Commissioners find White House trip ‘very humbling, powerful’

Published 11:45 am Sunday, September 3, 2017

The Lawrence County Commissioners opened their weekly meeting with presentation of their day at the White House.

On Tuesday,, Commissioners DeAnna Holliday and Freddy Hayes, along with deputy auditor Chris Kline, went to the White House as part of a group of Ohio county commissioners to meet with administration officials. It was part of the White House’s outreach to leaders on the local level.

“It was a first-class trip,” Hayes said. “It was probably the best thing I’ve ever done in my life.”

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He said there are a lot of opportunities out there that they could be getting and he said they plan to stay in contact with the Administration officials to get some money into the county.

He said some of the subjects they talked about were the drug problem, Community Development Block Grants that fund many local government programs, and the Medicaid situation.

“I’ll be honest with you, we got some issues, they got a lot of issues up there,” Hayes said. “They can’t even get people appointed. It’s a lot bigger fight up there. But I was really honored to go and represent Lawrence County.”

He said they spent about nine hours meeting with officials.

“I really enjoyed it,” he said. “It was a great thing.”

Holliday said the first thing they did was tour the White House.

“It was very humbling. The moment you walk in, you know you are in a special place,” she said.

For the next hour, Holliday narrated a slide show of the people they met, from other county commissioners to Administration staff.

“Not only we’re we able to interact with federal people, department heads and secretaries, also with one another,” she said.

One of the people they met with was Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. They were impressed since he actually came from a farming background.

“He talked about trade and how important that is,” Holliday said, since so many of the crops grown in the U.S. are exported to other countries. He also spoke about the need for more access to broadband in rural areas, since so much business is done over the Internet these days and they don’t want farmers left behind.

Among the biggest names they met with were special advisor to the president, Kellyanne Conway and Vice President Mike Pence.

Conway addressed the drug epidemic.

“Kellyanne’s conversation was very reassuring,” Holliday said. “One of the things that I felt really good about is that Lawrence County recognizes the opioid crisis and what it is doing to our county and what we need to do to be fighting it.”

She said that Conway is saying the same thing that everyone in the courthouse is saying, from education to recovery.

“She is tune with what is happening, not only in our area but in the entire nation,” Holliday said, adding that $1.75 million has been set aside in Ohio to deal with the crisis.

The commissioners knew something was up before Pence entered the stage because they were a lot of men in suits who appeared. It was Secret Service agents.

“When he walked into the room, the word out of my mouth was ‘Wow,’ Holliday said. “He was very encouraging, very personable with his words.”

Pence talked about how it was important for them to have a relationship with local leaders since, with county commissioners, “it is where the rubber meets the road.”

They had hoped to meet President Donald J. Trump but he and some other administration officials were touring Texas and the devastation from Hurricane Harvey.

“I think the overall theme of the day was unity and how powerful and strong we are together,” Holliday said.

Commissioner Bill Pratt had to stay behind to take care of county business. He said he was keeping the Facebook page updated and couldn’t keep his phone charged with all the information the others were sending him.

In items on the agenda, the commissioners:

• Renewed several floodplain permits.

• Approved transfer of funds.

• Approved a contract agreement for the Lawrence County Juvenile Center and John E. Haskins for wastewater treatment monitoring, reporting, operation and maintenance. It had already been gotten the approval of the prosecutor’s office.

• Approved the hiring of Megan Hammond, Jonathan Roberts and Caleb Dempsey as part-time EMTs.

• Approved the hiring of Patrick Stapleton as part-time EMT, contingent upon his receipt of Ohio Certification.

• Approved the elevation of Chris Epperson from full-time EMT to full-time paramedic and Micah Ellison to part-time EMT to full-time EMT.

• Appointed to several people to the Lawrence County Emergency Planning Commission.

• Proclaimed Sept. 3, 2017 as Hastie Sullivan-Thacker Day, on the occasion of the life-long Lawrence County resident’s 98th birthday.

• Approved the creation of C99-Medicaid Local Sales Tax Transition Fund, in the event that such funds are distributed, there is a bank account set up to receive it.

• Approved a request to remove Bill Dingus from the Tobacco Board. The board had six members when it is supposed to be five people. Dingus volunteered to step down.

In audience participation, Steve Dodgion, the superintendent of the Collins Career and Technical Center asked for a resolution of the commissioners’ support for the renewal of a half-mill levy that supports the school.

He said the levy has been in place since 1994 and is only used for either brick and mortar or equipment.

He said since the school started getting funds from the levy, it has been used to expand the building on the main campus to create more space to educate more students and to expand into a building in Coal Grove that is now their nursing education school.

The commissioners approved the request for a resolution.

The full meeting is available as a video on the commissioners Facebook page.

The next commissioners’ meeting is Thursday at 11 a.m. in the commissioners’ chamber on the third floor of the courthouse.