October 23, 2003
Former Village manager runs for township trustee position
Backed by the campaign slogan “the right candidate with the right experience for the right position at the right time,” township resident David Heckler is running for election to the Miami Township Board of Trustees.
This past Sunday the News talked with Heckler, fresh off the campaign trail in the south end of the village where he and his wife Connie went door to door talking to residents in their old neighborhood. This is his first time campaigning for elected office; however, his background has prepared him well, he said, for the role of township trustee.
Heckler, a Springfield native, began his career as a Clark County civil engineer before taking a job as the assistant village manager of Yellow Springs in 1985. He moved to town with his family a year later and spent the next eight years with the Village, managing the public works operation. Then in 1994, he became the Yellow Springs Village manager.
While working for the Village, Heckler gained practical experience in utilities management as well as familiarity with administrative and fiscal management, he said. He got to know many people in the village and was also responsible for the police department, which, he said, is a public health and safety service just like the fire department.
Two years ago, Heckler moved out of the village to Miami Township and started his current job as the director of the Tri Cities North Regional Wastewater Authority. Heckler now operates the wastewater facility for the cities of Huber Heights, Vandalia and Tipp City and also manages 600 acres of farmland, where the bio-solids from the wastewater are distributed to fertilize the soil for corn.
His undergraduate degrees in civil engineering and business administration complement his experience, which, he said, has given him a “good feel for rural issues.” His involvement with public service extends beyond his job as a founding and current board member of Yellow Springs Community Service, the chair of the Friends Care Center board and former member of the Glen Helen Ecology Institute finance committee.
He believes the job of township trustee will be much more hands-on than his role as Village manager required him to be, Heckler said, because the trustees are the township’s managers. And he said he feels he can help local people take advantage of some of the opportunities available to them.
Heckler identified sustaining the township’s fire-rescue service as the township’s most important issue. In the face of cost increases, staffing needs and what he called dwindling resources, Heckler believes maintaining the current services will be difficult.
“Public health and safety come first, and I have a good track record with maximizing service delivery at the best price,” he said. “Some departments are charging for services now, and I’d like to see to it that we don’t charge.”
Heckler said he also plans to support fire chief Colin Altman in his efforts to broaden the volunteer base and support the department’s current staff.
Asked how he thought the township could use the Cooperative Economic Development Agreement to maximize benefits, Heckler said the township could choose one of three options for future viability, either to cut costs, increase income, or do a little of both. He sees the CEDA as an opportunity to explore ways to expand the tax base and increase income, he said, and eliminating any overlap in township and Village services would reduce expenses.
But in addition, he said, the comprehensive land use plan needs to be addressed in order to achieve a balance between increasing commercial acitivity and maintaining agricultural activity in a way that reflects everyone’s needs.
“I’d like to see the comprehensive plan brought forward and fully discussed so that we can try to put a plan in place,” Heckler said.
Though the plan is still in the preliminary stage, he said, individual property rights should be considered “first and foremost” in laying down zoning regulations. In his 15 years of working with the Village, the consensus about zoning was that any kind of development belonged at the periphery of the village, he said, and that protecting natural resources, such as drinking water, should be a priority.
Individual residents should be given the freedom to decide whether they want to support farmland preservation with their property, Heckler said.
“The Tecumseh Land Trust is a double-edged sword,” he said. “Some people see it as a challenge to what they’re doing, and some people are upset that they didn’t place a conservation easement on their land.”
As Village manager, Heckler helped local residents buy a conservation easement on Whitehall Farm. He came up with what he believes was a creative solution to sidestep several barriers and allow the Village to contribute funds toward the easement purchase, he said.
But that doesn’t mean that all open space should be preserved in the same manner. He believes that more input is needed from everyone in the community on economic and agricultural needs before a statement is made on redistricting or about farmland preservation.
Part of hearing from everyone, according to Heckler, involves not only using the established format of holding public forums, but also making a personal effort to get out and meet people at their homes. He is doing it for his campaign, and he would continue to do it as trustee, he said.
“I’d make it a point to meet and reach out to township residents,” Heckler said. “That could mean riding along in a combine with a farmer late at night to see what his needs are and the issues that are facing him.”
He says he would look beyond the obvious to find ways to improve financial and functional efficiency, and believes in full disclosure of the budget.
“I think I’m uniquely qualified for this job, and I want to contribute to the community,” Heckler said. “When you spend your career in public service you realize that you’re one of the guys who does the most with the least to benefit everyone.”