GALLIA COUNTY — As of 10:06 p.m. Tuesday, numbers were trickling in to show a pieced together image of the future leadership of Gallia County, and regional, state and national races. Unfortunately, a computer error in Gallia County halted new reports and finalization of numbers, with approximately 1,000 absentee votes having to be entered manually from 18 precincts. The Gallia County Board of Elections said that final numbers accurately reflect the earlier projections, however, and although the results are unofficial, it appears that Republican candidates will enjoy a general sweep of Gallia County.
In the Gallia County Commissioners’ race between Joe Foster (D) and Brent Saunders (R), Saunders appears to have netted a slim win over Foster.
“I’m looking forward to spending time learning more about the county budget. I’m looking forward to learning more about the different departments and their budgets,” Saunders said shortly after the prelimary results were posted. “I’ve got a lot to learn in a short time, but I am retired, and I look forward to the challenge of helping to lead Gallia County.”
Saunders, who worked for a total of 29 years with the Gallipolis City School System, served as the Gallia Academy Middle School principal from 1983 to 2011. He stated that he was initially encouraged by his family, including his father, who served as a county commissioner from 1993 to 2001, to put in his name for the race to become commissioner.
“I’m going to put my heart into it and do the best I can,” he said.
Among the concerns Saunders mentioned during his remarks was the current condition of the county budget and the challenge that will represent to the commission in the coming years.
“I’ll be working with two of the best. Harold Montgomery and David Smith probably know the county budget as good as anybody in the county. [They are] both outstanding when it comes to budgetary things,” he said.
Saunders also commented on the work of his opponent and current County Commission Vice-president Joe Foster.
“Joe Foster has been an outstanding community man and an outstanding commissioner,” Saunders stated. “He’s worked hard, and he ran a very strong campaign.”
In the County Commission race between Lois Snyder (D) and David Smith (R), Smith emerged as the apparent winner.
Smith spoke to the Gallipolis Daily Tribune about the role budgetary issues played in his pending reelection.
“It’s really what my whole campaign has been about,” said Smith. “It’s about the budget. It’s about managing the budget. It’s about funding our departments and controlling spending.”
Smith spoke briefly about controversial cuts to the Gallia County Sheriff’s Office in the last budget cycle.
“There is a crime issue in this county and across the country,” said Smith. “If you talk to citizens, especially older people, they feel so vulnerable out in the county. That’s an issue. To me, police protection is one of the most basic functions the government performs.”
A hotly contested race for the Gallia County Treasurer’s Office ended with Incumbent Steve McGhee (R) retaining his position, with Pam Riley (D) and Gary Jarvis (I) trailing.
McGhee said he could finally take a deep breath after a very difficult race, both professionally and personally.
“I’m feeling relaxed. It’s been a very tough primary coming through November and a very tough general election. Our family has been drug through the mud, and the personal issues brought out have nothing to do with how we run and operate our office,” said McGhee, who has served as the Gallia County Treasurer since 1999. “Those who said those things really didn’t have the facts. I will be bringing those facts out in the next 6-7 months. I think what the community has seen is that I’ve been very honest. I did not get dirty in any of my campaigns. I did not talk negatively about any of my opponents at any point in time, and I continued to focus on what we do in our office.”
McGhee said that all the county offices recently underwent an extensive auditing cycle and that the Treasurer’s Office audit came back in a largely positive light.
“[The state auditor’s office] did brag on us and how we operate,” said McGhee.
In the Gallia County Clerk of Courts race, Incumbent Noreen Saunders (R) triumphed over challenger Belinda Burnett (D).
“I’m thrilled, of course, and, probably, a little surprised, too,” Saunders said immediately after the unofficial results were posted. “It’s been a rough year for me, and I’m just so thankful, thankful to God, thankful to my family, thankful to have another four years, because I have some specific things that I want to do.”
Saunders, who was first elected as the Clerk of Courts in 1996, stated that she is looking forward to continuing her work as an elected official and will be preparing her staff for the implementation of “Safe ID” driver licenses — a new type of identification that individuals will be required to have to board airplanes or to enter federal buildings, according to Saunders. The license bureau will be required to process applications for these identification cards locally, a process that will begin in mid-January.
“I’ve been really worried about that because we need to be ready to go, and I didn’t know how in the world we were going to be ready to go if we had to switch our leadership,” she said.
Saunders, who was first elected to her position in November 1996, could not say whether she would run again in 2016, but stated that she had several things she wished to accomplish while still in office, accomplishments that could, possibly, take more than four years.
“I have so much archiving work to do,” Saunders said. “I need to get records archives digitized, up-to-date and where I want it to be before I leave. I don’t want to leave this job with loose ends.”
Several races went unopposed in the Gallia County General Election including Prosecuting Attorney Jeff Adkins (D), Sheriff Joe Browning (D), Recorder Roger Walker (R), Engineer Brett Boothe (R) and Coroner Dan Whiteley (R).