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Kercheval feels he can 'serve the county well'

October 25, 2002|by TARA REILLY

Editor's Note: This is the fifth in a series of profiles of the 10 candidates seeking election to the Washington County Board of Commissioners. Saturday: John C. Munson




tarar@herald-mail.com

When asked why he's qualified to be a Washington County Commissioner, Republican James F. Kercheval brings up his restaurant.

Kercheval, owner of Kerch's Southern BBQ on Pennsylvania Avenue, said operating the small business for 15 years is proof that he can manage tight budgets and maintain good relationships with his employees, who usually stay for two or three years before moving on.

"They stay with me because I make them feel like they are part of the team," Kercheval, 37, said. "I'm right there working with them."

Kercheval described himself as the kind of guy who likes to roll up his sleeves and get to work.

He also said his years with the restaurant helped him establish community contacts that can benefit the county.

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His personality, business skills and contacts make him a right fit for county government, he said.

"I'm not in it for the politics," he said. "I'm in it because I really feel I can serve the county well."

County citizens might have felt the same way in the primary election. Kercheval received 3,124 votes, the most of the non-incumbent candidates on the Republican side.

Five out of 13 Republicans advanced to the Nov. 5 general election. Two of the five are incumbents; the remaining three, including Kercheval, are newcomers.

The commissioners will make $30,000 next year, up from $20,000. Kercheval said if the post's pay had not been increased, he still would have run.

"I'm not in it for the money," Kercheval said. "I would be running whether it's $20,000 or $30,000.

If he's not elected on Nov. 5, Kercheval said he won't be heartbroken.

"If I lose ... I don't mind," Kercheval said. "It's part of the game."

But, he said, he'd love the opportunity to share his ideas as a county commissioner.

One of those ideas includes accepting growth as an economic tool rather than a hindrance.

Kercheval thinks growth is positive because it brings in revenue to the county and increases the tax base. He said county growth should be controlled, not stopped.

"A lot of people see this growth as a problem, and I see it as an opportunity," he said. "I'm not anti-growth. I don't want to come out as anti-growth."

"With growth, we have to look at every side," Kercheval said. "We have to take advantage of the positives and limit the negatives as much as possible."

Kercheval said the county can improve its communications with the public by improving the county Web site. He said the Web site can become more interactive by posting such items as building permits, minutes of meetings, votes and explanations of votes.

The site could also contain areas where residents can send messages on issues directly to the commissioners and county staff members. That way, he said, members of the public can voice their concerns and the commissioners or employees have a chance to respond one-on-one.

"I think we can do a lot with that," Kercheval said. "The more open we are with the public ... the better off we all are."

Kercheval is a graduate of Smithsburg High School and received a degree in mathematics from Shippensburg University. He and his wife, Clair, have two sons, Jacob and Garrett.

He was named the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce Small Businessman of the Year in 2000. He was chairman of the March of Dimes WalkAmerica 2000 and president of the Hagerstown Jaycees from 1997 to 1998.

He attends Tristate Fellowship Church and is a member of the Chamber of Commerce, an Achievement Counts speaker for ninth-graders and a member of the Washington County Speakers Bureau.

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