities, they must first have access to the same information and also have their voices and concerns heard equally. Access to information begins with greater transparency and education of what programs and resources are available to those in need. The current system has significant room for improvement when it comes to keeping constituents informed on the proceeding and offerings of county government.
5. What are you doing to disrupt the status quo of politics? If you had the power, what one change would you make right now?
I'm running for commissioner to bring new ideas to county government and to represent the forgotten voices of Mahoning County. Voters across our county have told me they are tired of career politicians who too often seem to put re-election over public service. I'm not a career politician, and I'm not looking to become one. I'm a working class guy who is ready to get to work for the people of Mahoning County. That's why my one change would be to enact term limits for all elected offices.
6. Are you satisfied with Ohio's response to the COVID-19 pandemic? If yes, why? If not, what do you think should be done instead? Can more be done at the local level? The federal level?
The COVID-19 pandemic presented individuals and governments alike with a virtually unprecedented situation that forced local, state, and federal governments to take swift action in an attempt to protect public health. Overlooked in the process, however, was the importance of balancing individual freedom and responsibility with public safety. Going forward, we should remember these words of wisdom from Ben Franklin, "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." Too often, the response to COVID-19 has focused solely on temporary safety while largely neglecting liberties. Ultimately, the end of the pandemic will not come from government action but rather from the discovery of new treatments and vaccines.
7. The state is expected to make cuts in its upcoming budget in light of the reduction in tax revenue because of the pandemic. How should the state and local government set budget priorities? How deeply should cuts be made? What should your office be doing, or is doing, to prepare?
Considering that tax receipts likely will decrease as a result of the economic effects of COVID-19, those in government must act proactively to ensure operations remain as close to normal as possible. When setting priorities, we must determine which budget items are most important to public welfare. From there, we can then rank budget items from greatest to least importance. Those of most consequence will receive closest to the typical budgeted amount. Conversely, those of lower significance will receive less funding. Ideally, day-to-day operations will remain close to fully funded. Any non-routine, non-emergency projects likely will need to be delayed until tax receipts return to pre-COVID amounts. Under no circumstance, however, should we seek to remedy declines in tax receipts by raising tax rates. Lower tax receipts require budget cuts.
8. What do you think is the most pressing matter that pertains to the next generation of Ohioans who may be voting for the first time?
Opportunities. Many young Ohioans, particularly in our area, are concerned about the lack of good job opportunities. They feel that the only way to move forward in their career is to leave the Mahoning Valley and relocate to somewhere with more job and economic growth. If we wish to retain our young people in Mahoning County, we need to start bringing back businesses and jobs.
9. Are you frustrated by the political sniping, exaggeration and even lies between the parties and their supporters that has diminished respect and reasoned compromise? If so, what will you personally do to make the situation better?
Everyone, on both sides of the aisle, should be frustrated by the current state of American politics. Most politicians are so focused on attacking each other and maintaining their power that they often fail to take any substantive action to actually fix the problems facing their constituents. As your county commissioner, I will work to improve Mahoning County for all its citizens, not just for certain groups or one party. I'm willing to work with and listen to anyone as long as they share the goal of moving our county forward.
10. Who is your hero, and why?
Jesus Christ and George Washington. Jesus offers eternal life and serves as a role model for every facet of my life, while George Washington, Father of Our Country, led our nation through the Revolutionary War and its nascent years. Without either, none of us would be where we are today.