By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
In a nation where cooperation has become a foreign concept, and compromise a sign of weakness, Betty Montgomery believes there is a better way.
And she calls it – the Wood County way.
Montgomery was the keynote speaker at the Lincoln Day Dinner hosted Tuesday evening by the Wood County Republican Party.
“I’ve never had a chance to say ‘thank you’ for all they’ve done for me,” Montgomery said of the local party members. They helped send her to the seat of Wood County Prosecuting Attorney, Ohio Senator, State Auditor, and State Attorney General.
So as a “thank you,” Montgomery talked about the characteristics that result in Wood County officials working together for the betterment of their citizens.
“The Wood County way. It’s about seeing a problem and solving a problem,” she said. “It’s about working together.”
For years, Montgomery believed most governments functioned the same way.
“It wasn’t really until I was in state government that I realized everyone is not as blessed as Wood County,” she said.
Every government has its share of “scoundrels and scallywags,” she said. But Wood County seems to work around them.
“At the end of the day, we figure out a way,” Montgomery said.
She credited Wood County’s different way of functioning to the farming background of the region.
“We plant, we nurture, we harvest. We work hard,” she said.
Montgomery acknowledged that these are politically challenging times. But the nation has been through tough times before, she said, noting the occasion of Lincoln’s birthday and the turmoil he dealt with in office.
“We’re living in turbulent times. But this is not the most turbulent of times,” she said.
Montgomery said local leaders need to stick to their values. “We don’t look for government to do what we can do ourselves,” she said. “We’ll find our way.”
There is plenty of room for debate over the current president’s style and message – “whether it reflects American values,” she said.
Local Republicans must not forget that their basic values focus on fiscal responsibility, personal responsibility, limited government and national security, she said.
“But nobody seems to be paying attention,” to the fiscal conservative message right now, she added.
The United States was created with the realization that compromise is required for a nation to move ahead, Montgomery said. “The electorate has felt the decision makers in Washington don’t reflect that.”
Newly appointed Ohio Higher Education Chancellor Randy Gardner, who formerly served 33 years in the state legislature, said that teamwork and compromise occur in Wood County despite the slate of elected officials heavily weighted toward the GOP.
Though the population of Wood County is pretty balanced in identifying as Democratic and Republican, the vast majority of elected officials are Republican. And somehow, it manages to work.
“We just have good people, who work hard and work together,” Gardner said.
That can’t be said of all regions of Ohio.
“When you talk to legislators across the state, most counties don’t work like Wood County,” he said. “We know Wood County will do better if we work together.”
Wood County Commissioner Doris Herringshaw said that philosophy and coordinated efforts don’t just happen.
“We work to make that happen,” she said. That means communicating with others before taking action. “We don’t make decisions without consulting other people.”
The commissioners hold breakfasts with other elected officials, lunches with economic development officials, and evening town hall meetings with citizens throughout the county,
They know other counties don’t work the same way.
“We hear terrible stories of people – county commissioners – yelling at each other or not talking to each other,” Herringshaw said.
Though all three Wood County commissioner seats are currently held by Republicans, there have been recent years when the board has been split with two Republicans and one Democrat.
“We put that aside and look at what is best for Wood County,” Herringshaw said.