Several Attend Candidates Forum
Several state and county candidates for office let their voices be heard at a special “Meet the Candidates” forum held at the Paden City Development Authority building on Monday, Oct. 17. The forum was sponsored by Wetzel County Chamber of Commerce, moderated by West Virginia Northern Community College Dean Larry Tackett, and broadcasted over Power Country 99.5. Candidates for Wetzel and Tyler counties’ offices spoke at the forum.
Charles Clements, Republican candidate for Wetzel County Commission, spoke at the forum. It was noted that Democratic candidate, Lisa Heasley, had planned on attending and speaking at the forum but was unable to attend due to a family emergency.
Clements said many people know him from his work with Clements Oil Company and with H&R Block.
He said he is a people person, and “I try to give when I can.”
Clements said when he moved to Wetzel County in 1970, the county “was flourishing.”
He said with the oil and gas industry, the county can flourish once more.
“We can get people to come back and make this their home. We can improve on the quality of life for people that live in Wetzel County.”
Clements suggested the county do this “through better infrastructure and helping curb this drug problem that we have.”
Clements said he is motivated to run for office because his time in the House of Delegates, he “enjoyed that very much.”
“I am very much a people-oriented person, and I’m one type of person that wants to give a product that is good… I’m motivated because I want to do things. I have worked with the Route 2, I-68 authority.. we need good roads, and we need good infrastructure.”
When asked what he wants to change about Wetzel County, Clements responded that he doesn’t want to be “one of those people that say I want it to be what it used to be, but I’d like to see the quality of life continue to improve. We need water and sewer. We need better roads and all those things that make life more pleasant.”
Clements’ biggest concern is drugs.
“I want to see that our sheriff’s department is well-equipped and well-staffed to handle the influx of drugs. I want to see us be able to give people help. Jobs are the most important things we can do.”
“I grew up in Boone County, and when I read articles that were written down there about coal mines closed, everyone turned to drugs… We’ve got to turn that around here, in Wetzel County and West Virginia.”
Democratic candidate for Wetzel County Sheriff, Mike Koontz, was unable to attend the Oct. 17 forum. However, Jeffrey Frank Jarrell, Constitution party candidate, did speak at the forum.
Jarrell said he graduated from Magnolia High School in 1975. He said he worked at Ormet for 36 years, and after Ormet’s shutdown, he went to school again, at the age of 58.
“I’ve been wanting to do something about our society for a long time, and I feel that sheriff is one of the grassroots ways to work with the society to make sure we can become better. I want to do all that I can do to help the people of the county.”
Jarrell said he has seen corruption.
“I saw things happen that I knew were wrong in every level of government. I tried to figure out what to do with it, and this is one of the things I’m doing.”
“I’m learning a lot more about how to get into the political system so I can do some good… Otherwise, if we don’t do something, nothing will ever be done. Too many people want to allow someone else to do it. Someone has to step out,” Jarrell said.
Jarrell said a lot of people, that evening, have spoken about the drug problem. “I was going to talk about it too, but in lieu of that, I think I’ll talk about the naivety of the peopole and that they don’t understand what goes on in our society. They don’t know what to do; they think they have no power. They do have power. All they have to do is step up, go to the polling place, and vote for people. Their wishes will be acknowledged in one way or another.”
Jarrell said one of his biggest concerns, including for the entire nation, is that there are so many “people out there that don’t want to be educated. They don’t want to know what is going on around them… They want to follow someone else. We need to educate our people in some way so that they will understand that they will be able to make a change, in their society, whether it be at the county level or state or national level. Whatever it is, they can make a difference.”
“We are going to start at the family level. The family level is where it all begins. That goes for the drug problem as well. For some reason, I don’t understand it all yet, why it got to the point it did? We need to start at the family level, go on through the schools, and increase education on how to do things the way they should be done properly.”
Philip Wiley, Wetzel County resident and Republican, spoke in regards to his candidacy for House of Delegates, Fifth District.
Wiley said he is a country boy and “always will be.”
He said he graduated from Magnolia in 1965, was in the Army for a while, went to work at PPG, and had a union job as a pipefitter.
He said he was in the National Guard and went to college; he said after retiring from PPG and the National Guard, he went to work for Air Evac, which he describes as “a very rewarding job.”
Wiley said he is a veteran of the Vietnam War and Desert Storm.
Wiley said “I do the best I can. I won’t make everyone happy all the time, but I will do what I feel is right.”
“I’ve been doing most of this on my own; I have small support from the Republicans, Right to Life, and West Virginia family. I just do the best I can, and if you have any questions, get ahold of me.”
Dave Pethtel, current delegate for the Fifth District,” said he has worked hard to earn his constituents’ respect and “thank you for your past support.”
Pethtel said he likes to get bipartisan support and works from the center.
“I believe I have a lot of support from people in labor, financial services, and healthcare… it’s about putting fair laws in place to maintain and create jobs, and I will listen to you.”
Pethtel said he has fought against lowering wages for skilled workers. I fought to protect from out-of-state workers on taxpayer funded projects.”
Pethtel said he supports the coal miners in the industry, as well as the natural gas industry. He said it has been difficult to balance the budget in the last two years mainly because of the lowering of severence tax on coal and the lowering in price of natural gas “because of an overzealous EPA, because of lower demand on international coal, and lowering of prices.”
“While we do have problems to overcome, we have strengths.”
