First female County Commissioner says she’d like to see more women run for office –
By Patricia Beech –
When Diane Ward decided to throw her hat into the ring and compete for a seat on the Adams County Board of Commissioners, her announcement was greeted with encouragement from most, skepticism from some, and outright bias from others.
“During my campaign, I was told by three different men that there would never be a woman Commissioner in Adams County,” she says. “I was polite and I told them, ‘well okay, thank you anyway’ – what else could I do, but smile and go on, hand an ink pen to someone else?”
“You can’t let something like that stop you,” she says. “I’d like to see more women running for office.”
That’s a message she eagerly shares with girls and young women across Adams County.
“You have the same abilities and capabilities as the opposite sex, and you can do whatever you want in life if you put your mind to it, if you have it in your heart to be something and you work to attain it, you can achieve what you want,” she says. “Don’t let other people tell you otherwise.”
In fact, Ward is one of the most qualified candidates to hold a Commissioner’s seat.
Upon being sworn in, she brought over three decades of business, fiscal, and administrative experience to the Commissioner’s office where she had worked since 2003, first as the Commissioner’s clerk, then as head of the county’s HR department.
“Clerks are sometimes referred to as the fourth Commissioner, so I knew what to expect,” she says. “I tell people it was as simple as moving from one desk to the next, because when the Commissioners aren’t in the office, it’s the clerk who has to pick up the ball and run with it.”
One unexpected outcome for Ward has been the public’s reaction to her service.
“The only surprise has been just how well everyone has treated me,” she says. “Those I’ve spoken with say ‘we see you everywhere’, and they thank me for the work I’m doing.”
With the scheduled closing of the county’s two coal-fired power plants and the subsequent slashing of the county’s General Fund, Ward finds herself putting in long hours at work – longer than even she expected.
She and her fellow Commissioners have encouraged county employees to streamline, collaborate, and when possible share employees in order to save money.
Ward is leading that effort by example in the Commissioner’s office.
“I still help our clerk do a lot,” she says. “I have the background, and if she’s swamped, I jump in and help her. It wasn’t what I planned on doing when I was elected, but because of the our current situation we all have to do what we can.”
Ward also helps out at Auditor David Gifford’s office because of staff shortages.
“I love that we’re collaborating and working together,” she says. “It’s a good working relationship with open communication – we know what’s going on in the Courthouse, and they knows what’s going on in the Commissioner’s office, that’s how government is supposed to work, hand-in-hand.”
Ward says she would like to see more community members take an interest in what happens in the Commissioner’s Office and in the county.
“We all need to work together as a team to accomplish what needs to be done,” she says. “Right now, everything is running very smoothly, except for budgetary issues related to the power plants closing, but stuff like that comes at you out of left field, but you can’t let it get you down. You try to find ways to fix it.”
In addition to her duties on the Board of Commissioners, Ward is also actively involved in the Ohio Valley Regional Development Commission, serves as the Vice-President of ABCAP, and travels frequently across the state as an associate member of the BWC Retro Executive Committee.
“I do love it and it’s very rewarding,” she says. “As a fiscal officer I enjoyed going out and meeting and talking to people. It’s an excellent opportunity to discover ways to improve our county through networking.”
A consensus builder who believes it takes a team to govern effectively, Ward says she’s definitely not the “boss” type.
“Helping each other out, that’s my style of leadership,” she says. “You have to put yourself forward and get the work done, you have to be dedicated to what you’re doing. That’s the way I was raised – you help those who need help”
One group she is particularly interested in helping is veterans. The daughter of a World War II veteran, Ward helped plan the 2017 Adams County Veteran’s Day Parade in which she led a riderless horse and carried her father’s and her father-in-law’s memorial flags.
“People need to know – we need to not forget what our soldiers have done for us,” she says. “I want to keep the veterans front and center. They’re why we’re in this country and they’re the reason we enjoy the freedoms we have.”
Ward is also a strong advocate for children and a supporter of programs and organizations that benefit young people.
“The Scouts have a very special place in my heart because I was a Girl Scout leader and a Cub Scout leader, and I also helped with 4H,” she says. “These organizations are very important to our communities because they give us the opportunity to nurture and mentor our youth.”
She says she’d like to see a Boys & Girls Club in the county.
“We need a mentoring group for our youth who do not have parents in the home, or are being raised by their grandparents, or in a single-parent family,” Ward says. “If we could get them in a group county-wide and give them the kind of support they need, I believe we would see them grow up and become productive citizens.”
These days, when she isn’t in meetings or traveling around the state, Ward says she and her husband Lonnie enjoy spending time with their children, Meredith, Miranda, and Noah, and their grandchildren, Stella and Granger.
“Someday we’ll retire, but right now I’m enjoying my job,” she says. “I keep after it every day to the best of my ability, and when I go to bed at night, I can sleep.”