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Onoszko sworn as Commissioner

By Staff | Jul 29, 2016

After hearing many comments from the public regarding a vacancy on the Jefferson County Commission, and spending time interviewing a short-list of four candidates, the Commission selected Peter Onoszko to fill the vacancy created by Eric Bell’s resignation late last month.

Many of those making public comment at the start of the regular meeting urged commissioners to fill the seat with a “true Republican,” one who did not change party affiliation simply to become a commissioner.

The group had a list of18 potential candidates for Bell’s position. While county attorney Nathan Cochran told commissioners that the Attorney General’s office had indicated it was not necessary for the replacement commissioner to be from the Harpers Ferry District, where Bell was resided; he did tell them the candidate had to be a Republican, as Bell was. The AG’s office said that there was not a given timeline for switching parties.

The commissioners narrowed their list from 18 to four with all four of the potential candidates residing in the Harpers Ferry District. Each commissioner felt that was an important point in their selections so that voters in that district did not feel as if they were losing a representative although all commissioners represent all county residents.

The finalists included Gary Dungan, Peter Onoszko, Ann Smith and Daniel Zappe.

Each of the four were interviewed with a list of predetermined questions to ensure uniformity. Questions included such things as what each candidate saw as the most important role of a county commissioner; how they felt about impact fees; how they felt about developers with regard to water and sewer infrastructure; what their knowledge was of the Open Meetings Law and similar general questions.

Smith, who was the lone candidate who had switched from the Democratic party to Republican for the purpose of applying for the position, was asked some additional questions with regard to the change she had made and what she felt her obligations to the Republican Party might now be. She replied that she felt no connection to the local Party. She explained that she had been a Democrat since she registered to vote because her father was a Democrat. However, she said that she leaned much more toward conservatism but had never taken the initiative to change parties.

Commissioner Walt Pellish moved to nominate Onoszko for the vacant seat, citing that he felt Onoszko was very qualified for the position.

“I will put the name of Peter Onoszko out as a nominee to fill this position. He meets all the requirements, he has been a Republican in good standing for a long time, he has demonstrated his commitment to doing this job by virtue of what he did as a candidate a couple of years ago and attended all the meetings for a year, and, to me, that shows a major form of commitment,” Pellish said.

Commission President Patsy Noland nominated Smith for the vacant seat saying that she made her decision based on criteria she set for herself including that the candidate be from the Harpers Ferry District and that the candidate not have lost an election previously. Both Dungan and Onoszko had lost previous bids for office, Onoszko to Bell for this commission seat. Zappee, a resident of the county for not quite one year, had not previously sought office.

Onoszko was selected by a 3-1 vote with Noland voting for Smith and Pellish, Dale Manuel and Jane Tabb voting for Onoszko. He was sworn immediately by President Noland and sat as a member of the board for the remainder of the meeting.

Onoszko will fill the term until the 2018 general election when the seat will appear on the ballot.