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Crooks set to retire from commissioner position, seat opens to contenders


Muskingum County Commissioner Mollie Crooks has announced she will not be seeking re-election this year, with multiple candidates from both parties now vying to replace her open seat.

This primary season, three Republican candidates will compete against each other to take on Democrat John Furek in November. Crooks’ last day in office will be in early January 2025.

Crooks, who will have served two full terms – for a total of eight years, leaves a legacy of good stewardship and fiscal responsibility; she also inspired young women to follow in her footsteps and consider local public service.

Commissioner Crooks previously served in the healthcare field and as a nonprofit leader, most recently as the Executive Director of Big Brothers Big Sisters in Zanesville before becoming county commissioner.

Successfully elected in late 2016, Crooks joined fellow electee Commissioner Cindy Cameron, who was previously appointed to the position, along with Commissioner Jim Porter.

She was subsequently re-elected in 2020, having now almost served two full terms, Crooks said it was time to turn in her hat and join her husband in retirement.

“A couple of years ago, my husband and I sold our business,” Crooks said. “When I came into this role, I told myself I would only serve for two or three terms. We are both still healthy and physically able enough to do some things we put off and it just seems like a good time to depart.”

Commissioner Crooks with her husband, Rodney.

As a good friend of hers advised, she said, she has done her duty, set out to do what she sought to accomplish, and that it’s now time to let someone else serve the constituents of Muskingum County.

“I announced last summer in hopes that good quality candidates would run,” Crooks recalled. “I’m very excited there are good candidates interested in the position. I talked to anybody that was interested (in the position).”

Three Republicans, Tony Coury, Drake Prouty and Gene Tahyi, will seek for voters to make them the party nominee this primary season, which began Wednesday with early voting. Democrat John Furek will take on the winner of that race this November. It’s also possible, though unlikely, that an independent candidate will still file, their deadline is much later than that of a party candidate.

“I’ve been in nonprofit, healthcare, owned a business, but this was my first time in the public sector and I learned a lot and there’s never a dull moment,” said Crooks. “My goal when I started this whole campaigning was to somehow leave a legacy and make this community better, impact it in a beneficial way, and hopefully I did that and people will feel the same.”

Crooks inspired the next generation with her service but also made local history. When she was elected in 2016, and began serving in 2017, it was the first time Muskingum County had two female county commissioners. In 2022 when Commissioner Melissa Bell was elected, and when she began serving in 2023, it was the first time in county history that the board was comprised of three women; only two other counties have three female commissioners, roughly only 15 percent are women.

All three Muskingum County Commissioners at the Gaysport Bridge opening in early 2024.

“More importantly, I do think it’s a motivator for more women to get into government, which has not always been the case,” said Crooks. “So in that aspect, if the fact that three women is encouraging and gets young women, young girls, to think about doing this, who may not have thought about it, then it’s worth it. Really what it boils down to though is these positions are not about gender, they are about skill set, experience and expertise, as well as the ability to lead, listen, cooperate and communicate effectively.”

Crooks said that during her tenure a mother approached her wanting to connect her with her young daughter, hoping she might consider mentoring and giving guidance to the young girl who was interested in politics and government.

“I’ve been talking to her since she was 14,” Crooks said. “I am shocked that someone so young would be interested in politics, but she is and I hope that’s just the start of other young women looking at these public sector careers because every team, the more diverse they are, the more dynamic and strong it is and so that diversity comes from differences in skillset and gender and thought process, all of those things.”

Crooks’ term officially ends on January 2, 2025, at midnight, ending what will be two terms and eight years of service to the community.

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