WHEELING — Five candidates are in the running to be Ohio County’s next administrator — and among them are Wheeling’s fire chief, a current county employee, and three attorneys.
Applicants had until Feb. 15 to submit their resumes to the County Commission Office. The office initially received six applications, but one candidate withdrew their interest after learning names of applicants would be released, according to Ohio County Solicitor Donald Tennant.
Commissioners will now interview for the job Wheeling Fire Chief Larry Helms, current Ohio County Development Authority project director Randy Russell, and attorneys Ronald Musser of Wheeling, Owen Sullivan of Pittsburgh and Chris Ferro of Charleston.
– Ferro, a McMechen native, has been the vice president of economic development for the Charleston Area Alliance for more than four years, and has extensive experience in government administration. He has served as chief of staff for former West Virginia Secretary of Agriculture Walt Helmick, and as deputy general counsel for former Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.
Ferro is a graduate of the West Virginia University College of Law.
– Helms has served as Wheeling’s fire chief since 2007, and has been a city firefighter since October 1986. In March 2019, he was tapped by Wheeling City Council to serve as interim Wheeling City Manager, a position he had for three months.
Helms is a graduate of the Ohio Diesel Technical Institute and the National Fire Academy, and is a trained paramedic.
– Musser is an attorney with the Wheeling law firm of Spilman, Thomas and Battle. He has 30 years of experience focusing on general corporate law, commercial finance, wills, estates and trusts, and real estate.
He is a graduate of Alderson-Broaddus College, the United States Military Academy, and the West Virginia University College of Law.
– Russell has served as project manager with the Ohio County Development Authority since May 2006, and has been involved with county development concerns since that time.
He is a graduate of the former Wheeling Jesuit University, and is a current member of the Ohio County Development Authority board of directors.
– Sullivan is senior assistant city solicitor in the labor relations division at the City of Pittsburgh Department of Law, a position he has held for nearly seven years. He handles legal issues for the public safety and public works departments in Pittsburgh.
He holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and labor relations from Providence College in Rhode Island, a masters in public administration from Suffolk University in Boston, a law degree from the Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School, and a masters in economic science from University College Dublin in Ireland.
The next Ohio County administrator will succeed Greg Stewart, who left the county at the end of 2020 to focus on managing The Highlands development.
Commissioners specified in the administrator’s job description that candidates must have at least five years of previous “innovative and progressive leadership” experience at a government entity similar to or greater than Ohio County in population and geographic size.
Previous experience researching and helping support grant opportunities and working with county development areas — including tax increment financing districts and opportunity zones — is a plus, as is prior experience in county or business-related economic development.
Ohio County is the only county in West Virginia where the county commission administers elections, and commissioners want the next administrator to have experience in running elections.
Knowing how to use computers and technology in a modern and effective way is a must, according to the job description.
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