Vinton County is about 55 miles southeast of Columbus. Its immediate neighbor to the east is Athens County. Rich Exner, cleveland.com
McARTHUR, Ohio -- Vinton County, like most of Appalachian Ohio, strongly supported Donald Trump for president last November. More than seven out of 10 voters in the county cast their ballots for him.
But while Trump's message of "Make America Great Again" resonated among people here in Ohio's least populous and nearly poorest county, there's an underlying skepticism - even among Trump supporters - that he will do much to help their lives and communities. It's a feeling that Vinton County doesn't have much greatness to regain.
Ohio Matters is a series examining important national issues through the eyes of people living across the state.Meet J.C. Mullins, a diner owner who opposes Donald Trump.Jeremy Pelzer, cleveland.com
This is a county of 13,200 people that hasn't had a grocery store in several years (though one is expected to open in a few months, thanks to a helping hand from elected officials). The best-paying jobs here are at a dynamite factory; many other workers (those who haven't left permanently) commute to jobs outside the county, in more prosperous cities such as Athens or Chillicothe.
Columbus is an 80-minute drive away. The closest interstate highway can be reached after spending more than an hour on winding, two-lane roads through rolling, forested hills.
Some voters here express hope that Trump will energize oil, gas and coal activity, but they quickly add that there's not much of any of that in the county. Others wish more manufacturers would set up shop in the area, though there's not much optimism that will happen.
Read about five people from Vinton County and the issues that matter to them: Eric Klinedinst, J.C. Mullins, Jeff Griffith, Millie Lane and Nikki Harvey.
Community leaders say the economy is slowly improving, thanks in part to increased tourism from nearby Hocking Hills State Park, but no one is expecting a boom here anytime soon.Vinton County
Explore Vinton County by the numbers, from income and poverty to ancestry and voting history.
"The economy goes up, and the economy goes down," said J.C. Mullins, who runs a diner in downtown McArthur, the county seat. "But nothing changes here."Meet Nikki Harvey, a Democrat who voted for Donald Trump.Jeremy Pelzer, cleveland.com
Other issues, such as Trump's controversial attempt to temporarily halt immigration from seven mostly-Muslim countries, don't make much of an impact in a county in which only 0.2 percent of residents are foreign-born.
About 98 percent of the county is white, compared to almost 83 percent statewide and 72 percent nationwide. Seventy-nine percent of residents have high-school diplomas - the fourth-lowest percentage of any Ohio county.Meet Eric Klinedinst, a Vietnam veteran and Donald Trump supporter.Jeremy Pelzer, cleveland.com
But whether or not Trump can help Vinton County, many supporters here feel they finally have a spokesman in the White House - someone who articulates and validates their dreams and fears on an international stage, and forces the powers-that-be to take them seriously.
"Trump, with all his billions, seems to have a common-man sense about him, that he can relate to us," said Jeff Griffith, a Trump voter and one of two practicing attorneys in McArthur. "And he says the things that we're thinking, that we're sometimes afraid to say because it's not politically correct."Meet Jeff Griffith, an attorney who voted for Donald Trump.Jeremy Pelzer, cleveland.com
Vinton County, like many other Appalachian Ohio counties, historically hasn't been an overwhelmingly Republican area. Democrat Bill Clinton won here in 1992 and 1996, and Republicans Mitt Romney and John McCain each won a little over 50 percent of the vote in 2012 and 2008, respectively.
Caleb Appleman, Vinton County's marketing director, said the county would likely have voted Republican last year regardless of the candidates. But the 29-year-old native he said he heard a lot of people say they just couldn't vote for Hillary Clinton, Trump's Democratic opponent.Meet Millie Lane, a school board member who fears what Donald Trump will do.Submitted photo
"I think that I saw maybe three Hillary Clinton signs throughout the election in the whole county - and one of them was mine," said Appleman, chuckling.
Cleveland.com reporter Rich Exner contributed to this story.
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