Two Democratic candidates for Licking County Commissioner will face off in the March 19 primary election, vying to bring new voices and diverse perspectives to an office held exclusively by Republicans since 2008. 

Democrats Bryn Bird and Daniel Crawford will challenge each other for the chance to go head-to-head with incumbent Republican County Commissioner Duane Flowers in November. 

Flowers is one of three Licking County commissioners responsible for supervising various government entities across the county — one of the fastest-growing counties in the state after Intel’s announcement of its $20 billion dollar “Silicon Heartland” project. Building code enforcement, planning and development, recycling and litter, water and wastewater, child support enforcement and animal control services, among others, fall under their purview. 

Once elected, commissioners serve 4-year terms and, beginning in 2025, will earn a salary of $86,988. Between 2025 and 2028 — the winner’s final year of their term in office — that salary will rise to $91,635. 

And as the county changes rapidly, both Bird, 40, and Crawford, 38, stressed the importance of managing growth and development. 

Bird is currently serving her second term as a Granville Township trustee, and is hoping to tackle infrastructure demands and natural resource protection as Intel moves in. 

“I have an agricultural background, and then I have a background in public health, and then as a township trustee,” she said. “I think that all of those have just really been able to shape the way I look at the community.”

Bird said her background has helped her see how “we are not isolated. We don’t work in our individual silos.” 

“Much of the work in development and in growth and opportunities really is multi-jurisdictional,” she explained. “Really, the county commissioner kind of holds that role.”  

Crawford, the assistant front-end lead at Giant Eagle in Heath, wants to make the Licking County government more transparent and accountable to county residents. 

His primary concerns, he told The Reporting Project, include a lack of transparency from current Licking County commissioners and their weekly meeting minutes. 

“They’re not detailed at all,” he said. “All [the minutes say] is there was a discussion on this, but it doesn’t say what they said. And that’s a problem. That’s a major transparency issue.” 

Public trust in the federal government is at record lows in the United States, and that eroding public trust has extended to local and state governments, a September 2023 Gallup poll found. 

“All institutions have below-average trust levels compared with historical Gallup norms dating back to the early 1970s,” Gallup reported in October last year. 

Crawford wants to make sure Licking County residents can trust their leaders. 

“The biggest thing I want to do is make sure that people have a reason to trust our government again, and know that there’s someone who really is looking out for them,” Crawford said. “I want to be the megaphone of the people to the best of my ability.” 

Government transparency, Crawford said, means acknowledging problems like homelessness and the lack of affordable housing and reliable public transportation, and tackling them head-on within the county.

Both Bird and Crawford agree new voices are needed at the county level. 

“It’s a change in perspective. It’s a new voice. And I think we need that,” Bird said. 

Bird stresses that a new perspective does not mean changing the landscape of the community, but rather finding new ways to bolster its identity. 

“We already have such a strong community and we want to keep that strong community,” Bird said.

Bird saw just how strong the community was back in 2014 with the Canal Market District project.

“I helped spearhead the Canal Market District in Newark. In that role, I was really able to just see how amazing Licking County is, in working together to get something done in a positive way. You just don’t see that in other places,” Bird said. 

Outside of her work for the market district, Bird has helped run Bird’s Haven Farms — a family farm started by her parents 29 years ago — located just a few miles north of Granville. 

Bird decided to run after her peers on both sides of the political aisle encouraged her to do so. She is also involved in the Framework Leadership Team in Licking County. 

Crawford said he ran to “make sure people have a choice,” he explained. This is his seventh time as a candidate in Licking County, though his previous six runs — all unsuccessful — were for other offices. 

“Having a primary opponent was completely accidental,” he said. “I have no ill feelings or anything towards her in a negative way at all.” 

Two county commissioners are up for election this year, including Flowers. Republican Commissioner Tim Bubb’s seat is also up for reelection, and he will face Democrat James Snedden in the general election come November. 

Flowers, who has served as a commissioner since 2012, believes in smaller government and individual freedoms. 

 “I believe that the individual should be in control of his own life,” Flowers told The Reporting Project in March. “I thought government was getting too aggressive, you know, taking the responsibility of the individual away.”

Flowers’ top priority right now is infrastructure, focusing on water, sewage, road  and affordable housing, especially with Intel and other companies coming into the county. 

“I think right now we need to take a pause and get caught up,” Flowers said. “Not only Intel, I mean we’ve got Google, Facebook, Microsoft. They were all brought in with the state giving out tax abatements and not really looking at the infrastructure and we as commissioners are now faced with [the question]: How are we going to handle all this infrastructure?”

In 1976, Flowers launched his own construction company, and has worked on projects like shopping malls, retirement centers, banks and custom homes throughout Licking County. Between 2000 and 2012, he was the mayor in Hanover.

Bubb remains delighted at the chance to continue growing as County Commissioner.

“This is a tremendous opportunity to lead county government during a period of growth in Licking County. I love the opportunity and the challenges that go with it,” Bubb said. 

Bubb also voiced good will toward Crawford and Bird in their primary and subsequent race in November.

“I wish them good luck. It takes a lot of courage to run for public office. They’re both good people,” Bubb said. “The winner of that potentially will run against my fellow County Commissioner Duane Flowers in November. And I’m sure they’ll have a spirited race.”

Noah Fishman writes for, the nonprofit news organization of Denison University’s Journalism program, which is sponsored in part by the Mellon Foundation and donationsfrom readers. Sign up for The Reporting Project newsletter here.