ST. CLAIRSVILLE - Belmont County Commissioner Mark Thomas was sworn in to office Monday, and he hopes to be a calming force for the commission that moves the county into the future.
"I pride myself on my professionalism, cooperation and courtesy," Thomas said. "It's good to have dialogue between the commissioners, and it's nice when that dialogue takes things in different directions. But I won't tolerate having that dialogue turn ugly. There's room for negotiation, cooperation and formal discussion about what is best for Belmont County."
He added his goal is for weekly commission meetings "to be as calm as possible."
"Nothing is accomplished by constant bickering," he said. "We're all for achieving the greatest common good. Often we just differ on how to get there."
Thomas was sworn in to office Monday by Common Pleas Court Judge John M. Solovan II. Thomas previously was elected to the commission in 2000 and 2004, and this was his third time to take the oath.
Thomas lost to Commissioner Matt Coffland in 2008.
The Belmont County Democrat Central Committee last week voted to appoint Thomas to the commission seat left vacant when Charles Probst retired as commissioner effective Nov. 30. Probst unsuccessfully sought re-appointment to the seat, as did five other individuals.
Thomas said he hoped to speak with the commission staff, and update himself on matters currently before the board on Wednesday. He next hopes to meet with Coffland and Commissioner Ginny Favede individually to hear their take on the county's most important issues.
Favede and Coffland have disagreed recently on whether $1.9 million in county infrastructure funds should be transferred to the Belmont County Transportation Improvement District and the city of St. Clairsville to fund a connector road in the Ohio Valley Plaza area. Coffland urges the transfer, while Favede had reservations.
Thomas said he is willing to listen to what both have to say.
"I know the recent history of the project because I was a part of it in 2007 when we created the Belmont County Transportation Improvement District," he said. "Six years later, it is still the sole project in which the TID has some meat on the bone. ... We need additional access roads to the Ohio Valley Mall and Ohio Valley Plaza areas. If we do not secure that access in some way shape or form, we are going to have some traffic jams in the next five years or so because of the growth around both retail centers."