Ken Ammann

Ken Ammann is the first candidate to announce his intention to run for Mercer County commissioner. But based on recent history, he won’t be the last.

Ammann, 59, of 575 Mercer Road, Hempfield Township, made his announcement Tuesday before about 50 supporters at Reynolds Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7599 in Pymatuning Township.

A dozen candidates emerged in the Democratic and Republican primaries in 2003.

Ammann, a Democrat, said he’s always wanted to get into public service and he’s asking voters to put him back to work in the courthouse as a county commissioner.

“We can do better,” he added, referencing a line made famous by former President Clinton.

This will be Ammann’s fourth run at public office. He lost in the general election to Republican Rod Wilt in 1996 for the 17th District state House seat, and in Democratic primaries to Mercer County Clerk of Courts Kathy Kloos in 1995 and Gene Pacsi in the race for treasurer in 1993. Ginny Steese Richardson defeated Pacsi that fall.

Ammann was the county’s chief clerk for more than two years before being fired by commissioners Olivia M. Lazor and Michele Brooks in 2005. Commissioner Brian Beader didn’t sign the pink slip.

Ammann, a project facilities manager for Keystone Research Inc. in Greenville, has always maintained he lost the job because he openly voiced his views on issues affecting the county and its taxpayers that some of the commissioners disagreed with.

“It was my job and in my job description to give my opinion and take part in discussions and offer information and advice,” he explained. “... I was doing my job, I felt. And I was also doing my part as a taxpayer.”

Among the issues that he disagreed with the board of commissioners was over a proposed $1 million loan to Woodland Place nursing home in Coolspring Township.

That loan has essentially become moot since the county made more than $1 million in bond payments on behalf of the nursing home over the last two years, but Ammann would like to see the county take a harder look at the home and perhaps mandate some additional cost-saving measures.

Ammann also pointed out he has a problem with the nearly $5 million general fund balance, or rainy-day fund, the county is sitting on. That fund was at $17,000 in 2000, but ballooned to $5.9 million before settling to $5.6 million late this year. Some critics, including Ammann, said that increase, in part, came as a result of taxes more than doubling from 10.25 mills to 20.75 mills between 2001 and 2005.

“If you have a surplus every year, it indicates you may be overtaxing the taxpayers,” he said.

The fund balance will drop to about $4.8 million next year, however, as the county will use more than $800,000 to balance the 2007 budget.

Before making any rash decisions on reducing that surplus, Ammann said he would encourage the development of a long-range plan. Once a plan is developed that looks ahead three or four years, Ammann said it would be appropriate to look at that surplus to see whether a tax reduction would be in order or whether some of that money could be used to provide additional services for residents.

Ammann was born and raised on a farm in Delaware Township and graduated from Reynolds High School.

He enlisted in the Navy after high school during the Vietnam War era and was assigned to serve with the National Security Agency. Almost half of his more than three years in the service were spent as a cryptographer in Turkey spying on the former Soviet Union when the Cold War was center stage. He also spent a year at NSA headquarters in Maryland.

Ammann came home after his tour of duty and landed a job as an electrician at Sharon Steel Corp. in Farrell. He stayed there for 20 years until the plant closed. He later worked for five years at Trinity Industries – Greenville Rail Car Division before that plant was shut down.

Ammann eventually earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 2001 from Thiel College in Greenville and started an Internet service provider, Adventure Online, about the same time.

He and his wife Kathy have two sons, Mike, 31, and Nick, 28.

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