Beth Ellis
Beth Ellis
The Highland County Press enjoyed recent visits from two newcomers to the southern Ohio political scene.

This past week, Highland County commissioner candidate John D. Knauff of Carmel and Ohio House of Representatives candidate Beth Ellis talked about their reasons for running and respective qualifications.

Ellis, of the Sabina area, announced her candidacy for state representative of the 91st House District last May. She and her husband, Matt, are farmers as well as co-owners of Cherrybend Pheasant Farm where she manages the day-to-day operations.

“I have had the great privilege of serving our community in a variety of ways that have given me a clear vision of the needs and challenges facing our community,” Ellis said in a news release. “My experiences from agriculture to business management, and health care to aviation, give me a knowledge base to draw upon for helping at the state level in any way that I can."

In addition to operating Cherrybend, Ellis has served as the president of the Clinton County Farm Bureau, as vice-chair of the Clinton County Port Authority and on the Board of Directors for the Clinton County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

An Ohio State University graduate, Ellis also worked in radiology for more than 16 years at Clinton Memorial Hospital. She's also a licensed pilot.

Ellis pointed out that whoever follows current 91st District Rep. House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger will face some immediate challenges in Columbus.

"Next year, we'll have a new governor, a new House speaker, and it will be a budget year," she said.

That could be a very interesting political trifecta.

* * *

• On another southern Ohio political note, we had a surprise visit from Carmel resident and 2018 Democratic candidate for Highland County commissioner John D. Knauff.

When I first read that we had a county commissioner’s race this year, I was taken aback (which is a polite way of saying “are you kidding me?”). How in the world could it be time for another commissioner’s race? Yet, it is – and time and tide wait for no man.

In between my typical Friday circulation schedule, John happened to stop by the office. After the initial introductions, we soon realized that we had a few friends in common.

John’s brother is Mike Knauff, who I’ve known for years from Southern State Community College. John also was a good friend of the late Bill Horne. We could spend hours on the subject of Bill Horne, enjoying every minute.

Knauff is 68 years old and is well-regarded for his years of service at the Portsmouth Gaseous and Diffusion Plant in Piketon, otherwise known as what we used to call the A-Plant. “A” being for atomic. He was president of the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers Union Local 3-689 during the workers' much-publicized strike in the early 1990s.

Like Ellis, if elected county commissioner, this would be Knauff’s first public office.

When I asked Knauff why he was running for commissioner, his initial response was that he felt like he was at a point in his life to give back and do something for the people of Highland County.

“Someone asked me who I was running against,” he said. “I said ‘I’m not running against anybody. I’m running for the people of Highland County.”

He likened the local political campaigns to competitive sports, saying, “Just because we like our team, we don’t have to hate the other team.”

In a county with only one Democrat elected to a countywide office (Common Pleas Court Judge Rocky Coss), Knauff realizes he most likely faces an uphill battle. But he is infectiously optimistic – and also a great storyteller.

One of the first things John said to me was that he’s a bit guarded when talking with the media, having experienced what he believes was an unfair report years ago. He has been quoted in The Washington Post and The Cincinnati Enquirer and many newspapers in between.

"I respect that there are two sides to a given story," he told me. "Just be fair and print both of them."

I replied that after three decades in this business, I’m also more than a bit guarded when talking with the media. In fact, I’ve turned down requests for interviews from The Associated Press and Cincinnati media on the local circus in Hillsboro city government that began in 2012.

With all that said, John Knauff and I had a very good conversation. I think most people will find him engaging, funny and down to earth.

Still, it’s an uphill battle, and I think he knows it.

* * *

• This one is from the “you just never know who’s reading” file.

Last week, we received a nice email from Betty Niemann, who has been reading Jerry Pruitt’s “Mowrystown Recollections” on our website. Betty sent a note with a question for Jerry.

With regrets, I informed Betty that we lost the Mowrystown historian on Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2015, when he passed away at Highland District Hospital after battling cancer for some time. He was 79.

Several years ago, I wrote – with some measure of personal satisfaction – that The Highland County Press had four columnists who were graduates of Whiteoak High School: Jerry Pruitt, Bill Horne, Jim Surber and me. We graduated from that venerable institution of learning roughly 10 years apart.

We lost Bill in 2010, but he and I often discussed whether at any other time in the county’s 200-plus-year history, four WHS graduates were writing newspaper columns at the same time and at the same paper. (We’ll leave that for the good folks at the Highland County Historical Society to determine.)

* * *

• Then there was the wonderful note from Andy Bergstedt that arrived in my email on a recent Saturday.

Dear Rory,

“After reading your column today, I thought you might enjoy this history lesson.” (Andy had copied one of those humorous online posts that goes around from time to time. This one was headlined “History – a condensed version.” It involves two significant inventions in the history of mankind.)

Andy continued.

“I’m a very senior citizen, having been raised on a small farm and graduating from a small school in northwest Indiana. I really appreciate your newspaper. It has the most common-sensed articles of any publication available today.

“Again thank you for a bright time brought forth by your publication. There is still HOPE!”

Andy’s assessment of The Highland County Press’ “common-sensed articles” has much more to do with our outstanding staff and equally outstanding contributing writers – each of whom has a pretty fair and readily available supply of common sense – than it does with me. And I’m fine with that.

One of the lessons learned long ago is that we do not want to publish anything so appalling or outrageous as to lose the confidence and faith of those who support us – from readers and advertisers, to contributing writers and paid staff, to independent contractors, whose delivery of the newspapers is as important as the content it includes.

Yes, common sense is a prerequisite is our business and everyone else’s business. Part of that includes having great people and trusting them to do their jobs.

Thanks again, Andy. We do appreciate that you read The Highland County Press.

* * *

• Lastly, a tip of the cap is in order for HCP sports editor Stephen Forsha, who explained to an up-and-coming young writer that this week's high school basketball tournament game was at McDermott Northwest – not Cincinnati Northwest, which is about 120 miles northwest of McDermott.

Rory Ryan is publisher and owner of The Highland County Press, Highland County’s only locally owned and operated newspaper.