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Political newcomer Pircio challenging Patterson for state representative

Star Beacon - 10/29/2018

Oct. 29--Republican Michael Pircio is challenging incumbent John Patterson, D-Jefferson, for state representative of the 99th District seat.

"Basically it comes down to this, politicians are inefficient and our district is not being put first in Columbus," Pircio said. "I'm just like everyone else, I work sometimes 50-60 hours a week, I am a father and a husband. I am also a retired veteran. I know from my military experience how to cut through the B.S. and get to the real issues."

An Air Force veteran and a newcomer to politics, Pircio grew up in Willoughby and graduated in 2009 from Willoughby South High School at age 16, after he traveled to Italy with AFS Foreign Exchange Student program.

After spending a semester at the University of Akron, he joined the Air Force. After being medically retired as a staff sergeant from the Air Force, he graduated from Lake Erie College with a degree in Italian Studies. He also holds an associate degrees of applied science in Intelligence Studies and Technology from the Air Force, and a diploma of Russian Studies from the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center in Monterey, California.

Pircio works as a compliance auditor for a large regional bank, and he's worked in the financial sector for two years.

"Serving in the military you quickly understand how important your rights are when they are quite limited," he said. "For this very reason, I believe people, not the government, can best decide the way to govern themselves individually."

When it comes to state gun control laws, Pircio said he doesn't believe any more are needed and what gun control proponents are really talking about is "gun confiscation."

At a candidates' forum Oct. 24, he dismissed Patterson's list of legislative accomplishments, calling them "small" in scope.

"They are not the big things we need to talk about," he said. "We need better infrastructure in Ashtabula ... let's do big things."

Pircio's platform consists of four issues, infrastructure listed as No. 1.

"As part of setting the 99th District up for the future we need to focus on infrastructure as part of our overall plan of action," he said. "I would push for strengthening roads and delegate more funding for the airport."

Mental health

"The mental health of our children is the most important aspect of our society that we have continually decided to neglect," he said. "We need to prepare parents and educators to look for signs of mental illness ... mental illness is no different than a physical illness and should not be treated as such."

Jobs

"The current economic boom is fantastic and many jobs are available, however these jobs are quite far away -- I work 50 minutes from Chardon -- and even telecommute jobs are few and far between," he said. "We need to set up tax incentives that allow businesses and labor unions to hire and train employees for the jobs available."

He also wants to bring back apprenticeships after high school.

Business

"While economic booms are nice, we need to give incentives to legacy Ohio businesses to grow and also incentivize Ohio to bring in out of state businesses in order for population growth to happen," he said. "Currently, more people are leaving the state than coming into the state and that has to do with well-paying jobs."

Pircio believes at the heart in every American, especially those from Northeast Ohio, are age-old American values of hard work, sweat equity, general compassion and individuality.

"In six years we've paid someone a lot of money to do very little," he said. "Let's put someone in who has the best interest of the people at heart, because I'm not a politician but just like you."

Pircio and his wife, Alexa, have 3-year-old daughter, Stella.

Democrat John Patterson, a retired school teacher from Jefferson, won election to the 99th District in 2012 and won re-election in 2014. He's running for re-election to "continue and complete the many initiatives I have set in motion," he said.

Patterson boasts a long list of legislation accomplishments, including the school resource officer bill that brought funding to county school districts, efforts to work with Republicans to fix the school funding formula, legislation to help with dredging in the Ashtabula Harbor, cleaning up water quality issues in Lake Erie and clearing the way for out-of-state medical licenses at the Remote Access Medical Clinic held at Ashtabula Towne Square earlier this year.

"Life in the legislature is all about relationships, trust, and a commitment to work as a group to benefit the whole," he said. "During the course of my tenure, I have developed strong relationships within my party, across the aisle, and with various organizations built upon mutual trust and a commitment to 'work' legislation including all voices in the process."

Patterson said he "cares deeply" about the 99th district and its place within the greater sphere of Ohio and the nation.

As a lifelong resident of Ashtabula County, Patterson said he's keenly aware of its industrial past, current challenges and future potential.

When asked about his platform, Patterson said he believes there are four pillars of development and revitalization that are key to retaining and attracting both business and industry. They are quality schools, a healthy workforce, infrastructure and quality of life.

"Most of my legislative initiatives fall under one or more of these four pillars," he said. "For example, quality schools provide a trained workforce as well as a magnet to attract families to communities. This is precisely why I have worked tirelessly across the aisle to develop a school funding formula that meets the constitutional mandate of the DeRolph decisions. I have engaged superintendents and treasurers from across the state -- those on the front line."

When it comes to a healthy workforce, Patterson has worked with local hospitals to inform and educate his constituents of the health challenges of the 99th District. Those challenges include Lyme Disease, Vitamin D deficiency, diabetes, obesity, as well as the opioid epidemic.

As for infrastructure, Patterson said he's worked with Growth Partnership to ensure the Risberg natural gas pipeline, from Pennsylvania, will become a reality.

"The Risberg line will address our need for abundant natural gas so necessary for a 21st Century economy," he said.

Another draw for development of the district's quality of life is the Great Lakes, as well as Pymatuning Lake and Roaming Shores, he said.

"Knowing full well that algal blooms create public health issues, I worked as a joint sponsor to pass the House version of the Clean Lake 2020 Plan (HB 643)," he said. "This bill allocates $20 million for more soil and water personnel on the ground in the western Lake Erie basin, additional dollars for research, and another $10 million to develop commercial uses for dredging material -- dredging material that will not be dumped in the open lake as of 2020. As the only county with two deep water ports, we know that dredging is essential to keeping Ashtabula and Conneaut harbors open."

Since taking office, Patterson has received several legislative honors, including 2014, 2106 Friend of Agriculture, Ohio Farm Bureau; 2014 Legislator of the Year, Ohio Farmers Union; 2015 Advocate Award, Ashtabula Area Chamber of Commerce; 2016 Friend of Public Education, Ohio Federation of Teachers; 2018 Legislator of the Year, Ohio Association of Election Officials, and several others.

Patterson also serves on several special committees, including 2017 Executive Board of State Ag and Rural Leaders Election, Council of State Governments; 2017 Midwest-Canada Relations Committee, Council of State Governments, and the 2017 Education Funding Workgroup, Ohio House of Representatives.

Patterson and his wife, Nancy, have two adult sons.

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(c)2018 the Star Beacon (Ashtabula, Ohio)

Visit the Star Beacon (Ashtabula, Ohio) at www.starbeacon.com

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