The Wetzel County Farm Bureau held its Meet the Candidates Night April 9 at the Wileyville Fire Hall. Seventeen candidates from state, county, and local races participated and over 50 members of the community came out to hear and meet the candidates.
Candidates were given the opportunity to introduce themselves and give a brief overview of their campaign. At the end of the program the crowd was given the opportunity to ask the candidates questions.
"The event went very smoothly and the question session was very informative," said Bob Yeager, WCFB president.
Two candidates for West Virginia's Commissioner of Agriculture were in attendance; incumbent Gus Douglass is not seeking re-election.
Joe Mesinio from Roane County said he has been president and vice president of the Roane County Farm Bureau for the last 18 years and he has 46 years of experience with the United States Department of Agriculture.
"I want to move West Virginia forward," said Mesinio. "I feel very strongly that the small family farm is in trouble."
He said he wants to see the state meet the increasing demand for locally produced fresh meat, fruits, and vegetables. "The department is not looking at stuff like that," said Mesinio. He also believes food safety is a very important aspect of the job and he said currently the state only has one food safety inspector.
"When I get into the Department of Agriculture I'm going to carry you into the 21st century," promised Mesinio.
The other candidate for that office in attendance was Steve Miller who lives in Mineral County and has a farm in Hampshire County. Miller, who has an agriculture degree from West Virginia University, has worked with the department since 1981. Having worked in almost every county, Miller said he has found there are distinct regions and needs in the Mountain State.
The department's top priority, he said, is food safety. "We have about a seven-day supply of food in grocery stores and that's pretty scary when you think about it," said Miller.
The farm economy in the state generates a half-billion dollars per year. The farms need to be maintained and continue to build for the future. "We need to get our small farms profitable," said Miller. "The small ones are important."
Three candidates for Wetzel County Commissioner attended: Cecilia Jane Ries, Allen Rush, and incumbent Bob Gorby.
Ries said she believes the county commissioners need to be "out and about" the county. "Being a commissioner is a full-time job," she stated, adding that people need to know their commissioners are there for the citizens not just at election time, but any time. "This county belongs to the residents of Wetzel County," said Ries. From the St. Joseph's Settlement area, Ries said she is a member of New Martinsville American Legion, Quota Club, Moose, and VFW Auxiliary in Moundsville.
Gorby said during his 11-and-a-half years in office, "We have accomplished quite a few projects. I want to continue to work seven days a week for the people." He cited work at the courthouse such as paving the parking lot, installing the elevator, and cleaning the exterior as well as work at the 4-H camp where there are now 148 water and electric hookups for campers and all new blacktop roads on the property. Finally, he wanted to make clear that "the county commission has nothing to do with the roads." That is one issue about which he receives many phone calls.
Rush said, "If elected, what I would like to do is work with our outlying towns and communities." He also wants to mainly work with the area's youth. Hopefully county revenue will increase along with the gas gathering activity and Rush said he would like to see the sheriff's department first in line for that. He also plans to work with local elected delegates to keep infrastructure improving, working to get whatever they can from the state to work on the road problems. "I won't promise you anything, but I'll do what I can do," said Rush.
Five candidates for sheriff stated their qualifications and plans for the office if elected. They were Rob Haught, John Brookover, Mark Eller, Jeff Montgomery, and Jeffrey-Frank Jarrell who looks to be on the ballot for sheriff in the general election for the Constitution Party.
Haught, a 52-year-old lifelong resident of Wetzel County, is a 1977 graduate of Magnolia High School and attended West Liberty State College (now University). He is a graduate of the West Virginia State Police Academy and a certified law enforcement instructor who has received advanced training at Quantico, Va., and Glencoe, Ga. Since 1995 he has received over 1,000 hours of in-service training. "I believe this is very important. A lot of that training is in management and leadership," said Haught who is also on the Special Response Team (SRT) and is a U.S. Special Deputy on the fugitive task force for the U.S. Marshall's office. His goals for the office are to create a satellite office on the Short Line, drug task force with surrounding areas, senior citizens advisory panel, as well as address the mental hygiene transportation issue that is draining the department's budget.
