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County officials laud Smith appointment

COLUMBUS — Will a friendly, familiar face heading up one of the most influential committees at the statehouse help Lawrence County for the next two years?

That’s the consensus of local economic development leaders and county officeholders over the appointment of Rep. Ryan Smith, R-93, to lead the House Finance and Appropriations Committee.

“It is a way to have good representation in Columbus for southern Ohio,” Ralph Kline of the Ironton-Lawrence County Community Action Organization, said. “In that position he can look out for the interests in southern Ohio. Hopefully, it will be beneficial for us.”

Smith, appointed to the House on April 18, 2012, following the resignation of John Carey, was named on Tuesday to head that committee, an instrumental player in developing the biennium budget. The Gallia native represents his home county, Jackson, and parts of Lawrence and Vinton.

“I think it helps give Lawrence County a voice and really southern Ohio, Lawrence County, Gallia and Vinton, when it comes to shaping the budget,” Lawrence County Auditor Jason Stephens said. “Ryan has worked really hard in Columbus to be named chairman of the finance committee. It says a lot about his work and how well he had done in the statehouse.”

Smith’s predecessor also chaired that committee.

“It is important that we have someone we know and can talk to about the needs locally, “ Lawrence County Commissioner Bill Pratt said. “Ryan has been accessible to help us with funding with projects that we have.”

Among those projects was money for the Ro-Na restoration project, a walking track at the Ohio University Southern Proctorville Center and a research and development project at The Point industrial park.

“Even road projects are important projects,” Pratt said. “The Chesapeake Bypass might be in line for some consideration through the finance committee. Even our issue with the jail situation, we may have the opportunity to ask for funds to operate that facility.”

Lawrence County Engineer Doug Cade agrees that Smith has the opportunity to offer input on the Chesapeake Bypass through the state’s transportation budget.

“That is a very important job in the House because they are going to make sure funding is put on the right projects and in the right places,” Cade said. “He can help push things through as far as finance.”