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Who will win it?

Ten Lawrence Countians have put their hat in the ring for the Lawrence County Commission race

Ten Lawrence Countians have put their hat in the ring for the Lawrence County Commission race

2 spots on county commission bringing out the candidates with varying backgrounds

Ten Lawrence Countians have put their hat in the ring for the Lawrence County Commission race in one of the most hotly contested primary in recent election history.

Two seats are up; one held by Republican Bill Pratt and the other by Republican Les Boggs.

On March 15 Pratt will face former Ohio University Southern professor Dave Lucas in the GOP primary. On the Democratic side will be Ironton businessmen Tim Edwards and Jon Ferguson, former commissioner Doug Malone and South Point businessman Jason Tolliver.

In the other Republican primary, Boggs will face former Ironton Mayor Rich Blankenship and assistant director of job and family services Christopher Collins. Coal Grove businesswoman DeAnna Holliday is running unopposed in that Democratic race.

Over the past two weeks The Tribune sat down with each candidate for a one-on-one interview asking each one the same five questions. Each interview was also videotaped.

Here are abbreviated transcripts of those interviews with the entire videos on line.

Because of space issues the last question asked the candidates in the interview has been left off. It can be heard on the video.

RICH BLANKENSHIP

What has made you want to run this time?

After being mayor for 8 years of the city of Ironton, I am not satisfied about the direction the county is going in. With my experience as mayor dealing with the different state agencies and federal agencies, I can bring a lot to the table and assist Lawrence County in moving forward.

 

What in your background, education or particular characteristic makes you qualified?

My 10 years in the political arena has a tremendous impact. I was elected to Ironton City Council in 2005 and decided to run for the mayor’s position in 2007. I was elected two times as mayor. Now I am back on the city council. The work that I did, not just having the title, but the actual work I did to improve our city and to make positive accomplishments throughout that tenure and continuing now as a member of the council. The actual work that I did to improve our city to make a positive accomplishment and continuing now. I didn’t just take the title I actually worked, boots on the ground and knocked on doors to the folks we needed to talk to.

 

If elected, what are the top two or three things you want to accomplish?

No. 1 thing for our commission is to unify. Without unity we can’t move forward. Right now, I don’t see that happening. You unify the whole community, the whole county that brings progress.

I think I have the experience to do that

Second thing, this issue with the jail has to be resolved. Everyone in the county is tired of hearing about this issue. My plan is to meet with the sheriff, the budget commission, the auditor and the other commissioners. If it takes daily meetings that is what we will do.

 

Do you think you can work with your fellow commissioners?

Yes. I have been faced with adversity and am able to overcome. That is working with discussions, negotiation and compromise. I can lead this county to a different level.

 

 

LES BOGGS

What has made you want to run this time?

I want to continue with the many projects we have been able to accomplish. We have some special challenges coming up in the next few years that need our attention. I want to build a jail in our county without raising taxes.

The greatest asset we have is Port down to the Point. It is the only thing between Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, and I think there is greatest opportunity for jobs. I think upward of 800 to 900 jobs could be created. I want to work with the LEDC and the port authority.

 

What in your background, education or particular characteristic make you qualified?

I do have a master’s degree. One of the things coming from the private sector that I have been able to bring over to the public sector. I have owned several businesses. The last one we had 115 employees. That is a challenge within itself. When you own your own business, you watch everything. I take that same financial philosophy over to the public sector.

 

If elected, what are the top two or three things you want to accomplish?

The jail situation has to be addressed. I think we will come up with a plan in the next few weeks and, also, that port. The commissioners can do a lot of things, as far as making job creation. We can offer tax abatement up to 50 percent if they are in certain enterprise zones. We can work with the port authority and Lawrence Economic Development Corp. We can also bring grants through Community Block Grants. We want to make an environment in Lawrence County that’s friendly to businesses.

 

Do you think you can work with your fellow commissioners?