Brookover, 64, recently retired from WCSD with 26 years as a deputy. He is a 1966 graduate of MHS and served in the Marine Corp. in Vietnam. He is a graduate of the WVSP Academy and has received 16 hours of continuing education every year. Brookover's main goal is to protect and serve the public. "I believe I treated the citizens of the county with respect and honesty," said Brookover, who said he gained knowledge, training, and experience as a deputy who served under four different sheriffs. "I will do the best I can," he said.
Eller said being Wetzel County's sheriff is "a dream I've always had." If elected, he would be following in his grandfather Yonsell's footsteps. A lifelong resident of Wetzel County, Eller is a 1986 graduate of MHS. "I want to conduct meetings throughout the county," said Eller of his main objective if elected. "I want to set up an anonymous hotline," he added. "We've got to fight the drugs. If we get rid of some of the drugs, some of the other crimes will be taken care of."
Montgomery, 46, is a 1984 MHS graduate and a union member in the construction industry for 28 years. He has worked with negotiating contracts, writing contracts, and writing grants. Montgomery has been a certified safe gun instructor for 18 years and is a 30-year member of the National Rifle Association. He is currently working toward a degree in Criminal Justice at Colorado Technical University. If elected, Montgomery hopes to continue school programs, create a drug task force to stop influx of drugs, start a search and rescue team, and contract services with Hundred, Pine Grove, Paden City, and New Martinsville. He says doing the latter would allow for quicker response time, better protect and serve the citizens, and save the towns money. He would also like to create a broad notification system to let citizens know of crimes taking place, for their protection, and to meet with a drilling alliance to address safety and concerns.
Jarrell believes the sheriff is the person to stand between citizens and the federal government when the federal government is doing wrong. "I really want the sheriff to be there," he told the gathering. "As sheriff we have more responsibility and we can act more as a protector."
The only candidate for assessor to attend the event was Scott Lemley who currently serves as a county commissioner. "The assessor's office belongs to everybody in this room," said Lemley, stressing that the office's employees should be able to help the public look things up and fill out forms. One of his biggest goals, if elected to the position, is "making information accessible online." But he clarified, "In no way do I want to make the whole office automated." He also said he wanted to squelch a rumor that he plans to go in and clean out the office of its current employees. That is not the case. "I have no big agenda other than to serve the citizens of Wetzel County. I have no intentions whatsoever of leaving Wetzel County government," said the man who once might have had an eye on a statewide position. He believes the top requirement for the position is to have a person as assessor who has a backbone and is able to stand on his or her own two feet to fight for what is right.
Board of Education candidates Linda Tracy Kirk, Jim "Cork" Bowen, and Carolyn Lemasters Gatian attended the event.
Kirk said she her entire life has been spent in Wetzel County and her entire career was at Valley High School. At that institution she served 17-and-a-half years as a language arts teacher and 21 years as a guidance counselor. "We all know changes are necessary for growth," she said, but added they often they are not accompanied by sufficient training or funding. "I do try to do what's expected of me and I work hard," she said.
"I'm not really a politician," began Bowen. "I think what we all have in common is a desire to help the people of the county." He is a graduate of West Liberty State College (now University) and has worked a school teacher, coal miner, and taught safety in coal mines. He returned to Wetzel County when he retired in 2008. When he got involved with fighting the merger of Paden City High School and Magnolia high School is when he saw the importance of hometown schools. "I feel like we have four great single-A high schools in the county," said Bowen who added that he sees his job on the board as finding out how to best keep them running well and as efficiently as they can. Finally, he added that he thinks the drug free club at MHS should be expanded to the rest of the county.
Gatian said, "I have no agenda for the county. I just want to promise you that I will look at each institution and see what needs to be done." She noted that with technology and other advances, there are many opportunities to get information to students. She would like to see "less time on the road, more time in the classroom." Gatian said, "Learning is ours to define. We need to make sure we're giving them useful information to use here." Finally she promised to listen, acknowledge, research, and learn.
Magistrate Judith Goontz told those in attendance that she has been a magistrate for 32 years and thanked everyone for their support over the years. She also spoke for fellow Magistrate Tom Shepherd who was unable to attend as he was attending to his wife who was injured in a car accident just a few days earlier. Both incumbents are unopposed.
