Criminal justice issues and services involving mental health, senior citizens and veterans top the agenda for Leonard Beck Jr., who is running for the remaining two years of an unexpired term for Henry County commissioner.
With Henry County Commissioner Tom VonDeylen’s resignation effective in February, the Henry County Republican Party appointed Jeff Mires to fill the position through the end of this year. Because of the timing of the resignation, the Henry County Democratic Party could select an individual to run for the position in the General Election.
Beck said, after some self-reflection during the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, he realized he missed public service and so he decided to sign up for U.S. Census and seek the commissioner’s seat.
“My goal would be to bring a different voice to the table,” Beck said. “Roughly one-third of the registered voters (in Henry County) are Democratic, and you have three Republicans on the commission itself. I think it could be helpful to have a Democratic voice on there.
“I think it works better if everybody feels they’re in the same game,” he continued.
Beck is a native of Chicago, but has lived in the area for the past 30 years, first coming to Liberty Center and then Napoleon before settling in McClure at his wife’s grandparents’ homestead. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Northeastern Illinois University and did graduate coursework at Northeastern and Defiance College. He retired four years ago after serving as an adult probation officer in Lucas County for 27 years, during which time he also worked at Harbor Behavioral Health for five years. Prior to that, Beck was in the military police in the U.S. Army and worked as a police officer at Northwestern University. He also worked at Occupational Safety and Health Administration in Chicago, which is where he met his wife.
“I think it’s different for me because I chose to come out there,” Beck said of moving to Henry County. “I enjoy the culture out here.”
While at the Lucas County Jail, Beck served as unit manager for 15 years, managing an approximately $1 million budget for the 24/7-hour facility, as well as negotiating contracts with surrounding entities and dealing with staffing.
“There’s always room to learn, and every county is different,” Beck said. “I’ve spent a good part of my life understanding how the chain of command works and how decisions are made.
“I’m not walking in as a novice,” he continued. “I would have to learn some things locally, but I have a basic understanding of what goes on.”
If elected, Beck said his top goals would focus on criminal justice issues and services involving mental health, senior citizens and veterans.
Beck said he is supportive of efforts to increase police officer safety in the county and added Lucas County utilized a MacArthur Foundation grant to help with bail bond reform and reduce incarceration rates.
“I know they do that a little here in Henry County, but I think they could probably do more with utilizing the risk instruments and not holding people that don’t need to be held,” Beck said. “I think there could be some savings there that we could do some changes.”
Senior issues are also important for Beck, who noted he’s concerned with why the senior center hasn’t reopened after its closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic and said, as he’s campaigned, he said he’s heard a lot of comments regarding the issue.
“With seniors, you have some of the highest suicide rates and those kinds of things, with the socialization or lack thereof and substance abuse,” he said. “I think that should be more of a priority than it has been.”
Beck added he feels he pays close attention to details and noted one such issue he’s identified is incomplete information on the county’s website and how that could impact economic development and job opportunities for residents, including veterans. He added mental health for veterans is also an important issue for him.
Overall, Beck said he would bring more of a compassionate voice in the county.
“I like to think I bring more of an empathic, compassionate mindset to things,” Beck said. “I don’t want to make decisions on the fly if we have time for a thoughtful approach.”
Beck also serves on the Henry County Democratic Central Committee representing Richfield Township. He is 58 years old and lives in McClure with his wife, Marian. He has one son, Leonard IV.