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Ethridge applies business practice to job

Ethridge applies business practice to job
Ethridge applies business practice to job
District 1 Commissioner George Ethridge speaks Thursday afternoon with highway department employees working on the last phase of the Corydon-Ramsey Road widening and improving project. Photo by Ross Schulz (click for larger version)

Being a first-year, first-term commissioner in Harrison County can be quite overwhelming; just ask District 1 Commissioner George Ethridge.
Ethridge said even though it’s considered a part-time job; to be done right, it is no doubt a full-time job and more.
‘I knew it was more than a part-time job, I just didn’t know it was this much more,’ Ethridge said.
Regardless of the issue at hand for the commissioners, Ethridge leaves no stone unturned before making a decision. Take the asphalt rejuvenation debate, for example.
‘I learned more about asphalt than I ever wanted to know,’ he said.
Representatives from two companies spent nearly an hour each detailing their product at a public meeting, and Ethridge said he spoke with county officials who had used the products in the past to gather evidence and support for a decision one way or the other.
After a long deliberation (about three weeks’ worth) on whether it was safe for the environment, the commissioners decided on the cheaper rejuvenation product.
Ethridge said he tries to study each aspect of the task at hand to give taxpayers the best deal because, after all, it is their money. With a background in business, that comes naturally for Ethridge.
‘This county can’t be run like a for-profit business, I understand that, but some of the methodology of private business can be used,’ he said. ‘We’re not trying to make a profit, but we are trying to get the best return on investment and stretch dollars.’
Ethridge believes he and fellow Commissioners Kenny Saulman (District 2) and Jim Klinstiver (District 3) have put the business sense to good use already, particularly in the highway department, where they’ve trimmed a significant amount of money out of the budget without cutting anyone’s job (they did elect to not replace a couple of people who retired or left).
‘Residents deserve to get the maximum return on investment,’ Ethridge said. ‘From what I’ve seen, that hasn’t always been the case.’
That doesn’t mean the decisions are always easy, that he’ll please everyone or that he’ll always be right, he said, but he’ll always try to listen to everyone and make the best possible decision.
Ethridge and the other two commissioners listened to the concerns of residents on the south end of Corydon-Ramsey Road and agreed with them and, therefore, changed the road enhancement plans to incorporate those needs.
The commissioners also meet on a regularly basis with all department heads to share ideas and come up with the best ways to tackle certain issues.
Specifically in District 1, Ethridge said they’ve completed quite a bit of road work ‘ East Whiskey Run Road, Big John Road, Lost Creek Road and North Road ‘ to name a few. And work continues on the northern end of the Corydon-Ramsey Road project.
‘The crews up there (District 1) have just been fabulous,’ he said. ‘They’ve been very responsive to the needs of people in that area.’
Wennings Road has been targeted for repair, he said, and, hopefully, can be spot patched before the end of the year.
Ethridge has a secret weapon to finding all of the roads that are in bad shape in the county: his wife, Patti, delivers mail.
‘I’ve got an advantage on the other commissioners,’ he said.
Ethridge said his goal is to make things faster, cheaper and smarter for local government.
‘I think we’re on the right track using dollars as smart as we can,’ he said. ‘I don’t take anything for granted.’
Two major projects in the county are the sanitary sewer projects in New Salisbury and Lanesville. Ethridge said to promote economic development, a site or area needs sewers, water, electricity and broadband.
‘If you don’t have broadband, it’s not going to happen,’ he said. ‘It’s a needed utility anymore, a necessity.’
Ethridge said he’s blessed to have fellow commissioners Saulman and Klinstiver. He said Saulman is a focused and reasonable person and Klinstiver brings a wealth of road knowledge to the board.
The three-member board of commissioners meets the first and third Mondays of the month at 8:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m., respectively (unless Monday falls on a holiday, in which case, the meeting is moved to Tuesday).