Tioga Publishing Co. asked the five candidates campaigning for county commissioner to answer a survey. Candidates could respond with up to 150 words to each question listed below.

Three county commissioners are elected for a four-year term. In the election of commissioners, each qualified elector shall vote for no more than two persons. The three persons having the highest number of votes shall be elected.

Polls open at 7 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 5, and close at 8 p.m.

Carolyn J. Ruth

Democratic nominee

Age: 42

Hometown: I currently live in Covington, but I have lived in Tioga County since 2005. I grew up in Indiana, Pa.

Personal Information: Married to Jon Ruth for 20 years, with seven children. I Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary and Early Childhood Education, Master of Arts in Teaching degree in Integrated Natural Sciences, and is currently completing a Doctor of Education degree in Curriculum & Instruction. She has worked as a public school teacher and most recently as an adjunct professor in education at three different Pennsylvania Universities.

Ann Marie T. Nasek

Democratic nominee

Age: 53

Hometown: Nauvoo/Morris

Personal: The daughter of a Navy WWII veteran who served in the Pacific on the USS Springfield, she grew up in the coal region of Pennsylvania; learned the impact of industry to the community, balance of clean environment and the opportunity of education. Earned degrees at King’s College, Wilkes Barre, BA in English and Economics (Magna Cum Laude) and Law Degree, Juris Doctorate at the Dickinson School of Law, Carlisle.

Mark Hamilton

Republican nominee

Age: 60

Hometown: Mansfield (Rutland Township)

Personal Information: Family: married with one son. Background: family dairy farm, multimedia producer for 18 years, county commissioner 16 years, past president of County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania, volunteer firefighter/EMT 35-plus years, church trustee, foster parent. Education: Word of Life Bible Institute graduate, Full Sail Center for the Recording Arts graduate.

Erick Coolidge

Republican nominee

Age: 65

Hometown: Wellsboro

Personal Information: Married to Dixie, with three children, eight grandchildren. LE-MA-RE Farms is an LLC, a Century Farm and a Dairy of Distinction Dairy Farm. Past president of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania and two years as chairman of the board, chair of Center of Dairy Excellence, vice chair of the Dairy Task Force, Dairy Farmers of America director-at large North East Council, Master Farmer Class of 2014, serving on the Dairy Future Commission, county commissioner for 24 years.

Roger Bunn

Write-in candidate, registered Republican

Age: 78

Hometown: Blossburg

Personal Information: A fifth generation Tioga County resident, he lives in Blossburg with his wife, Susan. Graduate of North Penn High School, Blossburg; an MBA Degree from Jacksonville University. He retired from the U.S. Navy after 23 years, serving as an aircrewman in several different types of aircraft. He served aboard the USS Kitty Hawk and USS Saratoga He enjoys long walks on some of the county’s back roads, working on clocks and reading, especially 19th century biographies and autobiographies.

What unique qualifications would you bring to the office of county commissioner?

RUTH: As an educator, the education of our county is of paramount importance. I am interested in supporting high quality education for our children and young adults, but also in the lifelong learning of our entire county. I am specifically interested in pursuing vocational technical education opportunities for our area, and I would do everything I could as commissioner to make that happen. Adult and community education is also vitally important, and I would love to see an expansion of offerings in our area. As a foster and adoptive parent, I have become more aware of the needs of families in our county, and I am passionate about collaborating with organizations to develop, support, and encourage healthy families.

NASEK: I am a lawyer of 28 years, dedicated to serving people of Tioga County for 13 years solving problems affecting everyday life: small business, guardian for children, school, employment, drug and alcohol addiction and as a court-appointed mental health review officer. I directly work with the court, agencies, police and service providers which gives me first hand knowledge of the needs of the Tioga County community.

HAMILTON: Leadership experience and commitment to responsible management. I am and will be focused on four key issues. Many senior citizens have worked hard in the past and deserve respect and support. I am focused on protecting the services they have earned, and they should never have to worry about being “left behind.” With a significant decline in our volunteer first responders, we can no longer guarantee timely responses for emergency medical services. I am focused on finding ways to address the struggles we are facing in EMS. Work force and economic development are critical when creating and maintaining a healthy community. We have had success in planting seeds in workforce education and business development. I am focused on growing those seeds to create family-sustaining jobs. We also need to reach out and identify the needs of those affected by the opioid crisis. There is no one solution to this epidemic but if we focus on our resources as a community, we can overcome this challenge.

COOLIDGE: Unique qualifications might relate to the ability to listen to or watch others in leadership who are successful and attempt to apply what one learns. After 24 years of experience in office and 50 plus years working in the agriculture industry could contribute in knowing management is important to a bottom line. Finally, clearly understanding how important building relationships are in life; even more in government. Each affects the future.

BUNN: Experience and education: 23 years Naval service; 15 years in a leadership position; 22 years managing government contracts, and earning a Master of Business Administration degree. An MBA degree provides exposure to many aspects of business operations such as: human resources and personnel management, and finances (including budgeting). I successfully managed several multi-million dollar contracts with the U.S. Department of Defense, completing them on time and on budget. My experience with these contracts in coordinating the budgets, recruiting and managing the technical team, directly relates to the many and diversified requirements placed on a county commissioner. I served two years on the Blossburg borough council and seven-plus years as county commissioner. The 2019 county combined “balanced” budget of $36,152,731 requires making difficult decisions. My experience has helped me to gain the trust of department directors, employees, and the citizens of Tioga County.

