Two vying for District 2 county commissioner’s seat


Staff Reports

Both candidates for the District 2 commissioners seat can draw upon a wealth of knowledge about the wants and needs of Jackson County if elected during the Nov. 3 general election.

Incumbent Bob Gillaspy, a Seymour republican, and challenger, John Schafstall, a Seymour Democrat, were both born and raised in Jackson County.

Gillaspy is wrapping up his first four-year term as commissioner, while Schafstall, who grew in the Cortland area, spent 1996 to 2000 and 2008 to 2012 serving as the commissioner for the district, which roughly covers the eastern third of Jackson County.

The District 1 commissioner’s seat also is up for election, but incumbent Republican Drew Markel of Brownstown is running unopposed. That district serves the middle of the county. The commissioner District 3 seat will be up for election in 2022. Republican Matt Reedy of Freetown serves that district.

In 2019, the salary for a county commissioner was $22,946.67.

1) Why have you decided to run for public office?

Gillaspy: I have been interested in the office of county commissioner from the first time I appeared before the commissioners some 35 years ago. Being your county commissioner over the past 4 years has been a challenging and rewarding position. I enjoy working and talking with citizens and problem solving. This office is the only office I feel that touches all the branches of county government. I have lived in Jackson County my entire life, enjoy the people, and want to make a difference in improving our community.

Schafstall: I am retired now which gives me more time to serve my community.

2) Why do you feel you are more qualified for this position than your opponent?

Gillaspy: As the incumbent candidate for the office of county commissioner, I have the working knowledge for the office and what it entails. The primary job of commissioner is to oversee and maintain the county’s infrastructure. An effective county commissioner must be able to work within budgets and deadlines to oversee construction, maintain roads, bridges, and buildings. With over 40 years in the construction business, I have overseen the construction of several hundred homes along with numerous commercial construction projects with-in Jackson County. I have worked with county and city officials and understand what it takes to build and maintain our county’s services. Staying within budgets, controlling cost, and staying within deadlines is what I have been doing for over 40 years. I will continue to put that experience to work for the citizens of Jackson County. The difference is experience.

Schafstall: I was born and raised in Jackson County and know the needs of the community. I can draw on my eight years of service as a county commissioner. I have been a member of the Jackson County Fair board and served a 3-year term as president. I also have been a member of the board of trustees of Schneck Medical Center for eight years. I also have been the commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1925 and member of the American Legion Post 89 honor guard, Jackson Lodge No. 146 Free and Accepted Masons and the Fraternal Order of Eagles No. 655, Seymour.

3) How do you feel the commissioners should deal with the nativity scene on the courthouse lawn?

Gillaspy: As I have mentioned in a previous Tribune article, I was very disappointed in the court’s decision. At the present time, I feel that the commissioners are doing all that we can by appealing the decision of the U.S. District Court.

Schafstall: I think it was OK. We were founded on the words of “In God We Trust.” I will go to the courts to fight for our rights, but if we lose I will obey the court’s decision.

4) The COVID-19 pandemic forced governing bodies to adjust the way they hold public meetings. Do you favor allowing the public to continue to attend meetings in person or electronically or both?

Gillaspy: I believe online meeting and teleconferencing is a technology that is useful, although it has its limitations. During a “normal” meeting nothing beats face to face interaction. Document exchanges etc., are limited within the constraints of these types of meetings. Currently, our commissioner meetings follow CDC guidelines.

Schafstall: I am OK with both practices as long as they meet good health recommendations.

5) What are your feelings on using county funds to complete the dog shelter on county property behind the sheriff’s department?

Gillaspy: Increased construction cost and COVID-19 has placed unforeseen restraints on the Jackson County Dog Shelter committee from being able to finish the project in a timely manner. Many generous individuals and businesses have contributed to this project. This project, when accepted by the commissioners, will be run by the sheriff’s department with labor provided by the inmates. Red Sky Rescue has been caring for the dogs for many years. Red Sky Rescue’s owner has appeared before the commissioners several times stating her desire to retire and her willingness to assist the county with the new facilities startup. Once Red Sky Rescue quits taking on the county’s dogs, we’ll have to find another location. At that point, the county will have the expense of finding a new facility. Currently, the county spends $76,632 for the enforcement and care of the county’s dogs. I believe that the budget presented to the County Counsel can be decreased and this project can be completed under budget.

Schafstall: I think it was started all wrong. The money should have been in place before it was started. Now we have to work out of it. I will do my best to obtain private funding for completion of the dog shelter.

6) Are there any county services that need to be improved, adapted or eliminated?

Gillaspy: I am very proud of the services that are provided to the residents of Jackson County. There is always room for improvement, and I will listen and welcome any suggestions. I do not see any need to eliminate any of those services provided by the county at this time.

Schafstall: I think all of the services provided by the county either need to be improved or eliminated if not needed. There also may some services we need to put in place.

[sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”Bob Gillaspy” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]

Bob Gillaspy

Party: Republican

Age: 67

Residence: Seymour

Occupation: Building contractor/custom home builder

Prior political experience: Incumbent County Commissioner

[sc:pullout-text-end][sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”John Schafstall” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]

John Schafstall

Party: Democrat

Age: 73

Residence: Seymour

Occupation: Retired sales manager

Previous political experience: County commissioner for eight years (1996 to 2000 and 2008 to 2012)


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