Belpre voters to make city election picks

BELPRE- Tuesday’s general election will include contested races for city auditor and at-large city council seats.

Along with seven city council seats, residents are asked to choose a council president, city auditor and city treasurer with two of these 10 races needing a decision as the others have one person wanting the seat.

“I think competition is healthy,” said current City Auditor Leslie Pittenger, who was elected uncontested in 2009.

The city auditor position sees George R. Holland (non-partisan), the owner of Liberty Tax Service in Belpre and Pomeroy, vying against Pittenger, a Republican.

“I decided to run after several people came into my business and said they would like to see personality back in the auditor’s office,” said Holland, 42. “I want to take an indepth look into how and where the city’s money is going.”

Holland, who has not held a public office, believes his 15 years of accounting and tax preparation experience with his wife, Alison, can be used to the city’s advantage.

“I am very involved in the Boy Scouts and Little League sports and want to try something different,” he said.

In her four years as auditor, Pittenger said she has made a number of significant changes to the office, including upgrading the software system for better efficiency, doing city payroll in-house and upgrading equipment for the department.

“One of the biggest changes was the focus on the city income tax situation,” she said. “The cost of upgrading the city’s system would have cost significantly more than outsourcing it and our collections are up because of it.”

In January 2012, Regional Income Tax Agency (RITA) began doing the personal and business income tax after city council approved the change.

“I am incredibly proud of my staff for having been awarded the Auditor of State Award,” Pittenger added.

In September, Ohio’s Auditor of State David Yost recognized the city auditor’s office for having clean, accurate financial record-keeping for the fiscal year ending in 2012.

City Council

Although all seven city council seats are scheduled to be filled this election, the council-at-large seats are the only ones with competition as four residents are vying for three positions.

“I am running because there are a lot of people not paying attention to what is going on in the city government,” said Donna Miller, 76. “I don’t have an ax to grind, but I want to make a difference for the city.”

Miller previously served one two-year term on council in 1976 and a four-year term on the Belpre City Schools District Board of Education.

“I know people are busy today and many have taken the attitude that they don’t care about what goes on around them and that isn’t right,” she said. “I would like to be a watchdog for the people.”

Incumbent Susan Abdella (R) has served seven terms on council and wants to continue working to develop the city’s economy.

“I enjoy being involved in the community around us,” she said. “Belpre is growing and changing and I want to continue to be a part of that and keep the momentum going.”

Another incumbent John Newberry (D), who was appointed to council by the Washington County Democratic Party Central Committee in March 2012 after longtime councilman John Baker (D) stepped down, hopes to continue working for the people.

“It has been a learning experience and I want to keep learning and helping the residents of Belpre,” he said.

Candidate William B. Scott could not be reached for comment.

Current terms for Mayor Mike Lorentz and City Law Director Tom Webster will end Dec. 31, 2015.

All others running for Belpre City Council seats are running unopposed: 1st Ward Councilman Larry Martin (R), 2nd Ward Councilwoman Debbie Marshall, 3rd Ward Councilman William Gilbert (R), longtime 4th Ward Councilman Dewey Robinson (D), council president Will Neff and newcomer Kylie Martin for treasurer.

There are no ballot issues this election.