Thomas: A good commission fit

THERE IS a new old face taking a seat on the Belmont County Board of Commissioners.

Mark Thomas gained the nod from the Belmont County Democrat Central Committee Thursday night. It has been well chronicled the vote was necessitated when Chuck Probst stepped down to preserve his retirement due to new state regulations.

Thomas gaining the nod for the unexpired term was not surprising. What was, however, was how he did it with so much ease.

Thomas was joined in the political hunt by former commissioners Probst and Mike Bianconi, Pultney Township Trustee Franklin Shaffer and western Belmont County businessman John Mattox. I call that a loaded field, one giving the Dem Central Committee nice options.

There were 49 eligible voters in Undo’s that night. The winning candidate needed to receive the vote of half of those present plus one.

The St. Clairsville attorney came within a whisker of earning the post on the first vote. The second vote was the clincher as Thomas secured 27 votes, Probst 11, Mattox 10 and Bianconi, one. Shaffer was eliminated after the first ballot.

Considering the viability of the competition, the vote translated into a landslide. Thomas does intend to seek the seat again in the 2014 election.

“First, with regard to Thursday night, while I knew I had a good support base, I was elated and humbled by the vote I received, Thomas said. “I am grateful to the entire committee for putting their faith in my ability not only to be a leader in the party but too to lead Belmont County in the near future.

“Second, I am ready to educate myself, while asking for my colleagues’ support, on the current issues and challenges facing the board. I am prepared and determined to meet all of them head on, with intelligence,

common sense, professionalism and logic,” he added. “It is important for me to keep my goals in front of me while surrounding myself with good people working for me. I look forward to serving the residents of Belmont County.”

He added that the key word is cooperation.

Thomas will be a positive edition to the county’s governing triumvirate. During his previous tenure as a commissioner, Thomas was highly regarded for doing his homework, being accountable and not afraid to speak his mind, not to mention a broad knowledge base.

That last attribute will come in especially handy as Belmont County continues to realize the benefits of the oil and gas industry.

It was just announced Friday the county is getting a $3 million payment from Rice Energy. Such a sum will enable much progress throughout the county, be it road paving, bridge work or the establishment of a rainy day fund.

More oil and gas money will be flowing into Belmont County coffers.

Thomas has the savvy, in partnership with Commissioners Ginny Favede and Matt Coffland, to make the most of the windfall.


I AM a big Urban Meyer fan. He and Nick Saban of Alabama are heads and shoulders above any other college grid coach. I am disappointed and shocked that Meyer opted not to suspend Marcus Hall after the tackle’s meltdown against Michigan. Hall was ejected for fighting, but that was not his major misstep. Hall flipped a double obscene gesture to Wolverine fans while en route to the locker room. For that, he should have been idled for the Buckeyes’ Big Ten title game match-up against Michigan State. A lack of discipline was a common complaint against Meyer while at Florida, where 30 of his Gators were arrested.

THE OHIO State Highway Patrol reported that 13 people were killed on Ohio’s roadways over the Thanksgiving Holiday, encompassing 11 crashes. Twelve people were killed during the same period in 2012. Of the 13 killed, seven were not wearing an available safety belt, three were killed in two OVI-related crashes and one pedestrian was killed.

MY HEISMAN Trophy vote goes to Braxton Miller of Ohio State. The dual-threat quarterback has triggered a juggernaut offense in Columbus. Moreover, I cannot vote for a quarterback involved in a sex scandal (Jameis Winston of Florida State) while Johnny (Football) Manziel’s stock has dropped after his Heisman-winning season. Unfortunately,?Winston is going to win in a landslide.

THE BELLAIRE Chamber of Commerce will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday at the newly remodeled McDonald’s at 28th Street at 10 a.m. Also in Bellaire, on Wednesday, Dec. 18, at 12:30 p.m., the Bellaire Public Library will hold its annual Community Christmas Caroling, weather permitting. All are welcome.

LOU GENTILE continues his political climb. The personable Steubenville Democrat has been named assistant minority whip in the Ohio Senate. His new position helps count and track votes for the caucus. This is the first time in several years that east and southeast Ohio has had representation in Senate Leadership. Gentile represents part of Athens, Belmont, Carroll, Harrison, Jefferson, Meigs, Monroe, Noble, Washington, and part of Vinton counties. I am predicting that Gentile will reside in the governor’s mansion down the road.

NOT SURPRISINGLY, E. Gordon Gee has resurfaced after his retirement from the Ohio State University. Gee has accepted the interim presidency at WVU. It would not shock me if Gee’s appointment becomes permanent, even though he is not reportedly a candidate. He is making $450K as an interim.

Kapral may be reached at