Dutton hopes to continue economic development with environment for growth

ST. CLAIRSVILLE ­– J.P. Dutton hopes to secure the nomination for a third term as a Belmont County commissioner when voters head to the polls on Tuesday.

The Republican faces a primary challenge from Shaun Moran. No Democrat filed in the race. The Times Leader asked Dutton and the other candidates seeking seats on the board of commissioners to answer the following questions:

What do you see as the biggest challenge for Belmont County over the next four years? DUTTON: The biggest challenge for Belmont County over the next four years is facing continued inflationary costs and higher interest rates which is limiting private investment in the local economy. Inflationary costs impact our local government through higher operational costs but also capital projects as well. In multiple meetings with developers, current interest rates are limiting expansion decisions. Our board has worked extremely hard to remove old debt and effectively manage budgets so that the county can weather these types of conditions.

With that being said, I am very proud of the work by our board. I truly do not fear future challenges because of the foundation that has been built and continues to improve with each meeting. These efforts have been noticed outside of our county and will lead to a better community for our future generations.

If elected/re-elected, what is your top priority for Belmont County and how will you address it?

DUTTON: Economic development. Though government does not create private sector jobs, it can provide a better environment for growth to happen. This type of environment does not happen overnight. It requires progress on a number of fronts in order to make real improvements. Solid infrastructure is needed. When I joined the board, the Belmont County Sanitary Sewer District was underwater financially. Currently, we have just completed tens of millions of dollars of improvement and are moving to our next stage of projects. We have expanded broadband efforts using a creative model that not many counties have taken advantage of. It is important to have strong federal and state partners. For this reason, we have worked hard to develop relationships in both Washington and Columbus as well as gain their confidence in our local efforts. Additionally, we have worked with our private developers to assist when possible with critical site development which is needed to attract future businesses. It also takes strong finances. Belmont County is currently in a strong financial position. We have cut significant debt while tackling major projects. This financial strength will allow our board to quickly respond to possible economic opportunities. Again, this all takes time but we are making tremendous progress.

Why should residents vote for you?

DUTTON: Our communities deserve local leadership that thinks outside of the box to make smart decisions toward long-term goals. As Commissioner, I have used my financial education as well as my work experience on Capitol Hill and in the energy industry to make real progress — completing the most expensive project in Belmont County history (new water plant), completing the most expensive building project in Belmont County history (Board of Elections, Title Office, and Justice Center — including Prosecutor’s Office and County Courts), securing the largest water and sewer grant/loan project ($72 million) in the history of the state of Ohio’s USDA Rural Development program — all while eliminating old debt, removing and reducing county property levies, and effectively managing budgets. These types of accomplishments are laying tremendous groundwork for future opportunities and continued success.


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