“I like to think that I can combine the best of both worlds as far as conservative and progressive values,” Scioto County Commission candidate Josh Lawson says. What does he mean by that bold statement?
Lawson, an advocate for entrepreneurs and recovery, running for Scioto County Commissioner, caused quite a stir with a video he posted saying the county needs to leverage the growing number of recovering addicts in the community as a force for economic development.
With the primary election just a little over two months away, SCDN’s Betty Smith caught up with Lawson at Rivertown Antiques to talk about his plans for the county.
Addiction is #1 Public Health Issue
Lawson, a native of South Shore, has lived in Portsmouth for 12 years. For the past five years, his work has focused on helping those in recovery from addiction. Lawson says that next to COVID, addiction is the number one public health issue of our time.
Lawson works at Shawnee State University’s Kricker Innovation Hub and is also a former pastor at the Evangelical Church of Christ. However, he said his part-time involvement with the church conflicted with the demands of his work in the recovery community, and he had to step back.
Before Lawson became a pastor, he worked with Community Action as a career specialist helping disadvantaged residents receive training and find jobs. Now, he is the recovery program coordinator at the Kricker Hub. “Basically, I connect people who are in recovery with the services of the hub”. Lawson says the program offers essential services for people who are trying to rebuild their personal lives and find a productive place in the community.
Not About Politics
Lawson said his candidacy isn’t personal. “I’m not in this to one-up the current commissioners or play party politics. If I’m elected, I’ll continue all of the good work that the current commissioners are involved in. But I want to add to it a few of the pieces that I think could use more attention.”
Among those items are Improving the digital economy and finding employment opportunities for people in recovery. Lawson says the barriers to recovering addicts entering the workforce hurt the community as a whole since many businesses face a worker shortage. “We need a good quality workplace and employers who understand substance abuse disorders.”
Best of Conservative & Progressive Ideals
Lawson says his experience with the recovery community puts him in a unique position to bring positive benefits to the area. “Theologian Jim Wallace once said that the conservative’s best idea is personal responsibility, which we don’t need a lesson on here in Appalachia. The progressive’s best idea is social responsibility. Answering God’s question to Cain, ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’ Well, the answer is yes. We have to look out for each other.”
Lawson says this applies not only to people in recovery but to any member of the community struggling with any issue. He also says he thinks the area does a very good job of providing services for those coping with substance abuse disorders and mental health in general. “There’s a wide availability of services here, but we have a ways to go. We see that with the recent closing of the receiving center at SOMC. I think help is out there.” Lawson is also keen on the current emphasis on drawing tourists to the area.
Not Advocating Shipping People In
One thing Lawson wanted to make clear is that he is not advocating bringing more addicts in from outside the community. “What I’m saying is that people ARE coming here for treatment – those are just the facts of our situation – therefore, we need to figure out how to leverage this trend as an asset to our economy,” Lawson says he backs a county-wide initiative to create recovery-supportive workplaces to improve outcomes for employers and employees.