Ann Urling is a candidate for state treasurer. Urling spoke briefly on her background, noting that her grandfather was a coal miner and her parents were educators. Urling said she lives with her husband and two of her three children in Charleston. She said her oldest son made her a grandmother.
Urling said her oldest son lives out-of-state and “a lot of that is due to the condition that the state is in.”
“It is hard to get a job here right now,” she said.
Urling said she is senior vice-president of Summit Community Bank and never considered running for public office. She said she was approached by the Republican party and asked to consider running for a seat on the board of public works.
“I am new to the world of politics but not to banking and finance,” she said.
Urling said the current state treasurer “has been there for 20 years and likes to hand-deliver unclaimed property checks… It makes me question other choices that might be made. I would like the opportunity to offer a fresh set of eyes. I think I have the skill set to do that.”
Kent Leonhardt spoke on his candidacy for Commissioner of Agriculture.
Leonhardt noted that many know him as a state senator for District Two. “It has been a privilege working with leaders of both parties. We’ve been able to solve a lot of problems, and we’ve got more to do.”
However, Leonhardt noted that he felt there was a need for his skill set for the commissioner of agriculture position.
Leonhardt said he is a retired Marine Lietenant Colonel.
“My family and I live on a 388-acre farm we restored. We raise cattle, sheep, and produce, ” he remarked.
Leonhardt said the state needs to make sure its citizens have a safe and affordable and abundant food supply.
He also expressed concern about EPA overreach. “When founded, the EPA did a great job cleaning the air and the water.”
However, “they are hurting the oil and gas industry, the coal mines. We have to turn that around… And if you care about economic development, I’m the only one that has taken an abandon farm and restored it.”
Leonhardt noted the many family farms that have been lost over the course of just a few years. “We have to reverse that course.”
Randy Swartzmiller, representing current agriculture commissioner Walt Helmick, noted that Helmick loves the people of West Virginia and “is an animal lover.”
Swartzmiller said Helmick has a certificate in welding, is a small business owner with a welding shop, has a degree in economic development, and is a fiscal conservative.
“While he was a senate finance chair, when he was senator, he pulled together an economic bond plan that helped fund Cabela’s,” Swartzmiller noted.
He added that Helmick, while the senate finance chair, cut 450 million dollars out of the state budget, that went back to taxpayers.
“He understands that if you invest, there will be a return. He understands what built West Virginia and that is the hardworking men and women of this state. That is evident by the support he’s gotten in his campaign.”
“He has said many times before, we can’t have labor without business, and we can’t have business without labor. He understands that after the elections are over, we are West Virginia.”
Frances Headley spoke on behalf of Mike Manypenny, who is West Virginia’s Democratic nominee for United States Congress, for the first congressional district.
Headley said Manypenny is a farmer and prides himself on being a good listener and working well with others.
Manypenny’s interests include stimulating the economy, removing interest on student loans, refinancing student loan debt, raising minimum wage and “lifting up Main Street over Wall Street.” Headley said Manypenny believes that “you get as much out of the community as you put in.”
David Moran, Libertarian candidate for governor, also spoke Monday night. He said he was running for the office to “provide a choice for the voters” and to “make sure that the real issues are addressed.”
Moran said all his ideas and plans are in a book called “All Mountaineers are Libertarians.”
Moran said Democrats and Republicans have been running the state for 150 years “and we are still dead last in almost everything.”
“If your football team had been in last place for 150 years, would you hire the same coaches back?” Moran asked, adding “I don’t think so.”
Moran said he had an economic plan to put forward “that will mean the revitilization of the manufacturing industry.” He said another plan deals with the problems of drug addiction.
Moran has taught at the United States Naval Academy and is an adjunct professor at WVU. He is a farmer from Preston County.
John B. McCuskey, who is running for state auditor, spoke to the audience on the tasks of the auditor.
McCuskey also noted that he is often asked why he, “a young man with a young family,” is running for office, especially when “West Virginia isn’t doing well.”
“I think the opposite is true,” McCuskey said. “If we can start to focus on things that are amazing and wonderful, we can start reaping the benefits.
John Buckley, running for the office of West Virginia’s secretary of state, is a member of the Libertarian party.
Buckley said his credentials make him “uniquely situated to do this job.”
He said he has the background of a lawyer, can read statutes, can work with Democrats and Republicans, and has a background as a chief administrator.
“Sometimes elections and politics get harsh and nasty,” he said. “The people here… we are all good people. Given that the secretary of state’s job is to serve as a chief elections office, having a third-party candidate might be perfectly situated to run our elections process.”
“If you have someone in the office of secretary of state, who is neither Republican or Democrat, voters can rest assured I will be fair but tough on enforcing election laws.”
Ryan Thorn spoke on behalf of Natalie Tennant, current secretary of state, who is running for reelection.
Thorn spoke on Tennant’s background, including how she was born and raised on a small family farm in Marion County.
Thorn said Tennant went to WVU, was selected as the first female Mountaineer mascot, and worked as a journalist for 15 years.
“It is truly a priviledge for her to serve as secretary of state. She runs a transparent office… Natalie has kept her promise to veterans by helping them and supporting the boots to business program.”
“She’s kept her promise on election reform, cut down on voter fraud, modernized the registration process, and she’s worked with both parties on election reform.”
“Despite what you heard (Tennant) does support coal miners and fighting for their pensions and retiree benefits.”
“She’s tough, tested, and trusted,” Thorn said of Tennant.