WHEELING - Orphy Klempa plans to retire in November from his job as business representative for Carpenters Local 3 in Wheeling to focus on his elected post on the Ohio County Commission.
Klempa already has stepped down as co-chairman of Project BEST, a post he has held for 14 years alongside Thomas Cerra. Klempa was succeeded at Project BEST by Joe Miller, business representative for Carpenters Local 186, effective Oct. 1.
"I have a month left (at Carpenters Local 3) ... and once my replacement is picked, I'll stick around for a time," Klempa said. "I'm not going anywhere. I'm just a phone call away. The industry has been very good to me, and I will continue to help."
He added his goal was to retire at age 62, and he just turned that age.
"There are a lot of things I am looking forward to doing as commissioner, and a lot of things I've wanted to do but couldn't because I was so busy with this job. That's good. But it doesn't allow you time to do other things," he said. "I will now be able to dedicate my full-time to the commission."
Klempa noted work for local union carpenters has picked up in recent months due to the needs of the natural gas industry.
"The work is still fantastic ... it's as busy as it ever as been," he said. "The natural gas drilling and processing plants are a real bonus for us. Most of the trades are taking advantage ....
"This allows us to increase apprenticeship programs, provide jobs to young men and women who will stay and live in the area, and hopefully be employed for a long time."
Klempa believes that during his tenure Project BEST has become "a brand name."
"Now when see the name, they can relate to what it actually is," he explained. "Even if they don't know exactly what it is, they know it pertains to the construction industry in the Ohio Valley."
For Project BEST, it's important to keep up the skills level of local labor, as well as production levels, Klempa continued.
"We have to make sure we keep our contractors competitive ...," he said. "We have to make sure the workers are able to do the jobs, and do them well and under the budget, so the owner is getting a bang for his buck.
"We're about making sure we have the product the contractor needs for his work force, and that's a challenge everyday."
Miller was selected as the new co-chairman of Project BEST by representatives of local trade unions who each had one vote. He is a native of Wellsburg who moved to Wheeling in 1989.
Miller said the biggest issues facing local trade unions are the possibility of right to work legislation surfacing in Ohio, and illegal immigrants coming into the area to take local jobs.
He praised Klempa's work as co-chairman.
"They always say if it's not broke, don't fix it," Miller said. "Orphy Klempa did a great job, and I don't foresee any major changes that need to be done. His positive attitude and hard work really helped."