I never start a fight, but usually don’t back down. I prefer the team approach and communication. I don’t have to agree with everybody. Opposite viewpoints are often times constructive. Compromise is not always a bad thing and there is more than one way to get things done.

 

 

CHRISTOPHER COLLINS

What has made you want to run this time?

When we look around, not just at our county, but the nation, and see the struggle that folks are faced with. On the national level, we have a $20 trillion dollar deficit becoming ever more seemingly insurmountable, on down to the state level. Things in Ohio are headed back in the right direction. Looking at things locally, having that perspective working in state government. I think having a perspective of working on the state level with numerous local and county governments and how they evolved and changed. Those are changes we could use here in Lawrence County to make our government more efficient and more effective.

 

What in your background, education or particular characteristic make you qualified?

Having blessed and unique perspective of working in state government and being enlightened to the opportunities to help people and the inner workings of government on the state level, in terms of working closely with the budget process, how things are appropriated and just a broad range of issues I think by necessary giving all duties and responsibilities a county commissioner has I think it’s very important for them to have broad vision and a broad perspective on numerous issues. Having a solid education through business school at Ohio State. Working for Ohio key top public servants who puts interests of those whom they serve above their own.

Having a business degree. I think, it is very important for a county commissioner to have good business acumen, in terms of recruiting jobs. Serving as assistant director of Lawrence County’s Department of Job and Family Services has really allowed me to witness firsthand the struggle folks are going through and the need for better jobs and specialized treatment facility centers.

 

If elected, what are the top two or three things you want to accomplish?

The drug epidemic I think it is a multi- pronged approach. I have a list of things I would like to accomplish. The top three intertwine. That is fighting the drug epidemic and jobs. I have seen firsthand the need for jobs. I have witnessed how it is easy for folks even with a good education to become discouraged. Folks who never dreamed they’d find themselves in the challenging positions that they are. As time goes on, they can’t find a job. A lack of incentive through lack of opportunity. The biggest solution to the drug epidemic is to bring more jobs to Lawrence County but not just any jobs, but jobs where folks have an opportunity to prosper. If there are jobs and a specialized treatment facility, folks who are rehabbed, they throw themselves and exert themselves into a good opportunity. Of course, there is the dreaded jail issue. We have to make sure we have the funding we need for law enforcement. If we bring jobs here there is more sales and more tax revenue to invest into our infrastructures. The United States has the world’s largest incarcerated population. Ohio was in the top 10 in terms of prison population. So there were changes at the state level to reduce jail population. What they did was Felony 4 or 5 offenders are no longer held in state prisoners. They are held here locally. It is an unfunded mandate. Locally, they are letting them out the back to let them in the front. One avenue to pursue is possible legislation from the state. Policy changes have presented a great hardship. We have to make sure that we have adequate and stable funding for our most fundamental services.

 

Do you think you can work with your fellow commissioners?

Absolutely. I pride myself on being a team player. I like to live by the old adage team accomplishes more. I would strive to work well with all local officials and business leaders and strive to end some of the divisiveness. We have to have a degree of civility to where we can be able to agree to disagree.

 

 

TIM EDWARDS

What has made you want to run this time?

I tried back in 2012. I took a shot at it. I did pretty good. I still see the same things in the county that I saw then. I ought to try one more time to see if I can make a difference.

 

What in your background, education or particular characteristic makes you qualified?

There is no school to go to (to learn to be a commissioner). I looked up the definition. The county commission maintains the budget and distributes funds. Those are the biggest concerns. I believe that is what they ought to focus on. I own a small business. I’ve done it every day of my life for the last four years budget and spend money to keep my family fed. I am doing it on a daily basis. That gives a good indication of what it takes to keep the county going.

 

If elected, what are the top two or three things you want to accomplish?

