Two New Commissioners Take Office
By ROBERT A. DEFRANK
ST. CLAIRSVILLE — Belmont County has two new commissioners who are applying new perspectives to the needs of the county and the issues the citizens face.
J.P. Dutton has taken on the commission seat vacated by Ginny Favede. He reflects on his local roots and background in politics.
“I grew up on a cattle farm outside of Flushing, went to Union Local High School,” he said, adding that his interest in politics began at an early age.
“I served as a page on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives for a summer while I was in high school, and that led to a couple internships on Capitol Hill while I was in college at Miami of Ohio. When I finished at Miami of Ohio I went full time on Capitol Hill for seven years with Congressman (Robert) Ney. When his term ended I started working for Leonardo Technologies prior to the commissioner’s job.”
He said it was the page program that opened his eyes to the good that could be done in office.
“That’s really what drew my interest initially. I was on a family trip to Washington, D.C. I applied and ended up being one of only 60-something people across the country that were selected for the summer,” he said.
“It was the summer of 1995. It was the first summer of the new Republican Congress for the first time in a long time. That’s when Newt Gingrich was the speaker. As a House page you’re allowed right there on the House floor. You see the debate going on. That just kind of got the ball rolling to where I wanted to go back and do internships, and even though I got a finance degree coming out of college I got a real strong business interest.
“Both sides of my family have been in small business all their lives. I decided to go to Capitol Hill. I thought I would just go for a year or two and it ended up staying much longer obviously because I enjoyed it so much. It was great, obviously, working for my home congressional district so you saw that the work you were doing directly impacting your hometown and home area.”
At Capitol Hill Dutton worked with commissioners from numerous counties including Belmont. There he observed firsthand the process of debate, of working within a budget and dealing with infrastructure issues.
“Working in energy for the last nine years I’ve seen what’s going on globally and happening here locally,” Dutton said.
He appreciated the opportunity to meet citizens from across the county during his campaign. He also attended numerous public meetings and festivals and observed the work and volunteerism and dedication to community among the voters.
“The biggest takeaway I have was that our county’s full of individuals doing something to make our community better,” he said.
He added that he views a commissioner’s responsibility as a local public official to position the county to take advantage of economic opportunities and raise the quality of life by laying the groundwork for a brighter tomorrow for future generations. He noted the need for infrastructure improvement as well.
Dutton also noted the reality of many people who have left the area due to employment needs and he hopes to grow the communities again.
Commissioner Joshua Meyer, who unseated incumbent Matt Coffland in a tight race, ran on a platform of change, objecting to one-party rule in the county and the domination by Democrats for the past 25 years.
“At the time I was out campaigning, people were just looking for a change, for something new, and we look to hopefully provide that for people. We’re here to listen to what people’s needs are and to try to meet those needs,” Meyer said. “There’s some complaints about infrastructure that we’re going to try to address as time goes on. As of right now, we’re just getting settled in. (Commissioner) Mark (Thomas) has been very helpful in guiding us along and showing us the ropes and we appreciate that. I also want to thank former commissioners (Ginny) Favede and (Matt) Coffland for being available and helpful in the transition period also.”
He also noted the opportunities for the promotion of growth and development in the area.
Meyer had served as a Bellaire council member for more than five years. He has also served as chair of the county’s Republican Party.
“I think we bring a fresh perspective,” he said.
“Just a different perspective on things, and I think that was what people wanted.
“We’ll try to answer those questions and see what we can do with those needs that are brought to us, then go from there,” he said.
A native of Bellaire, Meyer’s father has worked in coal mining and his mother in education. He has worked at the East Ohio Regional Hospital as an X-ray/CT technologist.
The public is encouraged to become involved in politics, to reach out to officials, make their voices heard and become part of the process.
“Since I was a young kid I had an interest in politics. When I was 9 years old I remember watching the presidential election. It was Reagan and Mondale and I can remember the states lighting up for Reagan, and that was my first memory of real interest in politics,” he said. “What kind of drew me to politics was history. Reading what people have done before myself, I feel it’s a duty to serve, and this is my way of serving.”