BLUEFIELD — Ronnie Oakley is challenging incumbent Greg Puckett for a seat on the Mercer County Comission.
Oakley, a Matoaka businessman, moved here from North Carolina six years ago.
He and his wife own Red Ostrich LLC, a wood-working internet business that makes home decor for houses and vinyl graphics. Oakley said they recently purchased the old Matoaka school to make room for an expanding business. They also tear down old houses and reuse the wood.
“I am just your average, everyday hard-working guy,” he said. “I believe in honesty, integrity and transparency. I am full of common sense.”
Oakley, 44, said if he doesn’t know something, he will say so and find out the answer.
“This is a job interview,” he said of presenting his case to voters. “I am a businessman who can bring change to Mercer County.”
Oakley said the county should be run like a business and be more “business friendly,” with no tax raises, more broadband access and job diversification.
His priorities, he said, will be to bring in jobs, infrastructure like water and broadband, and tackling the drug problem.
Oakley said he has personal experience with addiction and “lost a career (former fireman) over it.”
“But I have been there,” he said, adding that people need to find the right help. “I quit cold turkey and it took a year to get it out of my system. Some people can’t do that. I believe in giving people a second chance. I made a mistake. I learned from it and paid dearly.”
Oakley said he supports the ATV industry, not only for the money the industry brings in but also for related businesses that get established to support them.
“The more you bring in, the more money comes to the county,” he said.
He also supports tourism projects like the Bluestone Waterways Trail, which will bring watercraft on the Bluestone River in Bramwell.
“The more the merrier,” he said of people visiting the area.
As far as the litter problem in the county is concerned, Oakley said it’s a matter of providing residents more places, like transfer stations, to drop off trash as well as recyclables.
“If we can have new places” to drop those off, he said, it would prevent much of the litter.
“If it’s there, people would probably use it, take advantage of it,” he said.
Oakley said he does not think littering is a cultural or generational problem, but rather a matter of people needing more places to legally drop off trash.
He also said using inmates to pick up trash is a good idea.
With the ongoing pandemic, Oakley said the way to handle it is to “put the trust back in the people.”
“You can’t shut everything down,” he said. “They would do the right things. You still have to go on.”
Money should be made available to small businesses to provide the same protections to customers that larger stores have, he said, so they can stay open.
Oakley said he does not agree with a mandate to wear masks, that it is “unconstitutional” to try to force people to wear one and they should be able to make the choice to either wear one or not.
“I never believed that government should get involved in medical decisions,” he said. “Everybody is an adult. They know what they can do and what they can’t do to be safe. If it (getting the virus) is going to happen, it’s going to happen … it’s one of those things.”
On bringing in more jobs, Oakley said it’s a matter of advertising the whole county.
“Invite people that own businesses to show them around and work with them,” he said, adding that they will “love the area” once they come here to visit. Getting them here gives the county a chance to talk to them.
Oakley also said he negotiates “really well” and can talk to people who own businesses.
He also said he does not support a meals tax and thinks inmates should pay their own jail bills.
Oakley said he believes in using “common sense” to solve problems and he is ready to do “anything he can to help anybody.”
Contact Charles Boothe at email@example.com