I still believe in “We the people,” not “We the commissioner.” I can come out with a plan. I found a plan is always contingent on other things. I think it is time to start looking at the county. The county has got some issues. We all want to talk jobs, industry, a lot of things. I believe we need to listen to the people in this county, not try to bully our ways through. We have other elected officials that need to be allowed to do their jobs. We need to let them do their jobs, what they think best. We have to make it attractive for business. We need to stay out of the way and let other people come in and do some things. We have to be there to support them and help them through the red tape.

 

Do you think you can work with your fellow commissioners?

Absolutely. I have always been pretty easy to get along with. That is something that is an issue in the county. I don’t believe in bullying tactics. Communication is No. 1. Give and take is always a part of life. I don’t believe I have any issue working with anyone else. As long as they have the same focus, which is the county, not personal gain. We always put people and county first, I’ll have no issues with anyone.

 

 

JON FERGUSON

What has made you want to run this time?

There are several factors. The most important factor for me was my wife and I are raising five children. I want our children to feel Lawrence County can be their home for years to come. It has gotten to the place where our kids are moving away to get an education, moving away to find work and employment. That is one of the biggest factors is wanting my kids to feel that they can make Lawrence County their home.

 

What in your background, education or particular characteristic make you qualified?

I feel I have a pretty good record of leadership. My leadership roles started from the time in I was in high school, being a leader in academics, athletics, extracurricular groups like Students Against Drunk Driving and the Key Club, the student council. I moved into the military and the Navy and continued that leadership role there. That transitioned back when I came back into the civilian world. My leadership styles are what have contributed to my ability to be able to be a viable candidates.

 

If elected, what are the top two or three things you want to accomplish?

First, we need to focus whole lot of time and energy bringing good sustainable jobs in our county. We have seen growth in businesses, but haven’t not necessarily job creation.

I think we need to start working with entrepreneurs and investors who want to grow Lawrence County by growing new sustainable businesses. Businesses that can offer good paying wages. The benefit is three fold. We all know any dollars spent in local businesses are going to be recirculated in our county. I’d like to see us become a whole lot more self-sustaining. Another issue is the drug epidemic. The amount of prescription medicine and heroin addicts is at a fever pitch. I think we need to develop some serious programs to look at rehabilitating these people. There are programs in places. I think there are possibly underutilized. Some of the work I did in the military was dealing with addicts, addicted military personnel. To me, that is large drain on the county dealing with that stuff

The third thing, I see a lot of issues that have sat and have been issues for a long time. The one that every one is talking about is the county jail. There has been enough talk and ideas. It is time for action. We have got to stop pushing this down the road. It is time to sit down with sheriff and developers to get an actual plan together to get a jail built. A jail could be even a revenue source for the county. As I told everyone I have talked to I am not worried about four years from now. My concern is getting things done and getting some issues taken care of. We are not a wealthy county. The money we do bring in needs to be utilized. We have the funds to take care of some things that need to be taken cared of.

 

Do you think you can work with your fellow commissioners?

I do. I actually have what I would consider a fairly good relationship with the current commissioners and those running for commissioner. Everybody has the right ideas in mind. I think nepotism plays a key factor. I think a fresh start with somebody new. I think most people in the county feel the same way. A fresh start, a new view. My leadership style philosophy is leading from the center. I want to be surrounded by the people who want to help get these things done. There are plenty of smart, educated, hard-working people who want to get things done. The commission needs to be more accessible. The commissioners’ meetings should actually be held when people can come to. I would like to see commissioners have meetings in the evening.

 

 

DEANNA HOLLIDAY

What has made you want to run this time?

It is not a decision I came to abruptly. I had been preparing for this run for several years. The biggest driving force is the struggle that I see with the citizens of our county. I think my experience in business and skills I have can make a difference. I believe it is time for new habits and new leadership. The habits I would bring would be honesty, accountability, trust and service.

 

What in your background, education or particular characteristic make you qualified?

The most important qualification is I have run my own successful business for 20 years. Getting to that has been a journey. I have come from humble beginnings. From a very young age I have understood what hard work equals. My father was a Teamster. I witnessed both he and my mother work hard for everything we had.

