GALLIPOLIS — Republican incumbent candidate and current Gallia County Board of Commissioners Vice-President David Smith says guarding the county’s finances and making certain it can meet its financial obligations is his foremost duty.
Smith is running against independent candidate Mark Danner in the November election.
Smith said he grew up in Gallia County and had originally attended grade school in Centerville before graduating from Southwestern High School. He attended Rio Grande Community College for a few years before graduating from Miami University with a degree in chemistry. He then enrolled in the College of Dentistry at Ohio State University, where he graduated in 1983. He’s been practicing general dentistry for more than 32 years.
Smith shares two sons with his wife and is a resident of Gallipolis. Both sons are currently attending college.
“I’ve always had an interest in public affairs,” Smith said. “I enjoy talking to people and trying to solve their problems, above everything else. I will sit and talk with anyone and try to come to a good agreement. A compromise is where neither party is real happy but they can live with it.”
Smith said he will try to work with people the best he can, but when attacked personally, “he’s done” and communication can shut down. He feels that will solve problems for no one.
Smith has served two terms as a Gallia County commissioner and spoke of some of the challenges from his experience.
“That sometimes is part of this job, though,” Smith said. “Many times, you can’t give folks what they would really like or what they ask you for. It is a soul-searching time. I lose sleep over this job. I will say that when I leave here (the commissioner’s office) at the end of the day, I have given it my best and I’m pleased and proud of what I’ve done.”
Smith said one of his major challenges in office over the last few years has been handling the Greene Township Sewer Project. He said the project has been in the making since roughly 2005. In previous Tribune stories, Smith at one of the first construction hearings, had said to the public and contractors that he expected there would be hangups and pains, as any construction project can. He felt the best thing to do was to get the project completed as fast as possible to minimize the distractions and that he understood the difficulties that came with some of the financial burdens of the project. Smith said he has been attending weekly meetings with contractors and engineers to make certain the project moves smoothly.
The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency has mandated the county to install the new sewer system.
Smith said he has answered public concerns with his fellow commissioners and attempts to offer them solutions as best as possible while still hoping to save taxpayer money at the end of the day. To him, a commissioner’s first and foremost job is to “attend to the business of the county,” to make sure the budget is balanced at the end of the day. He feels running the county is akin to running a business and Smith has successfully directed three private ventures which he feels helps him to understand money and delegation of tasks.
Safeguarding the budget is his first priority and Smith admits not spending money can be rough. The county spends around $9 million a year and choices need to be made carefully. Smith said he and the other commissioners have done the best they can to make certain the county has enough money to spend in lean times.
This year, the commissioners approved the funding of new sheriff’s cruisers as well as hired new full-time investigators to a total of three dedicated to chasing down crime in Gallia County. Smith said he felt when funds are available policing is one of the first places money should be placed. The sheriff’s office budget is the largest of any of the Gallia County agencies. Smith said the drug problem in the county greatly concerns him and when funds can be dedicated to fighting that problem without breaking the bank or hampering other departments, the commissioners try to do that.
Another of Smith’s priorities is to focus on marketing and public relations for the county in hopes of drawing manufacturing jobs to the area. He and the other commissioners have recently announced their disapproval of recent layoffs at the Gallipolis Developmental Center and have drafted letters to Gov. John Kasich. Smith and his fellow commissioners at the time were also responsible for helping put together the county’s economic development office in past years.
Smith said he came from humble beginnings and has worked hard for what he has. He had the opportunity to listen to the late Ohio State University football coach Woody Hayes as a speaker at Smith’s dental school graduation. He quotes Hayes, who said, “It seems the harder I work, the luckier I get.” Smith said that is a mantra he lives by and encourages Gallia County to live by it, too.
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.