by Peter Kusnic
Marion County in north-central Ohio could elect its first out LGBTQ+ candidate to countywide office this November. Robb Koons, who is openly gay, is running to be the next Marion County Clerk of Courts against the Republican appointed to the position following the 2018 resignation of Julie Kagel, who was recently charged with six counts of dereliction of duty during her nearly two-decade tenure in the Clerk’s office.
“Unfortunately, things are still not being done in that office, so I decided, you know what? I’m going to run,” says Koons. “We need change, and I’m willing to bring it to where I live.”
The Buckeye Flame spoke with Robb Koons about life in Marion and his historic candidacy.
What made you decide to run for office now?
I’ve always been interested in politics, especially since the 2016 presidential election. That lit a fire under me that we need change and to get out there and make our voices heard. I started getting more involved in our political atmosphere where I am from – going to city council meetings, attending all our other county government meetings. The opportunity presented itself to run this year, and I took it.
What past experiences have best prepared you for this role?
I am very involved in my community. I’ve served for many years with different organizations, both as a volunteer and as a board member, and professionally I work in management in the banking industry, so I have a strong focus on operations and leadership and dealing with the public, which I feel are qualities needed for the Clerk of Courts.
What will your priorities be as Clerk of Courts?
Leadership is one of them. I am here to serve the people – the people I work with, the people who work for me, and of course the public of Marion – and that requires strong leadership. Right now, there is 115% employee turnover rate in the Clerk’s office; money is constantly being spent on hiring new people, and there’s a bill for losing people, too. There have also been some major expenditures over the past few years that the office should not have had. The county commissioners allowed it, but then they get up there and say Marion’s in a fiscal crisis.
Accountability is another major issue. If you call our–unfortunately–Republican public officials, it’s hard to get meetings set with them because they don’t want to meet with the public. They don’t want to be transparent, because they don’t want to be held accountable. I want to have open houses at the Clerk’s office where people can come and see what’s going on and get to know me and my staff. I also want to publish quarterly or semiannual reports that inform the public of what the office is doing. This is done elsewhere in the state – including in Franklin County, where I got the idea – and I want to scale it down to Marion.
For people who’ve never visited, what is the LGBTQ+ community like in Marion County?
My husband and I have pride flags hanging at the house, and you do see them occasionally in Marion, but because this is a sort of conservative town. I think people are sometimes afraid to show who they really are. That’s another big reason I wanted to run: we need more diverse representation in Marion, especially in the countywide offices, which are currently dominated by Republicans.
If elected, you would be the first openly LGBTQ+ person elected to countywide office in Marion County. What does that mean to you?
It would mean a lot to me. My husband and I are very open about who we are, but going into this election we knew there’d be challenges. Someone suggested I watch how I present myself, but I disagreed instantly; I said I’m not doing that. Running for office as an openly gay man, I feel like I can be a voice for the LGBTQ+ community in Marion. In fact, this campaign has whet my appetite for going further. Assuming I get elected here, I’m going to keep charging forward, and I strongly encourage anybody who feels that fire to get out there and run for office: Do it.
- Learn more about Robb Koons’ bid for Marion County Clerk of Courts by visiting his Facebook page or Twitter.
- The registration period to vote is now over. What you have to do now is VOTE. HERE IS HOW YOU DO IT!
Peter Kusnic is a writer and editor based in Cleveland, OH.