Another thing when you represent people is your ability to relate to people. I have the ability to relate to people on all walks of life. I have the ability to relate on so many different levels. Through hard work I have been able to prosper my own business. Also I have served as a member of the Dawson-Bryant Board of Education. Through that I have been able to touch my children’s lives. My husband and I have always focused our efforts on helping people.

 

If elected, what are the top two or three things you want to accomplish?

The most important thing is to protect the public safety of our citizens. I know there are areas where we can improve. What is happening to law enforcement, first responders. Definitely there are improvements that can happen there. The financial health of our county is extremely important. That is something I will work diligently on. Balancing our budget and making sure our appropriations are being spent in the right ways. We have an epidemic with drug abuse. I think we can implement programs and resources that can help rehabilitate these people. I want to develop a strong workforce for our area. We need jobs and growth to entice big companies to company to our area we need to be able to offer them a strong work force

 

Do you think you can work with your fellow commissioners?

I can work with anyone. I’ve lived my life listening and communicating. I will keep an open line of communication with fellow commissioners. I have always agreed to disagree.

 

 

DAVE LUCAS

What has made you want to run this time?

There are a lot of consideration for wanting to. First, because of my deep concern for the county, the youth of county, the citizens of the county. The teaching I have done, I have grew very concerned about plight of young people who go off and never return. The growth of the county, jobs, businesses, all of that seemed to compel me.

 

What in your background, education or particular characteristic make you qualified?

I have been very fortunate to have a really good education. I got a bachelor’s degree and second bachelor’s degree in theology. I am an ordained minister. I got my first master’s degree in communication studies. The idea that people respond to a persuasive call. My job is not to make you feel bad about yourself but to hold out a vision and say here is where we can go. That has been my mission. I have a second master’s degree in international relations and a PHD. This education doesn’t make me better. It just means I showed up., complete the work. That is my goal to do this as a commissioner, to show up, be a full-time commissioner, to complete the work. We can’t keep kicking things down the road.

 

If elected, what are the top two or three things you want to accomplish?

First of all, I really believe for us to really bring the county back to vibrancy we have to have three-pronged approach. There is no one bullet that fixes it all. No silver bullet. What we have to do is we are going to bring businesses/ jobs we have to all work together at this to create a climate that brings businesses and jobs to the county. We have to get folks off drugs. So we have a three-pronged approach: education, recovery and bring business back and clean up county. There is no huge expense. We just all have to sit down at the table and say let’s start solving these problems. I will put this puzzle back together and make us one county for the prosperousness, happiness and joy and kind of strength that all of want to see us have in the county.

Second thing is a program that has been invested in redirect where we can have long-term therapy for all of these people caught up in the drugs. These are not the dealers. These folks who are caught up in drug issue, they can be very valuable citizens if given a chance to change. Redirect them back into a better lifestyle.

Third thing is give our young people an opportunity to have expression in the county. The Lawrence County Leadership League where young people all over the county will have opportunity to make expression through three particular prongs. Every program will have a purpose. Every program will have a project. Every program will make some sort of presentation where these young people can learn from. We will work with the school giving opportunities for leadership.

 

Do you think you can work with your fellow commissioners?

Most definitely. I am a person who believes in communication, cooperation and collaboration. You don’t solve problems by walking away. You don’t solve problems by quitting or trying to make someone angry or ambushing them. The secret for success is for us to communicate with the officeholders, with the people in the different departments and community. With Dave Lucas, when you vote for him, you vote for communication.

 

 

DOUG MALONE

What has made you want to run this time?

I’m running on my record as eight years as a county commissioner and the plans I have for the future for our county. One of the things I’d like to do is add on to St. Mary’s. We worked seven and a half years to get that facility in. I am glad we could do that. See if we couldn’t get something done for the jail and give a little stability back to the commission.

