Gary Jenkins, high school student continues active 3rd Ward campaign

By Patrick Keck -

PORTSMOUTH — Most people his age have their attention set on their homework assignments, prom, and the epic highs and lows of the high school experience. Gary Jenkins does that as well, plus considerations for what will make Portsmouth a better place to live.

Improving the city’s infrastructure, promoting economic development, and advocating for zoning and code enforcement upgrades are the central tenants of his 3rd Ward candidacy. If elected, the Portsmouth West High School senior would be what City Clerk Diana Ratliff says would be the youngest council member since at least 1980.

Jenkins previously spoke with the Portsmouth Daily Times the week after announcing his candidacy in January.

“I’ve been looking for a way to help my community to be honest with you and this opening allowed me to do so,” Jenkins said in the Jan. 22 article. “I see it as a perfect opportunity for someone young.”

Now on the campaign trail for the past few months, he updated the Times Friday regarding his progress in reaching out to potential voters. Jenkins is active on both digital, through Facebook and his website, and physical fronts, through campaign banners and knocking on doors while social distancing.

His campaign has sent out over 1,700 mailers throughout the ward and held a cook-out event at Mound Park, attended by State Sen. Terry Johnson, R-McDermott, and Scioto County Commissioner Cathy Coleman. At the March event, Jenkins said he received an official endorsement from Coleman.

To make his goals a reality, he believes the city should look into hiring an additional grant writer to assists Community Development Director Tracy Shearer. This person’s salary should be reward-based and would hopefully alleviate part of Shearer’s “busy” role.

With the money there, the tasks of improving the city roads and other portions of its infrastructure could happen sooner rather than later he feels.

“Businesses won’t come in the area if you don’t have the infrastructure to support them,” said Jenkins, speaking with Scioto County Economic Development Director Robert Horton as to how insufficient services have affected the area.

The condition of the roads near the Southern Ohio Medical Center, an area that is part of his 3rd Ward, is another trouble spot for him. He learned of the situation through conversations with local ambulance drivers.

“It makes it difficult to perform necessary procedures on those patients going in and out of the hospital,” he said. “Those roads should be the best roads, not just in the City of Portsmouth but also in this part of southern Ohio.”

As a small-business owner himself, focusing now on power-washing after plowing area roads during the winter, he is not in favor of the recently discussed vacant building tax– positions shared with fellow 3rd Ward candidate Jerry Skiver and 5th Ward candidate Joey Sandlin.

“It’s like kicking a dog when it’s down,” he said, the proposal from 5th Ward Councilman Edwin Martell remaining as a discussion item after Monday night’s city managers session. “That’s not a business-friendly thing to do and my slogan is ‘I want to be open for business.’”

In addition to his small business, he recently earned the rank of Eagle Scout and served as a Boy Scouts of America lifeguard at three separate summer camps throughout the state. This fall, Jenkins will attend Shawnee State University where he plans on majoring in business administration with a minor in accounting.

By Patrick Keck

Reach Patrick Keck (740)-353-3101 ext. 1931, by email at, or on Twitter @pkeckreporter.

© 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved.

Reach Patrick Keck (740)-353-3101 ext. 1931, by email at, or on Twitter @pkeckreporter.

© 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved.