Ryan Scott Ottney
PDT Staff Writer
Southern Ohio Port Authority Chairman Mick Sturgill resigned from the board during their meeting Thursday, infuriated by comments made by Scioto County Commissioners which he said were politically motivated.
Newly-elected Scioto County Commissioner Doug Coleman told the Daily Times last month that he had ideas for finding a qualified economic development staff and revamping the Port Authority.
“SOPA needs a complete overhaul and (Soon-to-be Chairman of the Scioto County Commissioner Mike Crabtree) and I will start that process on Day 1,” Coleman said. “I feel the citizens elected me to provide new leadership, and I will not accept being hamstrung by the outgoing administration when it comes to economic development. The county needs constructive change and that is what I aim to deliver.”
Upset at the comments made by Coleman and Scioto County Commissioner Mike Crabtree, Sturgill and other SOPA members invited the Commissioners to attend their meeting on Thursday — but none of them did.
“Mike Crabtree hasn’t been to a (SOPA) meeting in two years and Doug Coleman has never been to a meeting. To come out and say ‘my first priority is to revamp the Port Authority’ … that’s a slap in the face after all that the Port Authority has done; the jobs that’s been created, the buildings that’s been rehabbed, the shopping center on land that people in this town said would never be cleaned up,” Sturgill said. “They made it sound like the Port Authority has never done anything. I know what the Port Authority has done. I know about the mill property and all the carcinogens that were up there. Everything that’s been cleaned up. The thousands and thousands of tons of PCPs that’s crawled out of this county to Idaho and Canada. The benzene and the asbestos that’s been cleaned up.”
SOPA Board Member and New Boston Mayor James Warren agreed with Sturgill that the commissioners should have come to them first with their plan to revamp the board.
“They don’t have time to talk to us, Jim, just like they don’t have time to come to this meeting today. They were invited to be here, and they don’t have the balls to come to this meeting today!” Sturgill said.
Instead of the commissioners attending personally, Chris Smith, Sean Boldman and James Bussa were there from the Health Coalition to introduce their program to the board and discuss ways the board can work together with county and city officials to attract economic development. Smith said they did not represent the Scioto County Commissioners in any official capacity, but they were scheduled to attend a meeting on economic development today on behalf of the county and they wanted to open communications with the SOPA board.
Strugill said he feared that creating a singular economic development committee in Scioto County would benefit the city of Portsmouth more than any other community, and might push SOPA aside entirely.
“I want you (Smith) to take this back to the commissioners because they were too chicken [expletive] to show up.” Sturgill shouted. “We’ve never brought politics into this board, until now. And I’m the one that brought it in, so don’t blame the board. I’m doing it because I got mad when I read that in the paper. In fact, I’m submitting my resignation today from the board.”
Board members immediately reacted with shock and insisted Sturgill reconsider.
“They (the commissioners) started this damn battle with their comments in the paper. I don’t want to work with them, and that’s why I’m quitting. I wish them a lot of luck. I hope they do well in their economic development; but to slam us in the paper like that — not me. I’m done!” Sturgill said loudly.
Members of the board became emotional as they continued their attempts to convince Sturgill to stay.
“The two members that we’ve had that have had the most knowledge over the years, since I’ve been involved, are (the late Bob Walton, Sr.) and Mick. All of us that are here have a good bit of knowledge and a strong foundation, but the two of you, when you put Walton plus Sturgill together, we come up with 110 percent on things we needed to know and to remember,” said SOPA Board Member Ann Sydnor. “Mick, we need you. Stay with us. We need you right now.”
Mayor Warren interrupted to agree with Sydnor.
“I don’t think you ought to fold under this kind of pressure,” he said. “It’s not going to be the same, but I think we need you yet to stay on. You’re the backbone.”
Members asked him to hang in a little longer, but Sturgill said this episode with commissioners, along with his own health problems, have brought him to this decision.
“I want to do it today. I’ve done it today, and I’m going to leave it today,” Sturgill said.
Syndor said nobody will ever know the hours and hours of work Sturgill and Walton gave to the board.
The Scioto County Commissioners could not be reached for comment on Thursday.
Ryan Scott Ottney can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 287, or email@example.com.