By Amanda Nicholson
The Marietta Times
Filing shortly before last week's primary election, Reno resident and Independent Ray Witten officially entered the race for a Washington County Commission seat.
A graduate of Frontier High School, Witten, 70, will face Republican candidate Rick Walters, of Coal Run, for the seat Tim Irvine will be vacating after this year. Walters defeated fellow Republican Jeremy Barton of Coal Run in last week's primary. There were no Democratic candidates.
Walters clinched the GOP nomination during the May 6 primary with nearly 66 percent of the vote.
Education: Graduate of Frontier High School, one year of college at Salem College, now Salem International University.
Family: Two adult children, Bill and Susan.
Occupation: Worked at Ormet for 35 years.
Like Walters, Witten has not run for a political office before. The majority of his working experience has involved supervising people.
"I worked at Ormet for 35 years as a supervisor," he said. "I worked up there until March 30."
Witten previously served on the Frontier Local School District Board for four years and has belonged to the Frontier Lion's Club.
Of the 212 required signatures of registered voters, Witten had 414 people sign so he could join the race.
"I filed after the time to get in on the May primary," he said. "I thought I'd just get in (for) the fall; it would give me more time to start my campaign."
Witten said he does have an interest in local politics and has for some time.
"I feel as though I could bring some new ideas to the county, get involved and help in any way and to have change in the political realm as a commissioner," he said. "It's been an interest to me for some time."
Witten said he'd like to focus on programs that help the residents county-wide, not just relegated to one area, like domestic violence shelters and assisting the townships.
"We all depend on our trustees," Witten said. "We need to make sure they have enough supplies, like salt and cinders or paving materials. We need to make sure they have the right, dependable equipment."
While he was collecting signatures, Witten said he went all over the county, including Lowell and Belpre.
"(Residents there) do want to be represented, not by a town or city commissioner," he said. "Some of them kind of feel like they're forgotten. I want to help with that and be a county commissioner."
Witten said his plan for doing that is simple.
"You never want to forget your first name; you're a county commissioner," he said. "You're out here for all county residents...You need to make yourself available to talk to those people. Talk to them and see what's going on and see how long it's been a problem. When they call you, give them the time, show that you're interested and bring it to the others' attention and see what you can do. If you can't, let them know who to call."
Witten said he's looking forward to running a campaign and working with the commissioners.
"It takes the commissioners all working together (to get things done)," Witten said. "I feel I could work with all of them and I'm looking forward to it...I want to be there for all the residents of the county and make these people feel as though they're being represented."
Witten running for the commission seat didn't come as a shock to GOP nomination winner Walters.
"I had known over the last several months this was a possibility," Walters said. "I was kind of prepared for it...It isn't really going to change my plans moving forward."
Moving forward, Walters said he is going to continue campaigning and meeting people.
"I continue to learn as I move forward with this," he said. "I think (Witten running) will force me to be more visible than I would otherwise. I plan on going to the township and fire department socials and meeting people."
Walters doesn't know much about Witten as a competitor, but he said the competition is a good thing.
"Several people in my party kind of forewarned me, 'Don't get complacent,'" Walters said. "Knowing there's an opponent out there keeps you focused."