Two former mayors face off in race
April 20, 2008
PARKERSBURG — Two former mayor of Parkersburg are running for the Democratic Party nomination for Wood County Assessor.
Gene Knotts also is a former assessor and was mayor for one term before succeeded by Jimmy Colombo in 1997.
They’re running against each other in the primary to run against Republican Rich Shaffer in the November general election. Shaffer is unopposed.
Colombo said he will draw on his business and administrative experience if he’s elected assessor.
Colombo, 64, of 16 Fairview Heights, Parkersburg, is a Democrat. He served two terms as mayor of Parkersburg beginning in 1997.
He owns and operates Colombo’s restaurant on Seventh Street, a family-owned business that started in 1954. He purchased the business from his father in 1971.
Colombo has an associate degree from West Virginia University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Marietta College.
“I believe I can provide an honest, fair approach to this job. When I was mayor, my door was open for everyone. I have a lot of experience when it comes to working with people,” Colombo said. “I went from a business setting to the mayor’s position, and my background and experience allowed me to look at the city with fresh eyes and do some things that made us better, to get people working together. I would carry those skills and that knowledge with me into the assessor’s office,” Colombo said.
If elected, Colombo said he would like to do more in terms of public education regarding the assessor’s office and its functions.
“I believe that office should offer some property informational seminars to the public, bringing in some appraisers, maybe the state, have an ongoing education system on what the values are, how the process works, what is happening in the economy, how the highway will affect us,” Colombo said.
“I really believe in training. I think you need to continue to do training including training in customer relations. It’s just a good normal business practice to do that, to practice those skills,” he said.
Colombo said while the assessor’s office is overseen by the state in a supervisory capacity, he believes there are still things that can be done to improve the office and its operations.
“You only have so much leeway, but you can make sure you are dealing with taxpayers in a straightforward manner, showing them what’s going on. We have to do that and be there to represent them. When something is wrong, if there is an error, it needs to be corrected,” he said.
Colombo and his wife Sharon have four children and six grandchildren.
He is a member of St. Margaret Mary Church and a member of the Eagles and Knights of Columbus.
Knotts, a longtime assessor, touts his years of experience at the assessor’s post as his prime qualification for that office.
Knotts, 78, of 1619 Division St. Extension in Parkersburg is a Democrat.
He served as county assessor for six terms taking office in 1969. He was elected to a seventh term, but didn’t serve out the term because he ran for and was elected mayor of Parkersburg. He served as mayor for one term..
“I have almost 26 years of experience and while I was in the office I accomplished a lot of things to benefit the citizens of Wood County,” he said.
“We brought the license plates to a local level, which makes it much simpler. Number two was getting the flood insurance, working with then Congressman Robert Mollohan, we got that. And I don’t want to forget the Homestead Exemption, which is a very important item for those 65 and older or disabled,” Knotts said, noting the exemption provides a much needed tax break for those on a fixed income.
While assessor, Knotts also served in a variety of state offices with the West Virginia Assessor’s Association.
He is also a former legislator, having served in the House of Delegates for one term in 1965.
Knotts said he’d been considering a run for the office for more than a year after being approached by a number of residents who were urging him to get back into the political arena again.
“I had several people approach me about running again, and I told them I would think about it,” he said.
“I debated for a time, and talked it over with my children about it and got their approval so I decided I’d run again. I told them I missed serving and missed the people I’d worked with, I think I have something to offer the people of Wood County in being the assessor,” he said.
As for any concerns about his age or health, Knotts said he got a clean bill of health from his physicians before filing to run again.
“I have a little respiratory problem, which a lot of people in the valley do, but my doctors gave me the OK,” he said.
Knotts has three children and three grandchildren.