GALLIPOLIS — While enjoying a spaghetti dinner and bidding on homemade pies, baked goods and baskets, voters of Gallia County could also meet and converse with local candidates for public office during a recent “meet the candidates” night hosted by the American Veterans Post 23.
The event at the post located on Liberty Avenue in Kanauga featured candidates running in several contested local races. Each candidate was given time to speak about their credentials and what they would hope to accomplish if elected on November 6.
First to speak during the event last Thursday evening were candidates in the race for county treasurer: incumbent and Republican candidate Steve McGhee, and challengers, Democratic candidate Pam Riley and Independent candidate Gary Jarvis.
Riley was the first to address the crowd, and while addressing the many duties and responsibilities of the county treasurer, she also pledged her willingness to work for all the people of the county.
“I pledge to this county — to the families that are struggling to make ends meet and have financial difficulties — that you will be placed on a payment plan before you have delinquent taxes,” Riley said. “I pledge to this county that I will be in that courthouse working for you full-time.”
Jarvis was next to take the podium and spoke of his desire to bring more technology into the office of the county treasurer.
“I would like to bring the treasurer’s office into the 21st century. A lot of us do online banking, online payment of bills. I would like to get the treasurer’s office a better web presence,” Jarvis said. “That will do one other thing other than getting the money to the county quicker and making record keeping hopefully more simplified, it will also increase the efficiency of our staff. [It will] give them more time to go back and look at the delinquent taxes, to find out why they are delinquent and what needs to be done to bring those current. … We need to get that money flowing into the county.”
The emphasis of current treasurer Steve McGhee’s statement was the increase in the county’s revenue over the past several years.
“The basic responsibility of the county treasurer is to collect real estate taxes. Revenue is up in Gallia County in real estate collections alone by $859,328. Revenue is not down,” McGhee said while stating that sales tax is also up by $210,000.
“If there’s money missing in the treasurer’s office guess who pays the money back? The county treasurer. We’ve seen treasurers have to do that. Since March of ‘99, I’ve been in office, we’ve balanced everyday and never been off,” McGhee said.
Candidates for the position of Gallia County Clerk of Courts, the individual in charge of the record of both the Common Pleas Court of Gallia County and Fourth District Court of Appeals, as well as the county’s title and license bureau, were next to address the crowd.
Incumbent Noreen Saunders spoke of her experience as a clerk, as well as what she hopes to accomplish if re-elected.
“In 2004, we combined the title office with the BMV for the best customer service and we continually fight to keep services in the county. For example, the driver’s examine station. There is a move, and a lot of people feel that the way to improve government is to regionalize government,” Saunders said. “I work very hard to keep these services here for you, and I strive to keep up with technology to run efficiently within the business community.”
Democratic candidate for Clerk of Courts, Belinda Burnett, while not present at the “meet the candidates night” had prepared a statement read by Carol Roush on her behalf.
“Since filing to run for this position, I have met many new people in the county and have enjoyed many wonderful events. I look forward to seeing many more new faces and promise to have an open office and good working relationship with all county departments, personnel and office staff,” Burnett wrote “Whether you come into the clerk of courts office or the bureau of motor vehicles, you will be treated kindly and with the utmost respect.”
Candidates in both of this year’s county commission races also spoke during the event.
“Coach” Brent Saunders who is challenging incumbent and Democrat Joe Foster for the January 2 term for commissioner discussed the sewer project, layoffs at the sheriff’s office and other recent decisions that current commissioners have made.
“Some of the decisions that’s been made in the last four years — three and half years — are decisions that have cost us. They are decisions that will continue to cost us down the road,” Saunders said. “If I am elected to office, I hope, with God’s help, I would make good decisions in caring for the money of the people of Gallia County. It’s been my pleasure to get to meet a lot of people, and I do look forward to meeting a lot of you ahead.”
During his statement, Joe Foster discussed the recent “Grow Gallia” campaign that seeks to market the county and improve the overall business atmosphere in Gallia.
“We tried to encompass everybody in Gallia County to bring everybody together and develop a comprehensive marketing strategy for Gallia County. … We expect great things to come from that, and we’re working with a marketing firm right now to further that effort,” Foster said.
