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Maple, Smith vie for seat

STEUBENVILLE — Republican incumbent Dave Maple has been a Jefferson County Commissioner since 2005. He is facing a challenge from Democrat Bob Smith.

Maple, of Toronto, said he is seeking re-election because he wants to continue the work that’s been done for the county.

“I feel like there’s some unfinished work,” Maple said. “Arguably, there always will be. I feel like there are some challenges the county has in front of it, and I feel I’m best suited to lead us through those challenges at this time with COVID.

“We have projects out there I’m passionate about and would like to see get completed.”

Smith, of Mingo Junction, said he’s running to promote more economic development and to create a better working relationship between the county and the local leaders.

“It just seems like Jefferson County is in neutral in terms of economic development and any improvements,” Smith said. “What I have seen is just not a lot of movement and not a lot of communication between the commissioners and the townships, the villages and the two cities. I think I can be a positive force. I love the county, I love where I live in it in Mingo Junction and I want to make a difference and improve the quality of life.”

Maple pointed to progress with a growth in infrastructure, including the Jefferson County Industrial Park, improvements to the Jefferson County Airpark, expansion and improvements of the county’s water and sewer systems, and the formation of the Airport Zoning Board and Commission – formed to protect the county from the re-opening of the Crossridge Landfill – as accomplishments during his time in office.

He said most important to him is the county’s unemployment rate.

“To me, that has always been a sign of progress and economic development,” Maple said. “Before COVID, late last year, we were at our lowest unemployment rate in decades. At one point in time, we had over 4,000 people on unemployment, that number was down to around 1,500. That, to me, was an indicator we were doing the right things.”

Smith has experience in government, having served as the Village Administrator for Mingo Junction for the past five years. He said the village has accomplished a lot with his leadership.

“I’ve done a lot of things and made a lot of improvements in the village of Mingo,” he said. “I have them heading in the right direction.”

Both men have experience in the private sector as well.

Maple, along with his wife, is a small business owner and has a degree in organizational leadership and development.

“I’ve always been a manufacturing guy,” he said. “I’ve had a small business together with my wife since I moved back here and I can really appreciate, maybe more than most, what the small business struggle is like, and what they need from their county officials.”

Smith works at an architecture engineering firm in Wheeling and has a degree from the University of Pittsburgh in industrial engineering. Smith also was a member of the Air Force for around 17 years.

“I feel my leadership skills are top-notch, and I have worked in the business field for over 30 years,” Smith said. “I have a plethora of experience, from a trucking company I used to own, all the way to multi-million dollar renovations of school buildings and even the construction of school buildings.”

If re-elected, Maple’s goals for the next term include:

¯ Keep improving the industrial park

“This past year we were able to free up 26 acres that had been locked by a wetland,” Maple said. “In this fourth quarter we’re going to get some dirt moved and have it shovel-ready. There is already interest in it. Having the industrial park ready and funds ready is a 2021 project we need to be full go on.”

¯ Managing the budget

“It’s always a goal (to have a balanced budget), and with COVID, it’s going to be a challenge more than in any other year,” he said. “Making sure we have a good, solid, fiscally-sound budget next year and making sure we control our cost and understand the struggles of the departments that have been hit hard will be important.”

¯ Continued economic development

“We talk about economic development a lot,” he said. “We have to make sure we have a ready workforce. There has been work done in the past, meetings, schools participating and I’m really optimistic about the approach our community has taken.

“You have to have opportunities and places for businesses to land, that will be a high priority. We’re on the border here, we have tough competition. Economic development is not just bringing in a company, it’s having sites and a workforce that’s ready.”

¯ Continued expansion of the water and sewer infrastructure

“I want to see more water line extensions than we’ve got done so far,” he said. “There are a lot of people in the rural areas of the county who would really like to get off their wells and have access to county water. While we’ve had some success, it’s not enough. It’s something I want to push harder.”

Smith, if elected, has goals that include:

¯ More communication between the county and localities

“I would make sure there’s a conduit there that would allow communication,” he said. “I feel like I’m a person that listens to people.

“We need to recognize their needs. I’m not sure we do that at this point in time. I look at the county as the hub, and all the villages and townships are the spokes in that hub. Anything we can do to help, we should try to do.”

¯ Resource sharing

“I would like to go out and figure out how the county can do more to help townships and villages,” he said. “Sometimes it’s even equipment and personnel. I’ve got a lot of help from the county doing our roads (in Mingo). That’s what I would look for.”

¯ Exploring grant funding for townships and villages

“I would also like to go after more grant money to help the smaller townships and villages,” he said, noting the possibility of creating a position in the county office for a grant writer.

¯ Tackling the opioid crisis

“We have to stem that tide,” he said. “Do we need more law enforcement? Do we need more treatment centers? That is a major issue in our county and across the country. We need to rebuild our recreation facilities and after-school programs. We have to do something for these children.”

COVID has had an impact on the campaigns.

Smith said while the pandemic is a challenge, campaigning during a heated national election also is a challenge.

“A challenge for me is running as a Democrat,” Smith said. “I know this area is a major (President Donald) Trump area. Some Democrats are looked down upon. I will always respect the office of the President, no matter who is in it. I’m hoping people don’t just look at the ‘R,’ ‘I’ or ‘D’ by a local candidate’s name. Look at the candidate’s qualifications and see what they can do for you.”

“With the pandemic, it’s difficult to get my message across. I’ve been going to council meetings up and down the valley. I wear a mask if I need to wear a mask, I try to get to people as much as possible,” he said, noting his campaign is doing a lot of door-to-door campaigning to get his positions across.

Maple said the pandemic has made it hard to personally meet with voters due to fewer events.

“There are a lot less spaghetti dinners and less opportunities to get out and speak to people and communicate with the people,” he said. “On the other hand, there are a lot of newer platforms. Social media is a lot bigger now and a lot of people are dependent on that and, I believe, it’s been a resurgence for the local news media like (the Herald-Star).”

(Grimm can be reached at agrimm@heraldstaronline.com)

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