Republican officeholders huddle in Belpre

BELPRE – Local Republican elected officials talked to citizens about issues facing the area at a gathering in Belpre Tuesday evening.

More than 25 people attended the Belpre Precincts Conservatives Huddle at the Belpre Volunteer Fire Department’s Training Center on Washington Boulevard.

City officials from Belpre as well as the Washington County commissioners spoke about taxes, local projects, how local government operates, how people should view their political candidates, and a history of the governance in this area.

The gathering was to allow voters the opportunity to hear from their elected officials and offer input on a variety of topics, organizers said.

“We are simply searching for ideas and mutual support of important principles,” said Leslie Pittenger, Belpre city auditor.

Belpre City Councilwoman Susan Abdella, who will be running for her fifth term in the next election, said being fiscally sound is important to the city.

“Being fiscally sound is the greatest struggle we have,” she said.

The needs of the people have to be met in the city such as maintaining roads all over town and not just for one industry that may come to town, she said.

“We change and grow a lot,” Abdella said. “We have a lot of growing and changing to do while still maintaining our integrity and our small community feel that draws people to our community.”

Abdella was asked about the benefits that will come from the Memorial Health System project being built on Farson Street, the third phase of the expansion of the medical campus. This will include a free-standing, 24-hour emergency department and endoscopy services.

She was asked whether the city will see any revenue as a result.

“It brings in revenue based on employment,” Abdella said. “Realistically, we will get some revenue from the people working here if they live here.

“The best we can get is revenue that comes from other services that will come up around it from spending money at our gas stations and dry cleaners and our businesses.”

Pittenger said money made will make up for some of the businesses the city has lost over the last few years.

“We will be able to stay on an even keel,” she said. “Hopefully, it will go up.”

Washington County commissioners discussed how the state road fund works, how pet license fees work and how tax money is divided for the county.

Commissioner David White said they work with 22 townships, five villages and two cities. Their job remains helping to bring in economic development and protecting people’s individual rights, he said.

He said some people will vote for someone because they are affiliated with a certain party.

“Then there is that other 40-50 percent out there and they are going to vote for you because they know you, they go to church with you or your kids go to school with theirs,” White said. “That is how local politics works.

“You got to make sure people know you and that you are approachable.”

White said Belpre is blessed with a lot of conservative Republicans, but any candidate has to reach out to the independent voters who will make or break their campaign.

“We don’t all agree with each other, but people appreciate you saying why you have the opinion you have,” White said. “Stay true to your principles, but stay respectful to your dissenters.”

Scott Britton, a historian with the Marietta Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution, talked about the impact of the Northwest Ordinance, which was used in forming government for this part of the country when settlers came here, and which inspired passages in the U.S. Constitution and the U.S. Bill of Rights.

“Government is something we should all be involved in, regardless of what side of the aisle we are on,” he said.