 

What is in your background, education or particular characteristic made you qualified?

I grew up in a union home. I went to work every day right after school. I know what it is like to lose your job. At the Dayton Malleable, I lost it. The coke plant shut down. I served four years as Perry Township clerk, 11 years as a trustee and eight years as commissioner, so I have 22 years experience.

 

If elected, what are the top two or three things you want to accomplish?

Your main thing would be the jail finally built. You will have to have money. Had I been in office when they got the casino money, I would have earmarked part of that for the jail. It ought to stay pretty close to the courthouse. You have to build a jail for expansion the same way we built the sewer plant in eastern Rome. Hopefully, they will get some grants.

 

Do you think you can work with your fellow commissioners?

I can work with anyone. I have always worked good with the majority. Where I wasn’t in the majority we worked good.

 

 

BILL PRATT

What has made you want to run this time?

This time, I feel like we have done a good job. Over the last five years since I’ve been commissioner, we have made some strong improvements to the county. We have improved our carryover over a million dollars in five years. That is like having money in bank and money we need to use. It is fortunate to have that position. We need to grow to a larger amount.

Our EMS is voted best in the state. That’s a strong accomplishment. I feel like I have the experience to maintain what we have accomplished so far.

 

What in your background, education or particular characteristic makes you qualified?

If you leave Lawrence County, graduate from Chesapeake High School to Ohio State, where there are 52,000 students, the trait you bring home is perseverance. For a farm boy boy like me, it was a big leap. That is an accomplishment I will hold dear. As a business owner and dairy farmer, there are lot of traits that help to qualify you as a leader. One of those is humility. Not many things that can teach you humility like having to euthanize an animal that you have spent a decade with. Or nothing brings you closer to the Lord than having to pray for your crops that need rain. Not many things show work ethic like having to be there seven days week, or on a cold Christmas morning. Those things I think count and that has prepared me to be a leader.

 

If elected, what are the top two or three things you want to accomplish?

The most important thing is to grow that carryover. That is like our checkbook. We are improving. Basically, Lawrence County lives paycheck to paycheck. We are not at the point where we can make a huge move. As we grow that carryover, we can begin to make these big decisions where we can build a jail. We’re not quite there yet, but there are some proposals that can make it easier to accomplish and make that happen locally in the city of Ironton. The second thing would be to educate our youth so they realize they can stay home. I think I have shown that is possible by coming back to a family place, running a family business successfully.

Supporting our youth, supporting our seniors. The proudest thing we have done for $3,000 we have resurrected our senior center in Chesapeake.

 

Do you think you can work with your fellow commissioners?

Absolutely. I can work with anyone. Even in the minority, I have been able to accomplish things that otherwise could have been a challenge for some people. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t fight for what you believe in. I tend to be an independent person. When I think I’m right I do fight for what I believe in.

 

 

JASON TOLLIVER

What has made you want to run this time?

I have sat on the sidelines watching the county get worse and worse. I decided to get off sidelines and try to make a change.

 

What in your background, education or particular characteristic make you qualified?

I have a degree in business management from Ohio University and run a large industrial construction company where I have daily duty to over seeing any where from 100 to 600 employees. I have been there going on 26 years. Through the process I have worked in the field worked my up through the company. I have learned to set a budget, do financial planning — everything that the business entails. I think that is what Lawrence County needs.

 

If elected, what are the top two or three things you want to accomplish?

No. 1 task is to fix the drug problem. To do that, we also have to fix the jail. There is a viable solution to that problem which would not cost Lawrence County any more money. It could be funded by the state and potentially make money. No 2 is business development and growth. Given my background I have built relationships with numerous industrial facilities I have the ability to go see those CEOs at their main offices…. Talk to them and discuss with them what their plans are for the future and if any plans for them to expand or build a new facility I can lobby to have that done in Lawrence County.

 

Do you think you can work with your fellow commissioners?

Absolutely.