Republican Shane Thompson recycles batteries for a living - and he believes that work experience will help him bring an innovative approach to solving the state's problems if he is successful in his November bid for an Ohio Senate seat.
Thompson, 42, was selected by the GOP's 30th District Central Committee to face Sen. Lou Gentile, D-Steubenville, in the Nov. 6 general election. After redistricting based on the 2010 Census takes effect following the election, the 30th District will include Belmont, Harrison, Jefferson, Monroe, Carroll, Noble, Washington, Athens and Meigs counties as well as a portion of Vinton County.
The Democrat Gentile was appointed to the seat in December, following the resignation of Jason Wilson. Gentile, 32, currently represents five counties, only three of which will be in the reconfigured district. He previously represented the 95th District in the Ohio House.
Thompson said a friend approached him about filling a vacancy on the fall ballot after Belmont resident Laura D. Groux exited the race. It will be Thompson's second campaign. He ran unsuccessfully for the 96th District House of Representatives seat in 2006.
Thompson was selected over two Washington County residents who applied - Waterford resident Victor Smith, who lost in the March U.S. House of Representatives primary to incumbent Bill Johnson, and Jim Falter, chairman of the Department of Business and Economics at Marietta College.
"I am simultaneously humbled, honored and excited," Thompson said. "I feel good about being chosen. It's an honor because the other two candidates I would consider very capable, and I think they would have made fine candidates as well."
A former member of the National Guard and U.S. Army Reserve, Thompson is a father of two and vice president of California-based Kinsbursky Brothers and its affiliated company in Ohio, Toxco, which together form one of the largest battery recycling operations in North America. He said his perspective from the business world is one of the strengths he brings as a candidate.
"I work in scenarios where you have to get results, you have to be successful, and I think politics could use a dose of that," he said.
Thompson said the oil and gas industry has "game-changing potential" in the Appalachian areas of East Ohio and noted all the counties in the 30th District have those assets to develop.
"My vision for the oil and gas industry is ... to become established. Even though they are here, they are still developing the business," he said. "More wells need go in, our reserves need to be proven more."
Thompson said he looks forward to the "layering of jobs" he believes will result from gas and oil exploration in Ohio - from pipelines for transmission to transporting materials by barge and truck to the development of processing plants and the use of natural gas as a low-cost fuel for manufacturing, he believes state government can help attract many employers in related fields.
"In my view, government doesn't create jobs," he said. "It should create an atmosphere that lets businesses know we are interested in being competitive. With regulatory and tax consistency, businesses will come in."
And he believes this will ultimately improve the state's education and health care systems as well.
"A healthy and vibrant economy really addresses a lot of these issues," he added, noting East Ohio should be "selling" all its assets, including access to affordable housing, a location between major metropolitan areas and more.
"I'm running because I think I can make a difference," he continued. "One contrast between myself and Lou (Gentile), who by all accounts is a very nice guy, is my having worked in the private sector. ...He hasn't."
Gentile worked for Ted Strickland when Strickland was a congressman and spent time as assistant director of the Governor's Office of Appalachia.
Thompson also pointed out Gentile is a member of the minority in Ohio and said he believes the presence of a Republican senator would help others at the state level realize that "our part of the state is important."
Evan Bevins contributed to this report.