Jay County will have a new commissioner representing the south district in 2021.

Three Republicans are hoping for that opportunity.

Brian McGalliard, Duane Monroe and Barb Street are all seeking the GOP nomination for the seat after incumbent Republican Chuck Huffman announced in December that he would not be seeking another term.

No Democrats have filed to run for the seat, though the party could slate a candidate following the primary.

Monroe is a 44-year-old rural Portland resident who works as a journeyman lineman for Jay County REMC and has served for 20 years on Jefferson Township Advisory Board. He said he and his father, former Jefferson Township Trustee Jerry Monroe, had talked for years about running for countywide office and that he felt the time was right after hearing Huffman would not be filing. He is a 1993 graduate of Jay County High School who went on to get an automotive degree from the University of Northwestern Ohio and earned his associate’s degree in applied science from Ivy Tech Community College in 2005. He has also been involved in coaching youth sports through Jay Community Center and Jay County Pee Wee Football.

Street, 67, also a rural Portland resident, is retired after working in regional workforce development for more than 40 years. In discussing why she chose to run, she noted the need for leaders who can see the big picture. The valedictorian of her 1970 Portland High School class, she attended Indiana State University and completed her bachelor’s degree in business administration at Ball State University in 1992. This is her first run for elected office. She was a founding member of the Cincinnatus League and also involved with Jay County Development Corporation, John Jay Center for Learning, United Way of Jay County and Jay County Historical Society.

McGalliard, 50, a Dunkirk resident and owner of Pizza King in Portland, said he chose to make his first run for office because he wants to be a part of improving Jay County for the present and the future.

The 1988 Jay County High School graduate who went on to attend Ball State University and bought into the family business in 2006. He previously trained racehorses and worked for Prudential Security. He is a trustee of the Portland Eagles Lodge and former trustee of the Portland Elks Lodge.

Each candidate had a different view of the most important issue facing commissioners, with Street putting her focus on the need for planning in order to make sure the county is bringing in revenue and then investing it in infrastructure such as roads, bridges, broadband internet service, water, sewers and drainage that will make Jay County a better place to live.

“I am so pleased with what has been done through JCDC in terms of having a strategic plan and then going after the (Stellar Communities designation) to have community plans,” said Street. “I think that needs to continue to happen. …

“To me, it is about trying to keep our eye on the prize.”

McGalliard focused on housing as the most important issue facing the county, saying developing new housing would help other pieces of the puzzle, such as bringing in new businesses, fall into place. He said he would work to attract new home builders, including making use of county funds that might be available for that purpose. He also noted the importance of economic development to help the county’s smaller communities that are struggling.

For Monroe, a member of the county’s roads committee, roads ranked at the top of the list of issues facing the county, including his desire to convert some stone roads to hard surface. He said he feels Jay County does not get its share of road funding from gas tax and other dollars that are funneled through the state, saying too much is fed to the Indianapolis area. He added that there will likely be greater challenges financially as less funding comes in because fewer drivers are on the roads during the coronavirus pandemic.

In addressing wind and solar farms in the county, McGalliard said he’s “not in favor of the few inconveniencing the many.” He added that he feels that there has been an adverse effect for those who live around the wind turbines and that they should be compensated if their property values have dropped.

Monroe said he feels landowners shouldn’t be restricted and noted that the roads that were rebuilt after construction of Bluff Point Wind Energy Center are a benefit to the county.

“I feel like these farmers are paying a lot of money for this ground,” he said. “It’s expensive. … They should be able to do with their ground what they want.”

Street expressed her support for renewable energy and added that the wind farms are great sources of income for the county.

However, both Monroe and Street said they’d like to see a limit on the proliferation of wind farms in the county.

As for how to best use the economic development dollars that come via wind farm (and presumably solar farm) agreements, Street said her focus would be on following the county’s plan for what is important and what will improve the quality of life. McGalliard put road conversion on the top of his list of priorities, along with flood mitigation, education and safety initiatives. Monroe said he would look at each potential project on a case-by-case basis with an eye on making Jay County better.

The candidates were in relative agreement on several other issues, including that they feel the current commissioners have done a good job of guiding the county during the coronavirus pandemic. Street, though, added that she’d like to see the county’s website utilized as a hub for information and updates.

For Jay County Retirement Center, which has faced some financial challenges, all were in agreement that they’d like to see the facility stay in operation but also that it should be financially self-sufficient. If it is not, they would be willing to look at other solutions to provide for its residents.

Both McGalliard and Street said they’re supportive of the county’s efforts — past and future — to seek the Stellar Communities designation, while Monroe said he is not familiar enough with the program to make a determination. Street added that she feels, win or lose, the process of planning for Stellar is a positive. McGalliard noted that he feels working on bringing in new housing would be a step in the right direction toward earning the designation.

“I think that would look good on our Stellar application that we’re actually doing things to grow,” he said. “I think working on some city beautification projects — Portland, Dunkirk, Redkey and so forth — showing that we are trying to improve would be very beneficial.”

They all leaned on their experience, in different areas, in terms of why voters should choose them when they go to the polls.

Monroe noted his knowledge of the physical county, noting that he has been on every road in his line of work.

“I’m honest,” he added. “I have integrity. … And I’m not going to waste people’s money.”

McGalliard focused on his career owning and operating Pizza King.

“I believe my strength in business, being a successful business person is important,” he said. “I’m a very community-oriented person. And by community, I consider Jay County one large community. And I am passionate about improving our communities in our county. I’m a very proud Jay County resident, and as a commissioner I would radiate that pride.”

And Street pointed to her long career in regional workforce development.

“I have been involved my whole career in our county in trying to make a difference in the lives of people and in the viability of our businesses, to either attract them or help them expand or help them stay here,” she said. “I’m dedicated. I’m a hard worker.”