New Candidate Creates Commissioner Contest in November

A former Martins Ferry councilman with a distinguished record in sports, community and civic affairs has announced his intention of seeking a Belmont County commission post as an independent candidate in the November general election.

Doug Longenette, a resident of St. Clairsville and a veteran of 20 years employment in various management capacities with United Dairy of Martins Ferry, is seeking the commission seat currently held by Matt Coffland of Shadyside, who is unopposed in the March 6 primary election.

Voters classified as independents in Belmont County far outnumber those registered as Democrats or Republicans. The county’s registered voters total 48,686. Of that total, 35,510 are classified as independents since they have not cast ballots as either a Republican or Democrat in a primary election the past two years. Casting a ballot in a primary election establishes a voter’s registration and party of choice.

Based on the recent registration figures compiled by the Belmont County Board of Elections, there are 9,965 registered Democrats in the county and 3,510 registered Republicans.

“I’m running for commissioner because I want this county to get ready for what is about to happen with all the influx of jobs and businesses,” Longenette declared in reference to the oil and gas drilling operations in the county. “I want to make sure that these companies train and employ all local workers and we sustain as many jobs as possible.”

Although not blaming the current commissioners, Longenette said “I don’t feel we are prepared for what is about to happen. I feel my management and business skills will be a great asset for the future and current issues of Belmont County. I’ve owned and co-owned four different businesses over the last 30 years and I have worked at United Dairy for the past 20 years in numerous management positions.” He currently serves as director of human resources.

Longenette feels he has been successful in accomplishing so many things in and around Martins Ferry because “I’ve been blessed with great family and friends who have always stepped up to the plate when asked for help.”

One of his major accomplishments came in 1994 when Martins Ferry had to shut down its recreation center due to the lack of government funding. “I took it over and remodeled the center with a lot of help from family, friends and local businesses, ran it for two years then hired a full time recreation director and turned it back over to the city.”

He served on Martins Ferry City Council from January 2000 until December 2008 when he left Martins Ferry to make his home in St. Clairsville.

His sports affiliations include coaching and being co-creator of Pee Wee Sports in Martins Ferry, coaching junior sports in St. Clairsville, serving as Soap Box Derby director for 10 years, and carrying the Olympic Torch in Ashtabula in 1996. He was chosen for that honor through the United Way and the Olympic committee as a community hero.

A 1981 graduate of Martins Ferry High School, he is married to Stacey Ferrell Longnette and they have five children. He admits he has never had a desire to leave the Ohio Valley. “This is a great place to raise a family and I want it to stay that way.”

The final day for independent candidates to file their candidacy petitions to have their names on the November general election is the day prior to the March 6 primary election, March 5 at 4 p.m.

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There is a very unique aspect to the primary election to be held in March. There is not a single issue on the ballot, even though there were boards of education and other political subdivisions that had plans for putting issues up for a vote.

That unusual circumstance developed because of the confusion created over moving the normal May primary election to an earlier date so that Ohio voters would have a more advantageous say in the choice of a Republican candidate for president. As a result of the wrangling, it was originally decided there would be two primary elections – one in March and one in June.

When the foggy situation finally cleared up, it was decided to have only the March 6 primary. By the time that decision was made, the deadline had passed for filing issues for the March primary. There were issues filed for the June primary but they had to be eliminated because of the primary date change.

But a small segment of Belmont County voters will have a school levy issue on their ballots. Voters in one full precinct and small segments of two other precincts in Yorkville are located in the Buckeye Local School District. So they will have the opportunity to vote on that school issue.

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After hosting hundreds of events in Barton that have attracted thousands of people who have used crude outdoor convenience facilities at the firemen’s field, the Barton Volunteer Fire Department is embarking on a fund raising campaign to construct restroom facilities at their pavilion as well as to purchase a new emergency squad car.

The new vehicle has already been ordered and will replace the present one that has been in use for 21 years. It will cost $160,994.

The first event to raise funds for the two projects will take place on March 31 when as reverse drawing will be held at the firemen’s social hall on Church Street starting at 5:30 p.m. It will include dinner at 6 p.m. with snacks and refreshments to be served all night long.

The drawing will start at 7:30 p.m. Only 200 tickets will be sold for the event and all proceeds are earmarked to defray expenses of the two projects. It is estimated the cost of the new restrooms will be about $40,000 and construction is expected to begin in the near future.

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Every February I have to pause and take stock on where my life’s work has progressed. It was a very cold and snowy day on Feb. 1, 1954, when I successfully interviewed to be a reporter for the Wheeling Intelligencer.

That lasted only 10 days.

I was then transferred to the Wheeling News-Register staff and that’s where I’ve been for the past 58 years – 42 years in full time status and the past 16 years as a retiree but still contributing this weekly conglomeration of news and trivia.

But that’s just part of my ventures in the journalistic field. Fresh out of high school in Avella, Pa., I went to Washington, D.C., where my sister, Grace, was employed in what was back then called “The War Department” and when I applied for my first job there while awaiting college enrollment, I was hired by United Press Association, predecessor of United Press International.

After four years there as a copy boy, “gofor” that included several trips to the White House and typing stories as called in by reporters covering the various government departments, Uncle Sam called me to make my contribution to the Korean War conflict. After a 33-months tour of duty I found my way to Wheeling and my employment with this newspaper. By my calculations that totals nearly 67 years of being on the job. No wonder I’m getting tired.

But then that kind of work ethic may be the secret of longevity – keep active and working every day.

Al Molnar can be reached via email at: