PP: Why are you running for this seat?

Penner: Well, I’ve been in public service for a long time. I’ve been a township official. I’ve done charity work, including as head of the Defiance Area Foundation. I’ve been involved in politics along the line. I was chairman of the party at one time in Defiance County.

It’s about opportunity, and when Craig [Riedel] gave up the seat to run for Congress, it gave us an opening. I felt the time was right. I feel I’ve got something to contribute. I’m at a stage in my life where it would be interesting to go down to Columbus, do my thing and serve the people of the district. I think I share the values of our district very well, and I think I can go down and do a good job.

PP: How do you think your time as a township trustee and township fiscal officer has prepared you for the job?

Penner: You learn to listen to your constituents. You learn how to weigh things, because oftentimes someone will come to you with an issue, and it’s really interesting. It makes a lot of sense, but then you have to dig deeper. It’s just really what benefits the district. Does this benefit all of our constituents or just a few? You learn to put in enough thought and research into the issue, and ask is this really good for the whole community or just select areas.

PP: Are there specific things you would like to accomplish in Columbus? Have you thought about what you would like to do once you’re in the position?

Penner: I don’t have anything specific. I don’t think you can go in thinking “I’m going to make this law.” I don’t think you can go down there with narrow of a focus. You know, when I see elections, local, regional, if I see someone with a very specific agenda, typically, they don’t make a great legislator or councilman or whatever, because they focus on that one thing and miss the bigger picture. So, I don’t have a specific item.

However, I do feel like I can go down and help facilitate consensus building. And my background such that I plan to focus on economic issues. I have said economic issues has a really broad meaning. Education is now an economic issue. We need to get proper workforce training. Housing is an economic issue because we have to have places for our employees to live if we’re going to expand economically, so those are just two examples within broad economic areas.

I think that’s where my expertise is. I think I have skills in consensus building. My business background, both legal and accounting, as well as my public service have been all about consensus building, negotiating, and getting something accomplished, as opposed to just focusing in on my way or the highway.

I’m not that ind of person. I mean I have strong beliefs, but I want to go down, help consensus build, and get the right legislation passed for our district.

PP: Our landscape has shifted over the past twenty years. Some of it relates to agriculture as well, because of where the wind farms are, and now solar farms are going in. How do you strike a balance between the rights of a landowner to enter into an agreement with a solar company and their property rights with the broader rights of people in the community? Senate Bill 52 has already past, and it’s given local agencies a voice in these projects. But it’s one of the defining issues of our time, where one person’s rights end and another begins.

Penner: Right, and you know I’m all for property rights because I’m a property owner. And so, I get that. You use the perfect phrase, is the balance. I’m in a zoned township, but not all townships are zoned.

There’s the economic side of the whole thing, and that doesn’t get a lot of attention. It is primarily looked at from a land use standpoint. And I compare it a bit to zoning, in part because that’s what a lot of people are a little more familiar with. If my neighbor wants to build a house, there’s a process to go through, and yes, you’ve got to get a rezone or you must get some approval, and that goes through pretty well.

Then I use the example of my neighbor, but instead of a house, he wants to build a distribution warehouse. Then, you know, the long-standing process has given the community some input of does this fit with our community? Obviously, there’s economic benefit, but there’s also some aesthetic issues. There are infrastructure issues. You have to consider all of these items.

Senate Bill 52 makes a good attempt at trying to strike the balance. Is it perfect? Maybe, maybe not. We don’t really know yet. But I think we need some method for community input. The old method was like the Ohio Power Siting Board and Columbus made the decision, and we were forced to live with it. And I don’t think that’s how the 82nd District is set up.

I like local input. You start weighing the economic benefits to local governments and schools versus the aesthetics or the infrastructure, and you come up with a way to make it happen.

PP: What are you most proud of from your time as a township trustee?

Penner: In my township experiences, I think it has been a combination of our financial stability, and our ability to grow the township, both financially and from our population base. Our budget has increased, our tax base has increased, and we’ve worked to help facilitate that.

But growth comes with a price. You increase your tax base, but you’ve also got to provide the services. Over my tenure, I think we’ve moved forward, we’ve grown, and I think we’ve improved the quality of life for our citizens. I think we’re in a good place.

PP: What is the biggest challenge facing the 82nd District over the next five to ten years?

Penner: I think the biggest challenge for the 82nd is growth, and by growth, I mean how do we maintain our quality of life but grow economically to stay relevant and preserve our way of life? You’ve got to evolve as you go. When I look back, we’ve done a pretty good job of that. We’re very self-sufficient up here, we’re proud of that self-sufficiency, and we’re proud of our conservative values. The biggest challenge is to maintain that, yet evolve, stay relevant and continue to improve.

PP: Why should someone vote for you? What’s your elevator speech so to speak?

Penner: First, I think my value system fits with 82nd district. That’s the threshold argument, that my value system fits. My background is very diverse. Those two things coupled together, I think I can go to Columbus and get things done while representing the values of the 82nd. I think I can go down and an impact and leave the 82nd District better than I found it, and it’s in great shape. Don’t get me wrong. I think I can relate to the whole district. I’ve met some great people out there and I’ve gotten a very good reception. But, you know, that’s the way the people of the 82nd district are. We’re respectful and have good core values.