Two will run for commission seat

Two Republican candidates are vying for outgoing Washington County Commissioner Tim Irvine’s commission seat and as the May 6 primary draws near, they are sharing a little bit about their aspirations for the commission office.

The candidates, Rick Walters and Jeremy Barton, both from Coal Run, do not have a Democratic challenger for the primary winner to face in the November election.

Irvine has served as commissioner for three years and has said he decided not to run again in order to focus his time toward his business.

Walters wears many hats in the Beverly area, serving as chairman for the Muskingum Valley Area Chamber of Commerce, chairing the National Federal Independent Businesses Area Action Council, working with Dietz Futrell & Walters insurance agency and serving as a partner with the River Cities Financial Services.

This is the first run for office for Walters, who has been a small business owner for 34 years.

“I’ve had an interest in local politics for several years,” he said, adding, “It’s important to have a commissioner out in the county.”

Commissioner Ron Feathers lives in Devola, Commissioner David White lives in Marietta and Irvine lives in the Belpre area.

Walters went on to say that some issues affecting those in Marietta may be different elsewhere.

“What affects us here (in the Beverly-Waterford area) may or may not be different,” he said.

Walters said he knows current and past commissioners and has always been interested in the way the commission operates. He said in order to take on the responsibility, he’d be giving up some boards he currently sits on in order to “be able to do the commissioner job properly.”

He wants to take an active role in assisting small businesses in the area if he wins the commission seat, Walters said.

“I want to be able to help assist people in starting small business,” he said. “With the looming oil and gas boom…we have the opportunity to start several small businesses…which can create a larger tax base…It’s my contingency to be business friendly. I like the idea of bringing small businesses to the area and keeping them.”

Walters said he wanted to accomplish this by promoting the area.

“A big part is promoting the Washington County area and the available workforce we have here,” he said. “People here work for a living.”

Though Walters has little experience with commission duties, he says it’s his plan to sit down with current commissioners and really find out how things work.

“I’m hoping to sit down with Tim Irvine…and get the full array of what he takes care of,” he said. “I’m going to do my best to get elected (as) county commissioner and do my best to serve the taxpayers of Washington County.”

This primary is also Barton’s first foray into politics.

Barton is a member of the American Legion and served in the military for four years as a heavy equipment operator. He also works as a barber and said he’s trying to set a good example for his 7-year-old daughter.

It’s a parent’s job to “make the world better for your children than it was for you,” he said.

Barton said he’s running because he feels there is a need for increased awareness of duties.

“I feel that better public perception of the office is needed,” he said. “I feel the commissioners are doing a decent job…and they get along well; they’re diplomatic with each other. I’d like to improve public perception…and have better communication with the public.”

Barton said public involvement would be key in changing the perception.

“(Commissioners should) just really get out there and be with the public and get their concerns aired,” he said.

He said a lot of that would entail going to different trustee meetings or fire meetings, even going to new churches and introducing himself. He also mentioned using local media to share how citizens can get in touch and have commissioners hear concerns.

Barton said there is transparency with the office currently, but that the people of Washington County should be more aware of what’s happening around the office.

Barton said he thought he could work well with not only the other commissioners but the other officials the commission works with.

He added that communication is key to running everything and that even if a conversation gets heated, yelling isn’t an option.

“(It’s important to have) not just talking but listening,” Barton said. “Things run smoother…if you’re not getting up and yelling. I’d like to strive for mutual respect in the office. Even if you have different points of view, strive for mutual respect. If you’ve got a different point of view, don’t come in screaming; it just puts up a wall.”

Barton said some township trustees have approached him about communication issues with commissioners.

“I’m not saying (current commissioners) are doing a bad job, but I’ve had several trustees say they’d like to have clearer lines of communication,” he said.

Barton said he’s more than ready to make a difference in the county.

“I’ve never lived my life to be in politics,” he said. “But if you’re going to have a complaint about an issue, you’ve got to do something about it. If you want things to change, you have be willing to enter the realm to change it.”