STEUBENVILLE - Robert Steve Vukelic is challenging incumbent David Maple for the Jan. 2 Jefferson County commissioner seat.
Maple, 46, of 708 township Road 244, Toronto, has a bachelor's degree in organizational leadership and development from Wheeling Jesuit University.
Maple, a Republican who has served two terms as county commissioner, has worked for Ball Corp. for more than 20 years and currently is plant manager in Weirton.
Maple said he has owned and operated a small business in the county, and, with his manufacturing experience, it has given him valuable experience in budgeting, cost control, personnel management, hiring practices and more.
"This has helped me in managing the county's issues, including budget control, hiring practices, cost containment, collaboration skills and more," he said.
Maple believes the next few years are crucial to the future of Jefferson County.
"The challenges of the current state and national economies, combined with the fact that the oil and gas industry has started to make a presence in our communities, requires consistent, proven guidance in the commissioners' office. It's important that the county's leadership is able to help maximize our opportunities while minimizing our risks and, at the same time, keep the county running smoothly.
His goals include maintaining a balanced and healthy budget.
"Over the last eight years, the commissioners have overcome many challenges to maintain a balanced budget. Every year the county has met those challenges and has remained fiscally sound. This is accomplished through continued attention to detail and conservative spending practices. With the potential of new revenue comes a concern that government budgets will inflate and overspending will happen. Now more than ever, Jefferson County needs to be careful to manage its budget and keep spending under control."
Maple's second goal is to continue to improve on economic development.
"While there have been many successes in the past, the county is transitioning into a port authority driven economic development future. There is a need to see the port authority grow and be successful in the beginning phases of this change. Local officials will need to continue to cooperate and collaborate to make sure the ultimate result of this change is continued success in business and job growth."
His third goal is the improvement in the quality of life in Jefferson County. He said there have been many successes in such areas as recreation, infrastructure and recycling.
"Going into the next few years, it will be one of my challenges to continue to spend time and money in these areas to make sure we expand and improve on recreational opportunities; expand water and sewer to areas that are looking for those improvements and continue to look for opportunities to improve litter enforcement and awareness in our county."
Maple said to address the challenges of a flat budget, it is important the county continues conservative spending and continues to look for opportunities to share costs and collaborate with other entities.
"Jefferson County has been successful in budget management over the last eight years, and it is important to stay that course."
Vukelic, 55, of 1122 Pierce Ave. has a bachelor's degree from Youngstown State University. Vukelic, a Democrat, has been a demolition and general contractor for 30 years.
"I have visions from traveling in eight states and doing work for over 200 cities throughout the United States. and I also have knowledge of knowing what it cost for things to get done and it is very important in getting things done," he said.
Vukelic said he is running for office because he wants to change the way that Jefferson County operates and "make Jefferson County once again a place we can all be proud to call home."
"Everyone needs representation," he said.
Vukelic's top three goals if elected are:
To represent all of the people in Jefferson County, "not just a select few."
To clean up not only the landscape of our county, "but also the politics."
To put the people of Jefferson County's tax dollars to work by developing and growing in many areas throughout the county.
As for the challenges of a flat budget, Vukelic said, "All county departments must stay within their allocated budgets and work within Jefferson County. All work must go to the lowest bid with the approval of the county engineer's office. Local contractors should have preference."
As for bringing more businesses to the county, Vukelic said, "I will work closely with the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce, Project Alliance, port authority, Community Improvement Corp. and other agencies to attract companies that will pay decent wages and provide benefits."
"I want to make certain that the oil and gas drilling companies protect our natural resources while improving our economy. I intend to also clean up and develop the waterfront properties in Jefferson County."
Vukelic will have to have his record sealed in common pleas court before he can take office. He was sentenced to six months in a federal prison in April 2001 after pleading guilty to misprision of a felony, which is having knowledge of a felony and not reporting it to authorities.
Vukelic was charged in connection with other federal indictments against former employees and officials of the former North Ohio Valley Air Authority. Three former members of NOVAA pleaded guilty in federal court to charges they conspired to accept improper payments totaling about $170,000 from Vukelic to get a license for the demolition landfill and then hid the income from the Internal Revenue Service
The Ohio law regarding sealing a criminal record recently changed, which allows Vukelic to apply to a judge to seal the record.
(Law can be contacted at email@example.com.)