Union County Commissioner
The Matriots are proud to endorse Chris Schmenk for County Commissioner in Union County. We know she is committed to our values and will support our mission of getting more women elected to office who will create a more equitable Ohio for all.
Union County is located northeast of Columbus and includes Marysville. Click here to find elected officials in your district.
Meet the Candidate
Can you tell our members a little bit about your journey to filing as a candidate?
I decided to run for Union County Commissioner because I care deeply about my home county and want to help it continue to grow well and prosper. I’ve lived in Marysville most of my life, and I’ve enjoyed being involved in many ways, including board service, school levy campaigns, church and family life. I’ve served in elected local office (Mayor of Marysville), and I’ve served at the state level (Director, Ohio Development Services Agency).I’ve realized that when the rubber hits the road, we can effect change most directly at the local level. Union County has not yet had a woman commissioner. It is the fastest growing county in our state, and I’d like to help guide its future so that it stays fiscally strong, maintains its economic mix of agriculture and high-tech industry, and continues to provide its residents with a high quality of life.
Tell our members about a friend or family member who inspired you to become a leader.
I’ve been blessed to have many great mentors in my life. I come from a line of stubborn, hard-working women who raised me not to think of myself as a “capable woman” but simply a capable person. My maternal grandmother lived to be 103 and was known to kill snakes with her garden hoe and drink hard cider. My mother was loved in the Marysville community, where she taught elementary music to several generations of local residents, who loved her gentle yet firm nature. She used to tell me that when I was young (and ornery!), she prayed that I would use my stubborn, independent streak for good. A mentor in high school was my debate coach Jim Shipp, who inspired me to go to law school. A current mentor is Le Herron, past CEO of The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company, who is 97 years old and gives me wise advice. All of these people have treated me as a capable leader, not a capable woman, and I hope I can inspire other women to think of themselves that way.
Some of you are military veterans, some small business owners, some professionals, some mothers and grandmothers, some homemakers. How did one of these experiences shape who you are as a person and leader?
I served as elected mayor of Marysville from 2007–2011. That was a part-time position, so I continued to work as an in-house attorney for The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company (SMG). SMG supported my campaign by providing a PAC donation, and they allowed me to work part-time at SMG once I took office. Very quickly upon assuming office, I realized the city was in poor financial shape. A citizens advisory group did a fiscal analysis, found that the city was not wasting money and recommended that it campaign to increase the income tax rate from 1% to 1.5%. SMG opposed the income tax levy and in fact paid for large billboards along Route 33 in Union County urging voters to reject it. The levy issue was narrowly defeated the first time it was on the ballot, so we put it on the next ballot and narrowly won that vote. I suffered some personal setbacks in my position at SMG by supporting the income tax increase, but I realized that it was more important to do the right thing for the citizens of Marysville. That experience strengthened me as a person and as a leader, and I hope to apply that strength in my role as a county commissioner.
The Matriots PAC has a goal to see 50% of all elected offices in Ohio held by women by 2028. What is your vision for Ohio in 2028?
I share the Matriots PAC goal. In particular, I’d like to see our state elect a woman governor by then and dramatically increase the percentage of women legislators in our General Assembly. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, the Ohio legislature is only 22% women in 2018. That number has stayed constant for at least a decade, even though women make up over 50% of the Ohio population. Why is this? I believe too many women think they have to pick one role in life and stick with that (e.g., be a mother, be a wife, be a professional, etc.). By 2028, I’d like to see more women be empowered to serve in multiple roles, and I’d like to see the percentage of women in our state legislature increase to at least 50%.
Tip O’Neill famously said that “all politics is local.” What are the top-two issues your community or our state face today?
The top two issues faced by Union County include how to achieve smart growth in the face of a rapidly growing population and how to maintain the county’s fiscal strength in the face of this growth. “Smart growth” is defined by Smart Growth America as “an approach to development that encourages a mix of building types and uses, diverse housing and transportation options, development within existing neighborhoods, and community engagement.” The rural area between Dublin and Marysville is rapidly being filled in with a mix of residential developments (such as the 13 neighborhoods in Jerome Village) and industry (including a 500,000 sq. ft. FedEx hub). At the same time, Union County historically has had a large agricultural presence. It will be critical for the County Commissioners to help the county maintain a healthy balance of residential, agricultural and industrial uses while providing good transportation options. Fiscally, Union County has historically been strong, while maintaining low taxes. As its growth continues, its budget will become strained by the need to invest in roads and other infrastructure. We will have to work hard to maintain our fiscal strength and low tax rates, and I hope my past experience in managing a city and state department budget can be used to help achieve that goal.
Tell us something personal about yourself.
I am a strong Christian yet a political moderate. When I ran for Mayor, someone said to me, “I hope you’re not one of those compromisers”. I believe we all need to compromise sometimes in life, to achieve forward progress. I can work with people of all political persuasions, as long as we’re working together on goals good for our county.
Personally, I’m a cat person, as I’ve always been able to have cats while being a working mom. I also admire their stubborn independence!
I like to read, run and bike on the great Union County rural roads in my free time. I’ve been married to the same guy for many years, and we have two grown children. Daughter Megan represents another generation of stubborn, independent women in my family (she’s a Michigan Law grad and works in LA). Son Matt is 21 and a junior finance major at Ohio State. Megan voted for Hillary Clinton, and Matt voted for Bernie Sanders in the last presidential election. I take great pride that we’ve raised our children to think for themselves!