What is the county’s biggest challenge and how would you address it?

RUTH: Mental health issues are a huge challenge and what makes them even more difficult is the extent of the influence mental health challenges have on the rest of life. When people are healthy in mind, body and spirit, they are able to enthusiastically pursue the things that make them come alive with creativity and productivity, which lays the foundation for a healthy economy and supportive community. Mental health issues need to be addressed on a variety of levels, from providing the infrastructure that will attract mental health and medical professionals to this area to collaborate as a community to provide encouragement and paths to follow toward health in all areas. My research in the area of trauma-informed practices and social and emotional learning has convinced me of the need for these strategies not only in schools, but in the medical field, social work, and in every community.

NASEK: An explicit economic and social service plan to promote sustained prosperity, health and opportunity to all members of Tioga County. Most urgently, Tioga County needs increased providers of employment and mental health which affects everyone from children to seniors. I support investment and development of workforce training, small business, infrastructure, and direct recruitment of providers of industry and medical/ mental health care/ facilities along with forging relationships with community, state and private partners.

HAMILTON: Addiction and abuse are certainly a big challenge here just as they are nationwide. Prevention measures are often the last thing on agendas but may be the most important to break the cycle in our next generation. We need to focus on our youth. That is why I am helping promote and raise funds for new programs such as Drug Endangered Children, Handle with Care and Asa’s Place. I also encourage and work with volunteer community programs like 4-H, Boy Scouts and faith-based youth activities. As commissioner I will continue the effort to reconnect our youth to community in a meaningful and supportive way.

COOLIDGE: Staying competitive as a rural county, keeping our businesses here and productive are very important issues. Working with the administration and legislature to provide access to programs and funding opportunities when available, as a board of commissioners, we can help direct needed communications. Opioids and addiction are a very real challenge. That is why Tioga County is collaborating with multiple counties engaged in a lawsuit with the pharmaceuticals. The goal is to seek settlement, then use the funding for treatment with hope of recovery, putting lives and families in a better place. Finally, appreciating all businesses and industry makes our rural community whole – that aspect truly needs to be included in the conversation.

BUNN: Economic health of the county. Why do I say this? Because this issue directly, or indirectly, impacts almost every aspect of life in Tioga County. Coupled to the economy are: drug and alcohol abuse and its impacts; family supporting jobs, dairy farming, affordable housing, transportation, education, and health care — to name but a few. I feel the county is on the right path with organizations and programs already in place. The board of commissioners has convened four economic summits to address this problem, bringing together professionals from numerous disciplines, state and federal officials, and economic development organizations. The chambers of commerce and other local economic entities such as; the Northern Tier Regional Planning and Development Council, Develop Tioga, GROW of Wellsboro, BOOM of Mansfield and VIBE of Blossburg are all partners in this effort. If reelected, I will continue to work to improve the economic health of Tioga County.

What is your vision for the county’s future?

RUTH: We are fortunate to live in such a beautiful area, surrounded by nature and the space to enjoy the best the earth has to offer. I envision a county of balance between advancement in areas like technology, grocery stores and medical services with protection and value over the mountains we love and the individual people who live in them. As commissioner, I want to reach across the aisle to create opportunities and growth for our county. Our county residents need to be aware of local government’s influence and what decisions are being made. I want to have open communication, collaboration and transparency between the community and the commissioner’s board. I want to hear concerns and ideas the community has for our county. We are better together.

NASEK: A county community moves forward with progress and growth made strong with equal opportunity for all to education, health and economic well being while sustaining the of clean and beautiful environment and preserving history.

HAMILTON: To continue a fiscally sound and debt-free county with a highly-competent staff able to aid our communities in maintaining family values and be prepared for all challenges that will come up in our future.

COOLIDGE: I believe our county is positioned as well as any rural county can be. Broadband is on the horizon, and the Marsh Creek Greenway is nearing a construction phase and, when completed, will have an economic impact on a regional basis estimating between $8-$11 million annual revenue. For the last couple of years we have held a series of economic discussions referred to as summits. The success of those summits is a result of people of various interests and leadership roles wanting to make a difference. That’s how we’ll change and build the future. We all own what the future will look like if we work together.

BUNN: The Tioga County Partnership for Community Health has a mission: “Tioga County is a Healthy Place to Live Work and Play.” I subscribe to this as well. With our beautiful rural setting we are blessed with a “healthy” environment. We need to keep it this way by ensuring that regulations protecting the environment are adhered to. Two key ingredients of community quality of life are available, affordable health care and quality education. The commissioners must continue to work with the local health care providers, Mansfield University and the three school districts to address these issues. Change is inevitable; what we can do is plan for it and, if reelected I will continue to work with the county planning department and other state and local entities to keep “Tioga County, a Healthy Place to Live Work and Play.” Development of The Marsh Creek Greenway is one example of economic development and healthy living.