John Furek: commissioner candidate profile


By Staff Report

John Furek grew up in a military family, his father, a World War 2 vet, was one of the first infantrymen to liberate the Dachau Concentration Camp in Germany, his brother served in Vietnam, so it seemed almost natural he would follow in their footsteps and serve his country, now decades later he is vying to serve in a different way, as the next commissioner of Muskingum County.

The community leader, retired teacher, mentor to many and proud father of three children and six grandchildren said he wants to give back to the community that he loves so much and believes his experience educating the area’s youth, developing and running community programs that have raised many local leaders and his military service makes him the ideal candidate for the position.

A Democrat, Furek ran uncontested in the primary election this spring but made sure to note he’s not the kind of candidate to follow his party blindly and said that if elected commissioner he will do what’s right for the county above all else. He now faces Republican Melissa Bell – no independent filed. The seat was opened when Muskingum County Commissioner Jim Porter announced his retirement.

For a complete list of all candidates on the ballot this fall, be sure to check out our article, which includes brief information on major candidates and links to all their websites. Early voting started Wednesday, October 12, and Election Day is Tuesday, November 8.

Furek isn’t a native of Muskingum County, nor is his opponent, Melissa Bell, but like her, he has come to call the area home. It is where he raised his children, along with his wife, in their home along Main Street in Dresden.

A graduate of the Navy’s Nuclear Power School, The University of North Carolina at Ashville and Miami University, Furek capitalized on his love for his country and desire to serve, both in the military and his community as an educator, instilled in him by his immigrant grandparents and family full of military veterans. His dad, who Furek referred to as his hero, braced the intensity of the Western Front of WW2, inspiring him to value the freedoms of America and the desire to give back to the next generation.

“He was in the infantry, which meant he was on the front lines, and he told me he was often shot at,” Furek recalled. “People who were involved in World War 2, Korea, Vietnam, it changes you, it hardens you, it builds your patriotism.”

His father, his uncles, and his cousins all served and like his brother before him, when Furek graduated high school, he forwent college to enter the navy. His academics, including his love for math and proficiency in the sciences, meant that he was selected for the most elite program in the U.S. Navy, those who operate and maintain the nuclear reactors aboard both surface-based ships and submarines.

After his six years of service on the USS Sea Devil, a nuclear fast attack submarine, Furek went to college, getting both his undergraduate and graduate degrees, then moved to Dresden to help Tri-Valley start their German Program. He would do a lot while there as an educator including everything from running the yearbook to starting a new club, RuriTeen, a group focused on teaching students responsibilities and turning them into leaders within their communities.

Furek said he was approached by many in the community after Commissioner Porter announced his retirement. He took the time to consider the invitation, adding that in his retirement he always felt there was something else he was meant to do in this life and for the community where he has now lived for so long, raised a family and made such an impact in the lives of so many.

Eventually, he settled on running, but on the condition that he does things his way, not the way Democrats typically campaign, he would run to better all of Muskingum County, seeing little ways a Republican or Democrat run the office differently, more concerned with the party politics that often, according to Furek, gets in the way of making Muskingum County better.

“I’ve always felt that you settle down in a community and give back – your community is only as strong as you make it,” added Furek.

Unlike his opponent Melissa Bell, Furek ran unopposed in the primary this spring. One Democrat and one Republican that had filed to run, one against Furek and one against Bell, respectively, were disqualified by the Board of Elections. Bell faced hometown native Anthony Adornetto in the Republican Primary, beating him by 112 votes.

Since the conclusion of the primary, Furek has been making rounds meeting with community leaders, citizens and those that want to see a change in Muskingum County. Visiting with township trustees regularly, Furek has already taken on the self-appointed tasks of helping Brush Creek get water extended throughout their township, giving them guidance from his regular attendance at the Muskingum County Commissioner meetings.

“Not everyone needs city water, some are quite happy with their well water and would refuse a water tap,” Furek explained. “However, it can be instrumental in getting businesses, even something as simple as a gas station or a Dollar General, somewhere to quickly grab the basic necessities.”

Asked if he was nervous or apprehensive about the election, Furek simply shook his head and smiled.

“There’s something about serving in the military, it builds your self-esteem,” said Furek with pride. “It makes you feel like you could conquer the world.”

Furek doesn’t have the win of a primary election like Bell, but he said that he thinks it’s better that way, it makes him fight even harder for it, not having a victory to coast on from. It’s a fight he will have to give, as Y-City News has reported in the past, Democrats don’t typically win county-wide races locally. The last Democrat to win a county commissioner election was Jerry Lavy, who was seeking reelection against then Tri-Valley School Board Member Eddie Brock, a Republican.

Like Bell, it’s Furek’s first race for elected office, though he was elected and served as Vice President of his student body in college.

Furek graduated high school in 1968, joined the navy, and was assigned to the engineering team aboard the USS Sea Devil, in total he would serve six years in the armed forces during the first Cold War. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Ashville in 1978 with a bachelor’s degree in German and English, noting that it was around the time, during his education of the German language, that his father first truly started opening up about his service in Europe and being one of the first to approach the concentration camp at Dachau.

Receiving a full ride to Miami University, Furek got his masters in German, graduating in 1989. He co-taught a study abroad program in Luxembourg twice while in the program. After graduation, Tri-Valley hired him to start a German program and Ohio University Zanesville soon also enlisted his skills, hiring him as a professor. During his tenure as a local educator, Furek organized 18 trips to German-speaking Europe taking around 600 students, an opportunity many still thank him for to this very day.

Having directly taught thousands of kids and mentored even more, many of whom didn’t have him as an instructor of foreign language but as a leader of various school or community-based programs, Furek gleamed with pride as he recalled story after story of his former students who have done great things both locally and around the world.

“You do stuff, you get involved as a young person, you carry that over to when you’re an adult,” said Furek. “I’ve had former students, some now teachers, tell me the best part of high school for them was volunteering.”

One of the most positively received parts of the campaign thus far is when Furek ran into his opponent Melissa bell at the Muskingum County Fair and the two got a photo together.

With the nastiness of state and national politics, citizens from across the political spectrum locally made note of the upstanding character of the two to be polite and cordial around one another.

Like many candidates that run for local office, Furek didn’t want to make any promises as to what he would get done, realizing that if he was elected he will be part of a team of three county commissioners who must work together to get tasks done, however, Furek did say he has two priorities for his campaign.

First, Furek said it is instrumental that the county work to expand high speed broadband to the rural parts of the county, making note of the many children who struggled during the pandemic when they couldn’t complete classwork at home like their city or suburban counterparts.

“It’s frustrating because we had the ability to address this with our ARPA Funds and the commissioners didn’t,” said Furek who went on to list numerous townships that are struggling with the issue.

Secondly, Furek said he believes that the county needs to work to extend water lines, when wanted, to help the rural regions of the county out. He referenced the issue fire departments have, using tankers, when there aren’t fire hydrants nearby and a home is on fire. Furek also cited how businesses need reliable water, something that isn’t a guarantee with a well, if they are going to open up or expand

Lastly, Furek added that he’s ‘running for this office because’ he ‘believes in the county’ and that he can help, ‘not for a political reason.’

“It’s frustrating for me to see elected officials, on a local level, follow their party and not what’s best for that county, why would you do that,” asked Furek.

Furek and his opponent, Melissa Bell, met in early October at the Muskingum County Library for a candidate forum. To check out the commissioner portion of that event, click here to water our video.