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March 29, 2020

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A great fit for Bluffton

Jesse Blackburn says he wants to be part of the community's solution to problems

The Icon stopped in the town hall to chat with Jesse Blackburn.

He had just sent an e-mail message to utility companies who have poles and wires along Bentley Road where the bike path construction is underway.

On his desk was a pile of paperwork concerning a list of village assets – he describes the list as “anything the village owns that has a lifespan.”  This includes such things as fire hydrants, waterlines, manhole covers and sewer lines.

The pile is part of a 10-year capital planning forecast for the village that he and village council members Dave Steiner and Jerry Cupples are developing.

Switching gears from utilities and capital forecasts, Blackburn reflected on his role in the village.  Last week he was named interim village administrator.

He offered to show us his multi-page job description. We declined, saying, “Just tell us what it covers.”

He started rattling off the coverage. Here goes…there’s a building and zoning piece, sidewalks, personnel, parks, pool, streets and alleys, budgets, capital improvements, asset management…and don’t forget, the airport.

The list continued, and but he stopped there, adding what’s not on his list: safety services, meaning police, EMS and fire.

Blackburn is a great fit for Bluffton and Bluffton is a great fit for Blackburn.

Growing up three miles from town on County Road 313, Blackburn graduated from Cory-Rawson. Later he graduated from Ohio Northern University as a biology major with a minor in environmental studies.

After teaching at Lima Senior, Blackburn joined the village service department. From 2003 to 2008 he plowed snow, entered manholes – only far enough keep out of danger – worked at the park the pool, and “did the whole gamut,” meaning whatever was needed.

“I loved being part of an immediate solution to problems,” he said. “Work in the service department usually meant ending the day and going home knowing that something that was broken is now fixed.”

“Now my rewards aren’t that immediate,” he said, “however, I’ve developed a new love for spreadsheets.”

Proving that, he shared a spreadsheet involving some type of time-saving, and thus, money-saving devise for the village. We didn’t entirely understand it, but nodded in appreciation for his work.

“I work with a great group of guys who have their hearts in the village of Bluffton. Some of our staff have been with the village since 2003,” he said.

Explaining that as an administrator, working with a committed group enables him to “facilitate that forward movement for the village.”

“We (village employees) have the resources and knowledge in town to handle whatever comes our way,” he said, in reference to previous emergencies including floods, snowstorms and other unknowns.

That staff includes four full-time service department employees, two in the water department, one part-time in the service department and two seasonal personnel.

“Scott Phillips, service department supervisor, and I are in almost constant communication,” he said, describing how village projects flow from one thing to the next.

After hours, if any exist, you may find Blackburn coaching a U6 soccer team, participating in the Lions Club, and even sweeping the sidewalk in front of the town hall – we’ve witnessed this.

Blackburn’s wife, Amy, a registered nurse, is a care caseworker at Lima Memorial Hospital and is president of the Bluffton Family Recreation board.

The couple lives at the corner of Jackson and Grove with their two children, Jillian, 6, in Kindergarten, and Lucas, 4, in Bluffton Community Pre-school.