Ohio County Commissioner

Editor’s note: The same five questions were distributed to the candidates running for this particular office. Earlier in the fall, Weelunk solicited questions from you, our readers. Those questions are reflected here in this story. Candidates were invited to offer their answers for publication free of charge. The candidates are presented in the order of ballot position in their respective district. Numerous efforts were made via campaign websites, social media profiles and publicly available contact information and phone numbers to solicit each candidate’s participation.



What prompted you to run for office/re-election?

I’m running for Ohio County Commissioner for two reasons. I do not like the level of commitment being given to the seat on the County Commission which is up for election. Although County Commissioner is a part-time job, it requires a full-time commitment. A County Commissioner should reside in the county full-time in order to provide the accessibility and responsiveness the county residents deserve. I’m a full-time Ohio County resident who is very involved in the county and pledge to take the position very seriously and not treat it like a retirement job.


I will bring a great deal of experience to this seat on the County Commission. I have over 30 years’ experience as an attorney with a number of years of experience advising on local government issues, specifically with regard to the law which applies to County Commissions and County Development Authorities.

Additionally, I have approximately 26 years of real estate experience in my law practice within Ohio County. I have also served for 19 years as a Municipal Court Judge for the City of Wheeling. This experience will be a benefit to the Board of Review, which is what the County Commission is when it hears residents’ property tax assessment appeals. This experience is not currently on the County Commission.

What do you believe to be the most important issues in your race?

I believe that the most important issue in my race is which candidate is the most committed candidate in the race. The Ohio Valley, including Ohio County, and the City of Wheeling are on an upswing. There are some tremendous developments on the horizon in addition to The Highlands. There is much activity within the City of Wheeling and just across the river which will impact Ohio County. As such, we need committed, full-time residents to serve in leadership roles who will be involved and engaged.

If elected, how will you improve the economy of the Northern Panhandle?

I am typically cautious about answering questions about what I intend to do. Politicians usually answer those questions by giving their “to do” list, very few of which ever happen. I’ll answer by indicating that my sense of commitment and experience will help strengthen the County Commission and will help the commission with what I believe are one of its two main purposes: making the county attractive to job creators. This will improve the economy.

I believe that having a committed, involved and responsive county leader will appeal to job creators, as will improved relationships between the county and the city, towns and villages within the county. Ensuring that public utilities extend throughout the county and controlling levy rates while making sure that property tax assessments are reasonable, will also appeal to job creators.

How can we attract more commerce to The Highlands in the non-holiday months?

The real answer to attracting more commerce to The Highlands is the business mix. I believe that it would be helpful to obtain residents’ opinions about future operations. Non-retail uses are important, too,  for non-holiday months. So, in addition to retail shopping uses, hotels/motels, dining, industrial and recreational uses should be focused upon. Additional non-retail development of out parcels is also beneficial to draw people to The Highlands. More advertising of the event center and ultimately the sports complex would seem to be in order to maximize the usage of the non-retail operations.

What is the most important message you hope to get across to the voters?

Our region, including Ohio County and the City of Wheeling, seems to be on an upswing. I’ve heard an expert’s analysis that the potential cracker plant across the river could have an unimaginable impact on our area. The analogy the expert made was to the impact of other game-changing products like tobacco, glass and nails. That’s exciting!

However, in times like what I believe are coming, we need committed, experienced and involved office holders, and not politicians here part of the time, just in it for a paycheck.

I am the experienced and committed candidate for County Commissioner this year who is ready to be here and be involved with the opportunities on the horizon.

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What prompted you to run for re-election?

My main reason for seeking re-election to the Ohio County Commission in 2019 is to continue being the best full-time county commissioner I can be, and to continue working hard to move our county forward and continuing to make the improvements and changes necessary to make living, working and playing here in Ohio County the best it can be. I also believe it is important that all government entities come together in our county — federal, state, county and cities — to address our serious opioid and other drug issues.


What do you believe are the most important issues in your race?

The issues I want to continue to address are continuing to improve the infrastructure in Ohio County with the maintenance and rebuilding of our county water and sewer systems; continue improving the health and safety of our citizens by providing our volunteer fire departments and deputy sheriffs with life-saving equipment and the necessary training to use it; keeping our taxes low, here in Ohio County we have the second lowest county levy rate in the state; and continuing to make sure every Ohio County resident who calls me with an issue or visits the County Commission office gets the attention they desire and deserve.

If elected, how will you improve the economy of the Northern Panhandle?

I will continue to work hard to improve our county’s economy, which helps in raising the economy of the Northern Panhandle. The economy of the Northern Panhandle has no borders — as a matter of fact, we share our economy with the whole upper Ohio Valley. Ohio County struggles for the vast amount of flat land that is required for development of large manufacturing projects. But if we are successful with the construction of the second interchange at The Highlands, we will not only make access to The Highlands easier and safer, it will also open up the back of the development for additional light industrial projects such as the Kalkreuth’s, Silgans, Cabelas Distribution centers and East Coast Metals, which already occupy the development. If the planned ethane cracker plant in Belmont County becomes a reality, by continuing to improve our infrastructure, water and sewer, when residential developers and home builders are looking for areas to build in the upper Ohio Valley, we will have the infrastructure in place to build such projects right here in Ohio County.

How can we attract more commerce to The Highlands in the non-holiday months?

The Highlands is, as planned, diversified so that a multitude of businesses keeps it active in commerce every day. The Highlands is by far, the single most important thing that has improved the quality of life for all Ohio Countians. It has provided jobs, additional tax dollars for our schools, entertainment, retail shopping, health care, education, dining, lodging and the soon-to-be mega big box store, Menards, and the indoor sports complex and so much more to come. The next project on the front burner for The Highlands is to open it up for more development through the construction of the second interchange at the bottom of Two-Mile Hill.

What is the most important message you hope to get across to the voters?

This is where I would normally sell myself to the voter by telling them who I am. My name is Orphy Klempa, and I bring to the Ohio County Commission a lifetime of experience and knowledge — from my early beginnings as a toy worker, glass worker, coal miner and carpenter to my experience in labor and management, to my six years in the State Legislature as a Delegate and Senator. And, of course, my experience as your full-time County Commissioner for the past six years. This is real knowledge and experience that I believe is a true asset in a public servant, and I thank you and, once again, I ask you for your vote.

But unfortunately, I am again in one of my elections forced to defend myself from negative campaigning. Anyone who knows me or follows me and my political campaigns knows I am a positive person, and I campaign the same way. I have never spoken negatively about my political opponents, and I never will. It’s not who I am and being true to myself is more important to me than winning. Let me set the record straight. My wife Mary Jo and I have one home here in Wheeling. It is in the Virginia Apartments, and she and I reside there full time. We both have been fortunate to have good jobs in our working careers and, by working hard and saving some of our money upon our retirement, we invested our savings in a vacation condo which is also used by our children, grandchildren, sisters, brothers, nephews, nieces and close friends. In no way is this a second home or residence nor do we want it to be. This is where Mary Jo and I vacation and sneak away, when possible, for a long weekend. I hope the people of Ohio County now knowing the whole truth will continue to support me and not allow the negative campaigning, that we all claim to dislike, enter this race for County Commissioner.