Foster also discussed the $2.2 million National Emergency Grant/creek cleanup grant that has been ongoing for several months.
“It’s helped the community, and I think if you look at the 2.2 million dollars of that program, I think you can attribute a part of the $210,000 increase in sales to tax to that money coming into Gallia County,” he said.
Current commissioner Lois Snyder, who is running against former commissioner David K. Smith for the January 3 term of commissioner, also spoke of the National Emergency Grant, as well as her willingness to continue to be an approachable face in the commissioner’s office.
“When I took office, I made the promise that I would be approachable and accessible to everybody, and I would work hard for Gallia County. I want to ask for your vote and support in November to give me the opportunity to continue those efforts. My commitment to the people of Gallia County whenever I went into office was that I would be present in the office and that I would have an open door policy. I believe I have done that. I welcome people to come into the office and sit down and talk to me about everyday problems,” Snyder said. “I would like to continue working for the people of Gallia County. I have enjoyed it, and I will continue for the next four years, if elected, to stay in the office and talk to people and try to get them some answers.”
David K. Smith, who served as commissioner from 2005-2009, spoke of his time in office and the commitment he would have to the job if re-elected.
“When I was a commissioner I worked hard to make sure that our budget was under control. I made sure that we had enough money at the end of the year as a carry over to fund those functions at the beginning of the next year. And, indeed, when I left office we had $1.2 million in our general fund carryover at the end of my term. I thought that was very important. Unfortunately, I think, over the last few years, that hasn’t been continued. To be exact, last year, that carryover was less than $100,000,” Smith said. “Unfortunately, the sheriff’s department suffered some massive cutbacks along with several others. It doesn’t bother me so much that we went through some times there that were difficult. What does bother me though is that the planning process there didn’t really occur until the end of the year.”
State Representative Ryan Smith is also facing opposition this fall.
Smith, who was appointed to serve out the remainder of John Carey’s term in the 87th district this April, is running to fill the seat of the newly shaped 93rd district that covers all of Gallia County, all of Jackson County, half of Vinton County and most of Lawrence County with the exception of Ironton and Coalgrove.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed representing the district, and it’s an honor to represent everybody here in Columbus. It’s been a whirlwind tour for me. There’s a lot to learn,” Smith commented and discussed his efforts to secure a recent $500,000 to launch a pilot program with Holzer Health System and local company CrossChx that will help to combat medical fraud and, hopefully, prescription drug abuse.
“At the end of the day … this will save lives, it will save families, it will save a tremendous amount in health care fraud,” Smith said.
“I know it’s a tough time right now, but we’ve got good things happening. I know we’re not where we need to be, but we are headed in the right direction. I’m proud to be a part of it. I would hope I’d get your support in the fall, and we can continue that for the next couple of years,” Smith said.
Candidate Josh Bailey whose focus will be, if elected, the expansion of higher education and the development of infrastructure, said he would put “Main Street” ahead of “Wall Street” as a state representative.
“What would I like to do is work on building back some infrastructure — building new roadways, helping cities start putting money toward waste water plants, start putting money toward energy grids — and I also want to start working more toward education. I want to work on creating more tech jobs and working with tech colleges and community colleges like Rio Grande,” Bailey said.
“My entire goal here, and what I would like to do if I am elected, is to put Main Street ahead of Wall Street. It seems like lately we’ve seen more and more jobs being shipped overseas, and Wall Street seems to be more of the emphasis and nobody cares about what is going on on Main Street,” he said.
Also to speak briefly during the “meet the candidates night” were County Engineer Brett Boothe, County Prosecutor Jeff Adkins, County Recorder Roger Walker and Sheriff Joe Browning — all candidates who are running unopposed during this election cycle.
Also present was Republican candidate for judge of the fourth district court of appeals, Leonard Holzapfel of Jackson County. His opponent Democrat Marie Hoover of Scioto County was not present during the event.
For a full list of candidates, visit the Gallia County Board of Elections website under the “Gallia County” tab at gallianet.net and click on “candidates.”