ST. CLAIRSVILLE Martins Ferry resident Jerry Echemann has announced his candidacy for Belmont County Commissioner. His name will appear on the November ballot.
"Working 28 years as a field reporter for television news, I covered every corner of Belmont County. I am familiar with these communities and the issues people care about. Issues like jobs, and the condition of our roads and bridges. Now, I am hoping the voters will give me the chance to do more than just report on what's happening. As a commissioner, I believe I could have a real impact and move the county forward."
This is Echemann's second try at political office. In 2010, he competed for the Democratic nomination for State Representative. He lost to current State Sen. Lou Gentile, but finished a strong second in a field of five candidates, and won the Belmont County portion of the race. Echemann noted, "This gave me the encouragement to try one more time. Now I can focus on Belmont County and not have to worry about winning votes in Steubenville and the rest of Jefferson County."
Echemann gathered nearly 500 signatures on his independent petition during January and February.
"There were two things that stood out when I talked to voters," he said. "The first was how welcoming people were to the notion of an independent as commissioner. It was quite the opposite reaction that you might have received 25 years ago. People seem more willing to evaluate a candidate on merit, without regard to political affiliation.
"The second thing that clearly struck me, especially as I visited the senior centers, was the anger and frustration many of them had over the transfer of Senior Services to the Department of Job and Family Services. It was the first thing they wanted to talk to me about. A common theme was that it was not so much the fact that it happened, but the manner in which it was handled. I think in cases like this, especially where our seniors are concerned, we have a duty to keep them informed every step of the way, gathering input, and respecting everyone's opinion along the way.
"As I run for this office," Echemann said, "I can't make any promises to the voters, except to work hard on their behalf. It would be an honor to serve and I am asking voters to place their trust in me to do the job, and get the county moving in the right direction. Twenty-eight years on television has taught me to be a good listener. That may be the most important quality for any county commissioner."
Echemann was graduated from Ohio University in 1980. He left television news about two years ago. During his time at WTRF, he served as a Shop Steward and Negotiator for the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. (AFL-CIO) His current job is the Track Announcer for the Wheeling Island Racetrack. He also works as an Associate Judge for the West Virginia Racing Commission. Volunteer service includes 10 years on the St. Mary's Central School Advisory Board in Martins Ferry.