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Young city official volunteers to keep pool open

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Thanks to Jared Bloxton, they are keeping their heads above water at the city swimming pool in Ravenswood.

Bloxton, 21, was running the facility when Ravenswood -- and most other places in West Virginia -- was hit by a severe windstorm on June 29. He worked 14 long hours to clean up the debris so they could reopen the pool.

But as of July 1, he was forced to quit the job he's done successfully during summers for the past couple of years.

On that day, the youthful pool manager was installed on Ravenswood City Council -- and there's a city ordinance that prohibits elected Ravenswood officials from holding paid positions in city government.

"I had done my homework in that transition period between the May election and taking office," explained Ravenswood Mayor Michael Ihle, not exactly a grizzled political veteran at 25. "When I took my oath of office, I felt the ordinance was unconstitutional. But I asked our city attorney, when I came into the office July 2 and he said, 'You probably are right, but until it's ruled upon, it's the law.'"

Ihle knew they might have been in trouble, and knew he couldn't legally pay Bloxton or carry the liability of allowing him to work, so, unhappily, he had to let him go.

The catch? Bloxton was the only certified pool operator on staff at the city facility. The health department won't allow the pool to operate without a certified operator to handle the chemical treatment of the water. So the civic-minded councilman has been volunteering to handle the duties until another employee is certified.

"We're getting our feet wet in this together," Bloxton said of his relationship with Ihle.

This isn't the first time Bloxton has stepped up to help his community. The rising senior sports administration major at the University of Charleston and his brother, Heath, approached radio station WMOV-AM about doing a sports show once a week. While he didn't play sports in high school (he was vice president of the student body), he always loved supporting the Ravenswood Red Devils.

"My brother Heath and I were together one night, back in May 2008," he recalled. "We wondered if the local radio station would let us do a show, and they said yes!" Later, the general manager asked them to announce the Red Devils football games. Heath, 24, who works for the city's police department, has been doing play-by-play and Jared's been the color man ever since. In their fifth football season, they now do the basketball games as well.

"We're really big into sports, so it's really fun for us," Bloxton said.

"All I ever want to stress to people is to give young people a chance," Bloxton said. He is proud to be a role model for the younger lifeguards at the pool and in the city as a councilman. He served as president of the parks and recreation commission and was instrumental in organizing a successful Memorial Day celebration this year.

Bloxton's parents, Dan and Tina, were not surprised when their son ran for City Council or when he landed the pool manager job at 19.

"I was always the type that wanted to help -- with my brother's show choir and stuff in high school, with fundraisers -- even when I was in middle school. I've always been this way," he said.

Between school, volunteering at the pool, serving on City Council, and gearing up for the upcoming football season, Bloxton is working as a personal-property deputy field assessor for Jackson County.

But he's proud of the work he did running the swimming pool for the city.

"It's hard to even break even with a city pool, with the cost of chemicals. The first year, the mayor told me, we either made a very small profit or broke even."

Reach Sara Busse at sara.busse@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1249.


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