Also unopposed is Prosecuting Attorney Timothy Haught who attended the event. He said that while he has devoted full time to his job since elected in 2000, the job has been a part-time arrangement. However, that will change on July 1 when he will be full-time and forced to close his private practice. "I have mixed feelings about that, but I just can't go on as part-time status. I have prosecuted and sent more people to prison on drug offenses than any other prosecutor in the history of Wetzel County. We do have a drug problem. I work with the DEA and federal prosecutor."
Haught noted he talks with officials in Allegheny County, Pa., probably weekly in the fight against drugs coming from there to Wetzel County. "What I want is your help and support," asked Haught. He says the two biggest problems are prescription pills (from pill mills) and heroin (from Pittsburgh, Pa., and Columbus, Ohio).
Delegate Dave Pethtel, seeking reelection to represent the fifth district, thanked the Farm Bureau for their endorsement. He told those in attendance that he believes in being fiscally responsible and trying to promote past policies that will help with job growth. During his time in office the state has reduced taxes and will eliminate the food tax by Jan. 1, 2013. Also, the state has reformed the workers compensation system, taken actions to help lower automobile insurance rates, and dealt with OEPB (Other Post-Employment Benefits), reducing the $10 billion unfunded liability to $5 billion. "I do believe that we have been fiscally responsible," stated Pethtel. "Fiscally we are one of the soundest states in the country."
Finally Secretary of State candidate Brian Savilla attended the forum. A social studies teacher and currently a first-term delegate from Putnam County, Savilla said redistricting has put him "out of a job" in the House of Delegates. He believes in integrity, honesty, and upholding the voting process. "Right now the voting process is not being held up," he asserted, noting that Lincoln and Boone counties have more registered voters than residents and almost every state position has candidates on the ballot who are not legally allowed to run. Savilla said that is the Secretary of State's job to take care of, but she wants it to be done by federal government or supreme court. "We would have a $95,000 glorified secretary of state," he said. Finally, Savilla said he wants voter identification put into effect because a signature is not enough to identify a voter.
Amy Nickerson represented Darrell McGraw at the forum, allowing people to talk with her and ask questions.
Along with the candidate activities, the Women's Leadership Committee provided refreshments for the evening. "Marilyn Thomas, Nell Yeager, and Carol Gorby did an excellent job in the kitchen and preparing the food. All the funds donated from the food go to the Morgantown Ronald McDonald House for supplies. We recently participated in Food Check Out Day with the West Virginia Farm Bureau and were able to take a truckload of much needed supplies to the house. Our funds are made possible from donations from the community, events like Candidates Night and our annual Fall Auction," said Yeager.
The event was kicked off with Air Evac representative Greg Jadwin speaking on the Air Evac service and to invite those attending to join the service. He gave the group details on the aircraft and crews covering the Wetzel County area. "It was a real honor to have Greg Jadwin and Air Evac with us this evening, we were able to offer our members a $10 discount if they sign up for the annual service," said Yeager. "This is a much needed service in our area and has been so beneficial in its short service to the county."
The Quilt of Life was also on display for the evening's event. Money from ticket sales on the quilt is used for cancer victims in the county.
The WCFB is very proud of the activities they provide for the citizens of Wetzel County and the work they do in the community and surrounding areas.
"Our safety committee will be holding two Progressive Ag Safety Days this year: May 4th at Short Line School and May 11th at Long Drain School. We will also be sponsoring the speaker for the Region 4 Women's Leadership Committee Conference on May 5th, doing a safety station at Sistersville General Hospital Safety Day, providing the overseeing coordinator for the Tyler County Farm Bureau Safety Day on May 18, as well as the Farm Safety training provided for the WVDA pesticide applicant holders retraining courses and Marshall County Co-Op Annual Meeting," Yeager added. "Robyn Yeager has been traveling across the state doing equine safety programs for youth groups this spring too, so our county committee covers a lot of territory."
For more information on the Wetzel County Farm Bureau, their benefits, or upcoming activities, contact Bob Yeager at 304-386-4567. For information on the Quilt of Hope contact Marilyn Thomas at 304-775-2805. For more information on Air Evac contact Jadwin at 304-688-5026. The WCFB is a non-profit organization.