Malone, Berry seek nomination for county commission
When Lawrence County Democrats go to the polls Tuesday, they will decide whether to keep incumbent Lawrence County Commissioner Doug Malone as their party’s pick for the general election in November or choose newcomer Justin Berry.
Malone, 57, of Perry Township, is seeking his third term on the commission.
Malone said he wants another four years to complete a few projects that are in the works and will hopefully come to fruition, such as the medical center at State Route 141 and U.S. 52 in Ironton, the intermodal facility at The Point industrial park and the proposed RiverWalk in Rome Township.
Malone said he is proud of the implementation of the Lawrence-Scioto Solid Waste Management District four years ago and that entity’s success in helping clean up the county.
He is also pleased with economic progress made during his tenure — Engines, Inc., located at The Point industrial park since he took office and McGinnis, Inc., began construction of a $30 million expansion in Sheridan. Both have brought or are bringing jobs and tax dollars.
Malone said he is also proud of having worked with the unions and management to keep as much state funding as possible for the county’s job and family service office.
Last year in the wake of state funding cut, more than 20 JFS workers were initially notified they would lose their jobs.
But the two unions and the county worked out an agreement in which workers took unpaid furlough, or cost savings days, agreed to forego pay raises and other benefits and in the end only a dozen people lost their jobs. Some of them have since been called back to work.
“Thirty-one percent of the population goes through human services,” Malone pointed out. “If you don’t have jobs at human services, services are often delayed quite a bit.”
Malone said jobs are one of his key concerns, as is the county budget. He pointed out the county has lost $2.5 million in revenue over the last couple of years, making the budget process a challenge.
“We have a tough time ahead, financially,” Malone said.
He wants to continue the work to combine the county’s emergency dispatch service, one area where he said money can be saved.
Another key concern is water service. Malone said he wants to continue working with water companies to provide service to unserved areas of the county—to people who now rely on wells, cisterns and water hauled in periodically.
“A lot of people are still without water,” Malone said. “A lot of times in the summer the water goes dry and sometimes it’s not the best water.”
Malone said he seeks a third term because he enjoys working with people.
“I work hard, I’m always there. I’ll talk to anyone and I’m always available,” Malone said. “And I’ve got the experience in takes.
Malone and his wife, Bonnie, have been married 39 years. They have two children and five grandchildren. He is retired from Western Southern Life Insurance and now is a part-time independent insurance agent. He was previously a Perry Township trustee and township clerk.
Fellow Democrat Justin Berry is a newcomer to politics — he has never run for any office before — but is no stranger to community service. He is an evangelist and a schoolteacher (history and government at Milton Middle School) and he is an enthusiastic champion of Lawrence County.
“I am a firm believer that Lawrence County’s glass is half full. I know some people see the glass as half-empty but I think it’s half full,” Berry said. “You know, with our economy and tax rate, we’re still a lot better off than some places.”
Berry, 28, of Scottown, said one of his biggest concerns is the financial health of the county and he promises to make sure the county’s tax dollars are spent wisely.
For example, he was not happy with the recent purchase of a $20,000 DVD system that, among other things, allows the commission to videotape its meetings. He said considering the county’s tight financial constraints, such a purchase was something the county could have done without.
“For us to spend $20,000 for this, even if we’re getting a good deal, it just doesn’t make sense to me,” Berry said.
Another concern is jobs. He would like to work on the creation of a Superblock-style commercial venture such as what Huntington, W.Va., has in its Pullman Square. Such a commercial venture would bring badly needed jobs and tax dollars. He sees three places where such a venture could be located: The old Ironton Iron site in Ironton, the old Carlyle Tile in Coal Grove and on unused land near The Point.
“No offense to anyone. I know some people like grants and grants are good, we need them, but if we get jobs and businesses, that’s money coming in year after year. Grants dry up after awhile,” Berry said.
Berry said he wants to give the government back to the people and is willing to go out and talk to citizens and business operators about how the county government can work better for them on a regular basis. He is particularly concerned that people on eastern end of the county are represented fairly and equally.
Berry said he sees the commission job as a liaison between the county government and the people it represents.
Berry also wants to work more closely with other elected officials, both county and township officials, to make government more effective.
“I don’t want to micromanage, but I want to help and work together,” he said.
Berry said he is running because he genuinely cares about people and about the county.
“I think sometimes people think about politicians and they think, ‘well, there’s someone who is powerful or influential.’ I want to be a humble servant.”
Berry said if he is elected he will quit his job as a school teacher and devote his attention to being a commissioner.
Berry said no matter what happens on Tuesday, he is convinced that by running for office, he has done what God wanted him to do and no matter what happens, he still has respect for his opponent. And he encourages people to get out and vote Tuesday, regardless of whether they support him, Malone or Paul Herrell in November.
Berry and his wife, Ashley, have been married six years and have two children.