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Oxford City Councilor runs for Butler County Commissioner seat

<p>County Commissioner candidate Chantel Raghu</p>

County Commissioner candidate Chantel Raghu

After serving on Oxford City Council for seven years, Chantel Raghu is ready to do more.

On Sunday, Feb. 18, the two-term councilor and veterinarian is formally launching her campaign to replace incumbent Donald Dixon on the Butler County Board of Commissioners. The campaign kickoff will run from 3-6 p.m. at Third Eye Brewing Company in Hamilton, 850 S. Erie Blvd.

“The county has such a pivotal role for being this big sibling for all towns and municipalities,” Raghu said. “... This is such an important role, and it can be so transformational if used in the most efficient and creative way, innovative way to try to make the biggest difference.”

Raghu is running an uncontested campaign for the democratic nomination for the seat in the March 19 primary. After that, she’ll face Dixon himself in the Nov. 5 election.

A fresh face and ‘a good heart’

While Butler County is strongly conservative — more than 60% of voters supported Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election — Raghu said she doesn’t view the commissioner seat as partisan.

“A good candidate is someone who listens, and someone who has the energy, and someone who is not afraid to speak truth to power,” Raghu said. “It really doesn’t matter if they’re a Democrat or a Republican, honestly, if you have those three things and a good heart.”

Bill Snavely, Oxford’s mayor, will attend Raghu’s campaign launch on Feb. 18. He said Raghu has a strong grasp of the issues facing local communities in Butler County and cares about the people impacted by government decisions. Snavely said that Raghu consistently puts in the most time of anyone on council, despite her full-time job running the Oxford Veterinary Hospital with her husband Chris Reagh. 

“Chantel is a genuine person … and really cares about people who may not have the power and the resources that other people have in the community,” Snavely said. “She looks after the people who need help the most.”

Raghu, 38, hopes to bring a fresh face to the Board of Commissioners. Dixon, 74, has been a commissioner continuously since 2007 and served a previous term from 1982 until 1986. He has run unopposed in every general election since 2008. 

“I respect anyone who’s willing to step up and serve,” Raghu said, “but there’s just time for more innovation, more energy and a new generation.”

Dixon said he doesn’t see his age as a drawback heading into this year’s election. During his 17 years as commissioner, he’s built up relationships with state representatives, including Governor Mike DeWine, that he says help him get results for the county.

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“I have the contacts to make certain things happen, and it’s good for our taxpayers,” Dixon said.

Even though this will be Dixon’s first contested election during his current time as commissioner, he said his approach won’t change. When Dixon took office in 2007, he said the county had a $125 million deficit in the general fund, which is now down to zero.

 If reelected, he plans to continue his efforts to save taxpayer money and invest in education.

“I do a lot of community events anyway, so that doesn’t really change,” Dixon said. “... Campaigns are almost always the same. Nothing changes but the faces.”

Top priorities as county commissioner

As a county commissioner, Raghu said she would focus on three things: affordable childcare, small business growth and improved collaboration between the county and municipalities.

Children services including adoption and foster care are run at a county-level. Raghu said beyond working on the social services the county offers, she hopes to use her role as a commissioner to reduce the cost of childcare for families.

Raghu said the county government could also play a pivotal role in supporting small business growth in individual townships and municipalities, which would in turn help to create more vibrant communities with their own character.

Raghu was first elected to Oxford City Council in 2017. In 2021, at the start of her second term, she was chosen to serve as vice-mayor to Snavely. In her time on Oxford City Council, Raghu said she can remember one instance where a county commissioner attended a meeting.

Raghu hopes to be more visible throughout the county and get feedback from each community to determine their priorities. By focusing on each community’s needs at a county level, Raghu said the local government has an opportunity to reduce costs for residents.

“There’s a lot of things that each town could use a little bit of help with, maybe like redundancy of certain costs,” Raghu said. “Ultimately, that ends up being more expensive for the individual resident and probably not as great of a product as if we were to collaborate and work together. I see the county as this opportunity where we could pull our resources together to achieve common goals.”

Next steps

As she eyes a county position, Raghu said her time witnessing Oxford’s struggles firsthand will inform her approach. She said the county could be more active in coming up with solutions across municipalities for common problems like school funding and fire and EMS services, especially by using ARPA funding strategically.

“That funding is something that is just once in a lifetime most likely because of COVID,” Raghu said. “This isn’t something we’re going to get all the time, but it is interesting to kind of look and see where county funds are spent and where they could be spent … It would be nice if the county would ask us, ‘What vital services are you struggling with?’”

In the coming months, Raghu said her plans include traveling throughout Butler County and door knocking and meeting with as many residents as possible. She has been relying on her family and friends for support, as well as her campaign manager Eden McKissick-Hawley.

McKissick-Hawley, founder of Tall Poppy Fundraising, has worked on a number of local and state Democratic campaigns. She said the results in Butler County last November, when voters narrowly embraced an amendment to protect abortion access in the state constitution, has made the county an important political region in the state.

Only two out of 13 countywide races this year have Democratic candidates running for office. By voting people like Raghu into office, McKissick-Hawley said it could help the Democratic Party’s chances in future elections by giving voters a chance to meet local candidates who directly impact their lives.

The Ohio primary is on Tuesday, March 19. For more information on what the ballot will include, visit the Butler County Board of Elections website at