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New commissioners planning for first 100 days in office

Photo by Michele Newbanks Newly-elected Washington County Commissioners Charlie Schilling, left, and Jamie Booth, center, discuss Thursday’s meeting with Commissioner Kevin Ritter.

Now that the general election is over, the newly elected Washington County Commissioners are looking forward to getting sworn in next month.

Jamie Booth will be sworn in Jan. 2, while Charlie Schilling will be sworn in Jan. 3.

Booth said he asked Commissioner Kevin Ritter to swear him in.

“From what I understand, it’s customary to have a judge or the sheriff possible, if you want the sheriff to do it,” Schilling said, noting his plan was to be sworn in by Washington County Common Pleas Judge John Halliday.

Schilling said he told his wife, Karri, that the month of January was going to be hectic, as he and Booth would be acclimating to the job.

“After the first month or two, it’s going to settle down to a point,” he said, noting his wife has been his rock through the transition.

First 100 day priorities

¯ For Schilling, rural broadband is a priority, but he thinks a comprehensive plan should be implemented.

“I already have that comprehensive plan from back in 2004 that I’ve already studied and I understand it,” he said. “There’s been some criticism of the plan, but I feel it’s a good one.”

He would also like to see better communication throughout the county and a better emphasis on economic development.

“I think it’s important to understand that with a comprehensive plan, it can help us with not only economic development, but rural broadband,” Schilling said. “Broadband is a big part of economic development.”

He said it will help school systems and also help organizations decide if they want to put their business in Washington County.

“We just need to adjust it because times have changed since 2004,” he noted.

He said he doesn’t want to come into the job thinking he knows everything, because he doesn’t.

“I’m going to continue to listen and understand and talk to people who have maybe been in this seat before, or talk to business owners that have worked with other commissioners to say ‘what can we do?'” he said.

He added Washington County will have three commissioners who work well together and work toward each other’s strengths.

Combining the years of business experience between the three, that’s important and that’s a good thing when it comes to budgeting and working with others around the county, he explained.

“It’s all about teamwork. It isn’t about what one individual can do. That’s proven,” he said.

¯ Booth said work done on the rural broadband issue is moving forward in the right direction.

“The broadband cooperative that I’ve been working with … that’s never stopped,” he said. “My first 100 days, I’d like to see deployment with at least one up at the Highland Ridge and whether Newport or Beverly, those are the two major points other than Highland Ridge I’d like to see at least two but hopefully all three set up and running.”

He said he will mostly be working with department heads and getting acclimated to the job.

“If there are questions or concerns, I’ll go directly to the source. I don’t look to micromanage,” he said. “We’re going to see good cooperation I think with the judges, with the sheriff, and everybody in the courthouse.”

There will be a learning curve with two new commissioners taking office, he noted.

“Whenever you assemble a new team, everybody’s going to see how everybody works together,” Booth explained. “We’re going to make it a well oiled machine. I want to get acclimated to the job and get the broadband up. I look forward to it. I’m excited.”

Sunshine Law training and collaborations

According to Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, Ohio’s Public Records and Open Meetings laws, collectively known as the “Sunshine Laws,” give Ohioans access to government meetings and records. The Ohio Attorney General’s Office helps public officials and citizens understand their rights and responsibilities under these laws.

There will be three hours of online training Booth and Schilling will go through.

“I think it’s important,” Schilling said, noting it was something he learned about when he was previously on the Fort Frye Board of Education.

Booth said the training usually done the first of the year has been postponed until May.

“I think that’s something we should attend, regardless of what we’ve learned the first four months in office,” Schilling said. “Let’s go up here … let’s talk … let’s collaborate with other commissioners.”

He said establishing collaborations will be important.

“The biggest, I feel is establishing that collaboration with surrounding counties and make sure we’re working together for not only Washington County, but for our region. For Appalachia,” Schilling said.

Year two

For Commissioner Kevin Ritter, he’ll be starting his second year with two new co-workers.

“With two new guys coming in, I’m not sure if mine (goals) is majority,” he said.

He said his first goal is to get to know his fellow commissioners to see if they share common goals.

The incoming board members have spent a significant amount of time learning the job, so they aren’t coming in cold.

“I have more experience than those incoming, but two years of experience is not a lot of time,” Ritter said. “There are still a lot of aspects of the job I’m still learning. It’s going to be a challenge.”

As for priorities and issues, there were four that stood out to him that will be handled starting in the new year.

“In general terms, the incoming board has a legacy of responsible financial stewardship,” he said. “We have the highest bond rating possible because of what the outgoing board has done.”

He said the Washington County Health Department’s possible move to Gilman Avenue is still up in the air and the Humane Society of the Ohio Valley hasn’t been under contract in several months.

“And we’ll continue to steward the Devola sewer,” Ritter noted. “We are under court order. There are deadlines we have to meet. As opposed as I am to the court order, we have to complete certain steps by certain dates.”

Michele Newbanks can be reached at mnewbanks@mariettatimes.com.

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