[cleeng_content id=”171939827″ description=”Read it now!” price=”0.49″ t=”article”]CHARLES TOWN — Republicans Peter Onoszko and Eric Bell will square off for their party’s nomination in the primary next month with the winner going up against Democrat Ronda Lehman in November.
Both Onoszko and Bell say they are concerned with the way the county is handling its affaris.
Onoszko, 65, said he entered the race to help deal with the county’s troubled financial outlook.
“In December, we were $4 million in the red and nobody else wanted to pick up the challenge to do something about it so I decided to enter the race,” he said. “The county budget that will take effect on July 1 will be a little over half executed when I take office, should I be elected in November. I sat through and observed every Jefferson County Commission session as that budget was prepared. I am intimately familiar with how that budget was crafted and the decisions regarding the cuts pursuant thereto. I am ready right now to assume the office I seek.”
Onoszko, who moved to Jefferson County in 2005, spent 25 years in the Army, retiring as a lieutenant colonel. He received his master’s degree in American history from American University in Washington, D.C.
Onoszko said he will work to restore fiscal responsibility.
“The commission proposed a 1 percent county sales tax,” he said. “That’s the wrong way to go. We may have to do some belt tightening. Families and employers are doing that now. We aren’t exempt from that process,”
Bell, who served 12 years in the Navy, said his specialty is information technology.
He said he believes updating the county’s technology infrastructure should be a priority.
“The county is about 10 years behind,” said Bell, 34. “Updated technology would save money and bring in jobs. Instead of having 14 servers, you could replace them with four or five and increase efficiency. Technology, technology, technology. We should be ready and embrace it. It would mean more jobs and higher salaries.”
Bell said he has seen contracts for the county drafted in the 1980s.
“There is no reason those contracts couldn’t be reviewed and rebid,” he said.
Bell, who works for Bloomery Distillery in Charles Town, has lived in Jefferson County for nearly four years.
He said his run for county commission is his first foray into politics.
“I’m not a career politician,” he said. “I’m just a regular guy who sees problems that should be fixed. I’m bringing in a fresh set of eyes to look at things differently.”
The victor in the May 13 primary will go up against Democrat Lehman for the county commission’s Harpers Ferry district seat. Lehman is running unopposed.
Lehman, 45, has been a nurse for 20 years and currently works with a small business in the medical field. She ran for county clerk in 2010 but lost to Republican Jennifer Maghan. Her activities include working with the Boy Scouts, coaching Jefferson Little League and serving as head of the Blue Ridge Watershed Coalition, which monitors and water quality along the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers.
“I’d like to be the people’s voice on the commission, doing the right thing for the community,” she said. “I don’t think a clean environment and a healthy business environment are mutually exclusive. I think Jefferson County can have it all,” she said.
One area where she said she feels improvement is necessary is mental health care.
“We don’t have enough mental health care providers,” Lehman said. “Many people self-medicate because they can’t see someone who could help them. We could cut back on drug addiction and jail costs and have a healthier community if more mental health care was available.”
Democrat Patricia Noland, 67, the incumbent for the Kabletown District seat, is also running unopposed.
A former circuit clerk and magistrate, Noland is running for her second term.
“I like to think in my first term that I voted the way my constituents wanted and represented the county in a manner that was best for the county,” she said.[/cleeng_content]