CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — After nearly two decades on Harrison County Commission, Ron Watson is throwing his hat into a different political ring.
Watson recently announced he’ll be running for House of Delegates 48th District in 2020.
“I think it’s time for someone else with some fresh eyes to be able to come in and to share their vision and interests that they have for not only Harrison County, but North Central West Virginia,” Watson said.
“Particularly at 75, should I be fortunate enough to get a fourth term, I mean, I’d be over 80 by the time that term is over with,” he added. “I have nothing against aging, but at the same time I think other individuals would be able to come in and take what we built on and even make government better. That would be the hope.”
In addition to serving three terms as a county commissioner, Watson has also served as the state president for the West Virginia Association of County Commissioners — a position he believes would be a benefit to a House of Delegates run.
“I know the issues that counties have, and I think I could be a great advocate for Harrison County with regard to being in Charleston to at least be able to either support or do what I can to get bills killed that’s not in the best interest for Harrison County,” he said. “I think I can make a difference, and should I be elected, those terms are only for two years, and there could be a possibility should I win and felt that I was effective enough, that I would be able to at least seek a second term and still have the energy to continue.”
More so, Watson also sits on several boards in Harrison County, including the Benedum Airport Authority, the Harrison-Clarksburg Health Department, and the Economic Development Authority.
“I think the knowledge certainly has an advantage, or at least should be an advantage,” he said. “I feel that the knowledge that I have with all these other agencies that I’ve set on the boards over the years give us a better perspective of need.”
Watson believes he can make a difference for the 48th House District.
“And I can hit the ground running. I mean there’s nothing so complicated with the 18 years here of being an effective representative for Harrison County,” he said.
Among Watson’s goals if elected is opposing “anything that is an unfunded mandate” and continuing with the government transparency he’s championed as a commissioner.
“I have been during my years here opposed to tax increases. I think less government, less taxes is a philosophy that I’ve had, and being transparent with government is some of my area that I feel very strong,” he said. “I would continue to be open and accountable and accessible to the people that we serve, because it is the people who own government — not a bunch of elected officials.”
He’d also like to address the high expense of regional jail bills.
“We’ve budgeted for this upcoming year for about $2.6 million for per diem for regional jail,” Watson said. “I do know the legislature and the governor’s office have been working hard for alternatives that would reduce jail bills, but at the same time you want the bad guys in jail, but there may be some other areas that you could work on that would be alternatives to actually keeping someone in jail.”
If Watson would win the election for House of Delegates, his long tenure on Harrison County Commission would come to a bittersweet end.
However, Watson does feel he leaves behind many contributions from the last 18 years.
“One of the first and foremost is an improved emergency communications system,” he said. “With the onset of 9/11, it was determined all over that emergency systems were inadequate. We had people in New York that stood a block apart, but the fire department couldn’t talk to the police department, this police department couldn’t talk to another agency.
The county also expanded from only two radio towers to now five, Watson said.
“We’re about 95 percent, anywhere in this county, any holler you want to go up, for communications, and that’s improved,” he said. “Your 911 Center is the life line to all of those policemen, fire and EMS people that’s out there on the line of fire, and I think that is probably one of the most effective that we’ve done.”
Watson’s also proud of the advances the North Central West Virginia Airport has made in the last 20 years.
“It is self-sustaining now,” he said. “At one time, our airport had to be subsidized by county government funds, as well as some other areas that we had to subsidize just to keep the lights on at the airport. I’m pleased that not only do we no longer have to subsidize the airport, but we’re moving leaps and bounds that our airport is second to none in the state.
“I’m pretty proud to have been part of that team over the years to where it is, and it’s going to go to greater heights.”
Watson filed his pre-candidacy papers in January and is starting to pick up his campaign.
“This has been long thought out, this wasn’t a spur of the moment,” he said. “I had decided on this a couple years ago as to when the time would come that I need to move on and make time for somebody new.”