STEUBENVILLE - Billy Petrella is challenging incumbent Tom Gentile in the race for the Jan. 3 Jefferson County commissioner seat.
Gentile, 57, of 60 Snug Harbor, Wintersville, is finishing his first term as a county commissioner. Gentile, a Democrat, has a master's degree in business administration. He said he has 35 years of experience in the energy business and experience in water and sewer construction, road construction, real estate development, building construction and is a licensed pilot and business owner .
"I'm running to make our county a better place to live work and raise a family," Gentile said.
He said he wants to create a master plan for the water system for southern Jefferson County.
"We will accomplish this by meeting with all of the communities involved, put our differences aside and construct a plan that best serves all."
Gentile wants to see the runway expansion at the Jefferson County airport completed.
"I have already worked hard to secure a $1.5 million grant from the state and a $500,000 commitment from Jefferson County. I will continue by drawing on my extensive construction background to help oversee the engineering and construction."
"One of my biggest goals is to put an end to the perception that Jefferson County is corrupt and mismanaged. We need to continue to work harder to do it better than anyone else, including the big counties. We will do this by building upon what my fellow commissioners and I have accomplished over the last four years. My plan involves leaving politics and ego at the door, using good business skills to manage our county in the best interest of all of the citizens and, above all, work hard to make this a place where families and business can continue to live and prosper.
"I began working on our 2008 budget several months before taking office with my soon-to-be fellow commissioners. We were facing huge decreases and have experienced an almost 19 percent revenue loss since that time, yet we managed to balance the budget every single year. We are still offering all of the services we always had - the (county) jail is open and accepting prisoners and we continue to fund recreation to all of the communities. In short, we are running the county more efficiently than ever. The good news is that (revenue) is growing for the first time in years."
Gentile said he will continue to work with the Jefferson County Community Improvement Corp. and staff as he has for the past four years. At their request, Gentile said he met with many business owners interested in the county.
"I think it is very important for interested parties to see that the county is being run by experienced businessmen regardless of the type of business," he said.
"Much of the interest now is from the oil and gas industry. I have been in the energy business for over 35 years, and I am in a unique position to understand the needs of these new businesses interested in locating here. I have an extensive list of contacts in the energy industry throughout the country that I communicate with on a regular basis, and I draw on these contacts to assist new prospects in many ways others can't. Keep in mind that although these companies will certainly come to the area, we compete with all of the surrounding counties as a place for them to locate. We need to have proven leadership to put our best foot forward to succeed."
Petrella, 25, of 200 Braybarton Blvd. is a nonpartisan candidate. He has a master's degree with a concentration in employee relations. He is co-owner of Village Sleep Center, manages commercial and residential real estate holdings in Jefferson County, California and Florida through Petrella Enterprises and is a financial adviser with Tri-State Financial Services.
Petrella also serves on several community boards.
Petrella said his goals are to bring new and diverse industries to Jefferson County, which will provide high disposable income jobs; to make commissioners' meetings more accessible to more citizens by moving at least one commissioners' meeting to other parts of the county and to make the time of that meeting based on the needs of the citizens; and to develop a countywide crime plan.
"I plan to accomplish my first goal by investing revenues from the oil and gas industry into a diversification plan that county agencies and economic development arms can have access to the money to bring new and diverse industry to our county. The increased revenue money needs to be identified and earmarked to be spent specifically on bringing other industries that are not related to oil and gas to our county. This will reduce the risk that is placed on our job market, because we cannot become reliant on only one industry to provide all of our jobs - which has been done in the past.
"I plan to accomplish my second goal of moving the commissioners' meeting to a new location and a more convenient time by systematically speaking with township trustees, city and village mayors and all council members to put in place a calendar of times, locations and available parking to host the county commissioners' meeting. (There has been) overwhelming positive (response) when presented to organizations and elected officials throughout the county. Citizens have both ideas and concerns about the county. However, they feel very limited on having their voices heard. As a county commissioner, I will respect their thoughts and opinions and I will give them a platform where they can come and voice their ideas.
"I plan to accomplish my third goal creating a countywide crime plan by hosting public meetings throughout the county where citizens, elected officials, the sheriff's department, township, village and city police, volunteer fire departments and emergency respondents, the 911 service administrator and the drug task force team can express their views and ideas on setting a serious set of standards, with attainable goals, to reduce the drug trafficking and murders seen throughout our county." he said.
Petrella added, he will address the challenges of a flat budget by correlating the flat budget to future projections of growth based on the influx of the oil and gas industry.
He said the county needs to be investing more money into economic development and to use that money to specifically bring in businesses other than only oil and gas companies.
"I will not be an obstructionist to economic development. It is about creating a business friendly environment and welcoming new businesses to our area. We have to change the very tainted image that you cannot do business in Jefferson County unless you know someone in a high place. We have to change that image," Petrella said.
"I feel that we need to create a culture of giving instead of taking. I have committed 25 percent of my annual commissioner's salary to organizations and nonprofits in Jefferson County."
(Law can be contacted at email@example.com.)