ST. CLAIRSVILLE - Mike Bianconi of Brookside has announced his candidacy in the race for Belmont County Treasurer.
"I'm fortunate to have had the opportunity to be a public servant throughout my life," said Bianconi. "I recognized at an early age that we must give back to our communities to enable them to continue to strive and grow."
At the age of 18, Bianconi joined the Wolfhurst Volunteer Fire Department as a volunteer fire fighter, a position he still holds today.
"I saw firsthand the financial struggles our area fire departments endured to stay in operation. Determined to find other funding sources, I initiated the creation of the first fire district in Southeast Ohio in the early 1980s and became its first fiscal officer."
Many area fire departments have since modeled their fiscal operations after the original fire district, Bianconi said, noting that the Wolfhurst Volunteer Fire Department still remains strong today.
In 1977, Bianconi joined the Air Force and from there served six years in active reserve.
"Travels throughout the country made me realize the value of what we have in Belmont County and the need for people to actively take part in developing our area," he said. "I have always believed that some people wait for the future to happen, while others make it happen. I wanted to be part of making it happen on a local level and ran for Pease Township Trustee."
For more than 12 years, Bianconi has served the residents of Pease Township as trustees.
Bianconi is a former Belmont County Commissioner, serving eight years from 1992 through 2000.
"Throughout my tenure, I always kept the county's best interest at the center of each decision made. My decisions never represented any one group or special project, but instead, represented what I believed to be best for the county as a whole. Some of the accomplishments while I served as a member of the board of commissioners were more than $200 million in new business and economic development projects."
During Bianconi's tenure, four of the largest development projects within the entire state of Ohio - Mayflower Vehicle Systems Plant, the Ohio Valley Plaza, Belmont Correctional Institution and Ohio Coatings - all together employing more than 2,400 workers with an annual payroll of $51 million at the time, were completed. Also the Fox Commerce Park, water and sewer improvements exceeding $8 million and a state-of-the-art radio and communications center providing services to all county residents were developed during his tenure.
"My years as a township trustee and commissioner have provided me with experience in the budgetary process and familiarity with the county budget," Bianconi said. "I understand the funding sources, the tax collection process and the various investments that sustain our county. Our current Treasurer Joe Gaudio and his staff have done an outstanding job, and I would building upon that in the future. I will bring the same dedication I demonstrated as a commissioner to the treasurers' position to safeguard the monies of the county residents."
Unfortunately, Belmont County has undergone some tough financial times in the past few years, Bianconi noted.
"We as residents have had to deal with the burden of a slow economy, from business closings to layoffs and downsizings," he said. "I have worked at Wheeling Pittsburgh Steel for over 34 years and have been through many layoffs, so I personally understand those struggles. I have always been a strong advocate against wasteful spending and not putting additional burdens on already heavily taxed residents. I have not bee afraid to speak out on issues that I believe are not in the best interest of my constituents. I will continue to be a voice on behalf of the people as an elected official. Although it is not the county treasurer's duty to appropriate the funds, there is still an obligation to the residents of the county, as an elected official, to ensure that tax dollars are wisely spent."
Bianconi said his interest in serving the county residents has always been strong.
"I care about the future of Belmont County and want to be a part of its continued growth for our next generation," he said. "My life experiences, my years as a public servant and my desire to serve the residents will be beneficial to the county treasurer seat. I will approach this office with the same full-time commitment as I have demonstrated in my former public servant positions."
Bianconi is a resident of Brookside, where he resides with Polly, his wife of 28 years, and son Gino, a senior at Wheeling Central High School.