Serving as a Highland County commissioner would be another way of giving back to her country and contributing to her community, according to a former U.S. Marine who now works to help local residents find employment.
Tara Campbell, the Democratic candidate for the county commission who ran unopposed in the primary election, said this week she believes she has numerous life experiences and a unique set of skills that could help Highland County address problems related to foster care, employment and economic development.
Campbell will square off in November against Republican candidate Terry Britton and independent hopeful Alex Butler.
Campbell, 35, was born and raised in the Rainsboro community in Highland County. The former Tara Matthews is a 1999 graduate of McClain High School who served four years with the military police in the U.S. Marines. She later obtained a Bachelor’s degree in social sciences from the University of Rio Grande and a Master of Science degree from the University of Cincinnati, and completed two more years in the U.S. Army Reserve from 2011-13.
With more than 12 years of public and social service, Campbell is currently the director of Workforce Services for the Highland County branch of Ohio Means Jobs. She said she sought legal guidance to make sure running for, or serving as, a county commissioner would not present a legal or ethical conflict with her job, although she hasn’t decided whether she would continue her current employment if elected.
During her career with Ohio Jobs and Family Services, she has worked with families coping with drug addiction, joblessness and other ills that contributed to the foster care crisis locally.
“The things I’ve been able to gain through those experiences” led her to believe she has “a duty to run for commissioner,” said Campbell.
She also believes she has a business background that would be beneficial to the commission office, since she and her husband, Todd, are the owners of a small family farm, as well as Campbell Trucking.
Campbell said she has been involved in politics from a young age. She recalls being a 9-year-old “runner” for the Highland County Board of Elections when that office was still located in the Highland County Courthouse, running election results back and forth from the board to interested parties anxiously awaiting the returns.
She attended the 1993 inauguration of Bill Clinton in Washington D.C. with her mother and members of the Highland County Democratic Party, an event that left a vivid impression. She also was serving with the military police and providing security for world leaders, including Clinton, when the G8 Summit was held at Okinawa, Japan in 2000. She received a letter of appreciation for her service.
But Campbell said it was a story last year about the foster care crisis – along with the “cause and effect” headlines about heroin – that made her decide to seek the commission seat. She said that with a “servant’s heart,” and the support of her husband and other family members, she decided to take the plunge.
Campbell is the daughter of Rick and Cindy Matthews. Her mother passed away in 2009. Her grandparents were the late Dick and Katie Matthews. Dick Matthews was a Highland County sheriff’s deputy. Her maternal grandparents are Kenny and Janet Estle of Rainsboro.
Campbell is a member of the Rainsboro United Methodist Church, a 10-year volunteer with the Highland County 4-H program, a member of the VFW Women’s Auxiliary Post 9094, a member of the American Legion Post 14, a participant in the Highland County Veterans Coalition, a member of the National Association of Workforce Development Professionals, and she holds a Chemical Dependency Counselors Assistant (CDCA) credential.
While she recognizes challenges in regard to Highland County’s geographic location, she points to positives that she thinks are often overlooked here, such as Southern State Community College’s expanding programs at Hillsboro’s central campus, the Rocky Fork Lake and Paint Creek Lake regions, close proximity to a number of Fortune 500 companies, and a population eager to contribute to everyone else’s success. She said that being a rural community is beneficial to the county.
Campbell said the communities in Highland County – including Hillsboro, Greenfield, Lynchburg, Leesburg, Mowrystown and others – “all have a lot to offer.”
She touts partnerships and cooperation, both in and out of the county, as a key to economic success. Her involvement in the Appalachian Project for Economic Growth, as well as tri-county job-building alliances and roundtables, convince her that a regional approach will spell success for Highland County’s economy and job growth, she said.
Offering herself as a candidate for office is new territory for Campbell, and she admits it will require her to break out of her comfort zone. But as a veteran and a female, she said she brings “a very different background” compared to the other candidates. She plans a grassroots, door-to-door campaign focusing on every part of the county.
“It’s important to get out and visit each edge of the county, and stay informed on each township,” she said.
She said that as a commissioner, she will be accessible, seek opportunities for economic development and “research ways to decrease barriers in our community such as addiction treatment facilities and public transportation opportunities,” according to her campaign literature. She believes the county should have an economic development office, which she said would build on the “momentum growing now.”
Campbell said she sees serving as a commissioner another logical step in a life devoted to service. With her expertise in helping fight drug addiction, matching residents with jobs, working with families to make ends meet, serving in the military and working with her husband to operate a small business, she said she feels called to serve again.
“Why would I not do it?” she asks.
Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @abernathygary.