MARIETTA - One new face-and a trio of more familiar ones-are among those stepping into positions in Washington County come January.
The "new kid on the block" is Republican Ron Feathers who was elected county commissioner after his November contest with current commissioner Democrat Cora Marshall.
Feathers said he has already worked at balancing county, work and family life as he adds county commissioner to his resume.
"I've got a good support structure," Feathers said. "My wife knows there are going to be a lot of late nights for me."
What's more, Feathers had three "great people" at his business, Finish Line Computers, "who are definitely going to help me take up the slack there," he said.
Prior to taking office as a county commissioner, Feathers has been boning up on the daily ins and outs of doing the job. When Feathers spoke with the county commissioners' staff at the county courthouse, "They all assured me that they'll take me through day to day operations" like how the office is run, the scheduling of meetings and more, he said.
Feathers has also sat in on numerous Washington County commissioners' meetings and recent 2013 county budget hearings.
Among the priorities for his early days as commissioner, Feathers said he will focus on getting to know different department heads, the management of sewage and waste water county wide and working with the Washington County township trustees.
"I definitely want to work to bring back funding as best we can for the infrastructure of the county's townships, including roads and bridges," he said.
Feathers said he is also looking forward to speaking with the Marietta Area Chamber of Commerce and Southeastern Ohio Port Authority to "see what we can do to make the environment more friendly toward industry."
Democrat David White promises to bring a more efficient, high-tech approach to the business of being a Washington County commissioner.
"With the smart phone I carry and (the fact that) I will be able to put a jet pack in my laptop, I will be able to stay connected when I need to," White said. "I am looking forward to making my county office very mobile as well. I (requested) a laptop that I can take into the field with me."
White also expects to be as efficient as possible when it comes to knowing Washington County's business and budget for 2013.
White estimated he has spent about 120 hours this year at county commission meetings and 2013 budget hearings.
"It's in my best interest to know how those numbers were derived and how the monies were allocated," said White. In addition to meeting and building relationships with organizations, agencies and departments in Washington County, White will spend his own money to attend a welcome and orientation for Ohio's new county commissioners in Columbus this weekend. "I want to have as broad a base of knowledge as I can going into it," White said.
Although county commissioners cannot promise to make or change laws, White said he has promised "to look after taxpayers' interests and business as good as I can."
"What I expect to do is to be able to manage the affairs of this county in the way people want and in a way I believe is better than what's been done in the past," he added.
From the time Roger Wright joined the office of Washington County Engineer in 1999, his boss Bob Badger encouraged him to begin the time-consuming process of becoming a registered professional engineer and registered professional surveyor.
This "dual registration" process took nine years to accomplish and "was very hard to get," said Wright, adding that this is why those running for the office of County Engineer often are unopposed-which was true in his case. Badger, current county engineer, is retiring in early January.
Knowing his retirement was approaching, Badger allowed Wright to do more administrative tasks in their department this year, including county budget hearings, decisions about what grants the department will apply for in 2013 and long-range planning.
"He's been a very good mentor," said Wright. "I feel like I'm prepared for the job."
One of the big challenges Wright expects to face is actually a continuing one.
"We have to continue to prioritize our work with the dollars that we have available...while facing increases in diesel fuel and raw materials," he said.
Other challenges on Wright's county platter in 2013 will be the more than $1 million replacement of a large Washington County bridge at the intersection of Ohio 26 and County Road 14 (Archers Fork Road); more work on a county-wide hot mix paving program; and the maintenance of county roads that are used by the growing influx of oil and gas-related truck traffic.
Recently-elected Washington County Common Pleas Court Judge Randall Burnworth is not only wrapping up his schedule as the county's Magistrate Court Judge, he is closing his private law practice in Marietta to focus on his new duties.
In his new position, Burnworth said he wants "to continue to assure accessibility to the court to all citizens and make sure that people get fair and impartial treatment in the court."
Burnworth expects challenges, too.
"Challenges will include budgetary issues. The economic forecast has not been necessarily all that promising," he said.
One of the biggest challenges to courts at all levels is the increasing number of per se litigants, or people who are representing themselves.
"More and more people find themselves in positions where they need to be involved in legal matters but don't have funds to hire attorneys," he said.
Southeastern Ohio Legal Services and a local monthly pro bono legal clinic cannot handle these higher numbers.
Although some parts of the legal process are "relatively simple," other parts can "exceed a litigant's skill level," said Burnworth.
To brush up on his own skill levels in certain legal areas, next week Burnworth is attending the "New Judges Orientation, Part I" school in Columbus. The school is divided into study segments including juvenile, municipal and common police court.
Burnworth said he looks forward to the segments that will provide updates on search and seizure issues in criminal law and criminal sentencing.