Wetzel Chamber Hosts Candidate Forum
City, county, and state politicians gathered at the Wetzel County Mollohan Center April 19 for the Wetzel County Chamber of Commerce’s Meet the Candidates forum.
The following are some of the highlights from Thursday’s forum:
Wetzel County Commission
On best quality
Greg Morris said he feels his best quality is that he is a listener. He said he will listen to the county’s citizens to try to figure out the best solutions to issues. He said he has some experience in public speaking, as he is a part-time preacher.
Morris said he feels he gets along “with people well.” He said he has campaigned door-to-door and feels he makes a connection with people. “It’s been a good experience,” he said.
Commission candidate BB Smith noted his previous experience working with state government. He cited work with the state building and trades council, as well as work with the state auditor’s office. Smith said he also helped with the West Virginia Jobs Act. Through his work, Smith said he has learned how every office works. “It’s unbelievable how everybody is supposed to work in the same, but do things differently.”
“That educated me a lot about the system and how it works.”
The commission candidates were asked how important they feel it is that a commissioner be in his or her office, and available, on a regular basis.
Smith said it is very important to be available.
“I don’t know that they are supposed to be in the office eight hours, five days a week,” Smith noted, but added a commissioner should be available to constituents and available to talk “at any time.”
“Everybody that has a question should be able to talk to at least one, if not all, the county commissioners. It’s very important.”
Morris said he agreed with Smith, that a commissioner needs to be available at any time one of the citizens has a question and needs to talk about anything.
“Dave Pethtel is a good example,” Morris said. “He will talk to you right now. If not, he will call back.”
“I think that is important as a county commissioner also, to be there and be available to talk to the citizens whenever they have a question or a problem.”
The commission candidates were asked what they like most about the county.
Morris said the people “is most impressive.”
Morris described how he has lived from one end of the county another. He grew up in Wileyville, attended school in Hundred, but he now lives in Paden City. He said there are needs all over the county that should be addressed.
“I think that is one thing I like about our county. It is not just all city people or country people. It is a diverse amount of people that live in the county. There are different things that need done in different areas.”
Smith agreed with his opponent. He said the people are what make the county “what it is.”
“As a county commissioner, it would be my job to support those people and organizations like the volunteer fire departments and EMS and senior citizens”
He noted he visits senior citizens’ centers all over the county and “visit the people.”
“They let you know what needs to be done. Can we do it all? No. But we can certainly try.”
New Martinsville Chief of Police
Chief of police candidates Tim Cecil and Daniel Eastham were asked what they each feel qualifies them for the office.
Eastham said he has worked at a “couple of different police agencies.” He said he is a certified officer who has gone through the 16-week training. He said he has had opportunities to continue his training.
Eastham said he has an ability to reach out to people and is “big into community policing.”
“I like to reach out to people.”
Eastham said with his training and experience in law enforcement, he feels he is very qualified, along with his education.
“I like to work with the officers and help them in doing their job and carrying it out.”
Current New Martinsville Police Chief Tim Cecil said he has a military background, a degree in Criminal Justice, as well as 15 years of experience in the job.
“I work well with the community and schools. I have two (Prevention Resource Officers), one in each of the schools. I have set up ALICE training A lot of people want (kids) to hide and duck, but with the ALICE training, we teach them to fight back and run, and give them a fighting chance.
Cecil said he works well with other departments and has just finished a year-long investigation with several other agencies.
Each candidate was asked what makes him the best suited to be New Martinsville’s Chief of Police.
Chief Cecil said his “availability” makes him best suited. He noted when he first started his job as chief, he knew he had to make a connection with the community. Thus, he made his cell phone number similar to the police department.
Cecil said he answers calls at any time, whether it be 1, 2, or 3 a.m.
Cecil said he answers at these odd times because someone may be in need of “a friendly voice,” or there might be someone on the other line who is “having problem with addiction.”
“I have talked people through bad nights.”
Cecil said he stays well involved with the community, such as being on the sidelines during football games or traveling with the football team.
Cecil said his “availability at all times to be there to help out,” makes him suited for the position.
Eastham said his availability would make him best suited for the position.
He said he would be a “24/7 cop.”
Eastham said he has a girlfriend, but she understands his line of work and his commitment to the community he serves.
“I’d like to have an open door policy where people come in and address concerns.”
Eastham said he has served under great leaders and has been taught how to address situations, such as through crime watch groups.”
Love of New Martinsville
Each candidate was then asked what he loves about the City of New Martinsville.
Eastham said he loves how “close-knit” the community is. He said the city has a friendly atmosphere compared to other places. Eastham said he has served on the fire departments and expressed how he liked interacting with the community. “That is why I decided to move up here and left Paden City.”
Cecil said he loves the “pride New Martinsville takes in itself, the way the community comes together when there is a crisis, and the way people get behind each other.”
Cecil recollected 2015, when he helped to lead Magnolia’s football team back to the city after the team won the state championship.
“I looked to my right and saw the whole plaza filled and beeping horns it is just amazing. I love serving this town for the simple fact of that. We have a lot of great people here, and this is just great to be here, to raise my kids here I’ve raised two kids through college and have two raising at home, and I hope they come back. It’s a wonderful atmosphere, a wonderful place to raise kids. Even though there are people walking around at night our town is still safe.”
Wetzel County Board of Education
Wetzel County Board of Education candidates Jay Yeager and Brian Price each had a chance to deliver opening remarks and answer questions at the April 19 forum. Here are their thoughts:
Vision for the Future of Wetzel County Schools
Yeager said the citizens of Wetzel County have been very supportive with levies and bond issues. “That is why we are able to have community schools,” he explained.
Yeager said he would like to see more vocational education in the schools, because of the job market today, with the oil and gas industry.
“The oil and gas industry is requiring more vocations of welders and electricians and specialty work. We, in our schools, need to provide that training for our students.”
“We want to ensure that students that graduate from our high schools are ready for the job market.”
Price said his vision is much like Yeager’s.
He noted he would like to see the addition of vocational education.
“Trades are important. We’ve forgotten how important skilled tradesmen are to the communities. I have a vision like Jay’s to try to bring that back to our students.”
Price noted the importance of accessibility throughout the whole county.
“Sometimes we try to take a round peg and cram it into a square hole. We have to pay attention to what is going on in all the schools. We need to figure out what works in different areas, how we can improve each of our schools in a way that benefits them.”
Price said the school system has to find ways to reach the most vulnerable students in the systems and disadvantaged children.
“It is heart wrenching what teachers, principals, and staff go through on a daily basis.”
Yeager said he would like to see a Prevention Resource Officer in each of the county’s schools.
Yeager noted the mass shootings that have taken place throughout the country, including in schools. “We need a PRO in all high schools and elementary schools. That is one of the things I’d like to support.”
Yeager said he worked with Chief Cecil a few years ago when the first PROs were stablished, one at Magnolia and one at Valley. “Now we have them at all high schools and at New Martinsville School.
New Martinsville City Council
Brian Rogers was the only city council candidate who appeared at the Meet the Candidates forum. He noted how he and his wife, Miranda, are business owners. He said he has spent time on the Board of Directors for the Wetzel County Chamber of Commerce. He said he has also been active with Artslink and RegattaFest. He also noted that he and his wife, Miranda, are hosting a Meet and Greet picnic on April 29 at Bruce Park. He said he would like to invite the public, as well as everyone in Ward Three.
He was asked, as a resident and business owner, to give two of the key issues he feels are important to the city of New Martinsville.
“One of the primary concerns is the balance between taxation and services.”
“Everybody wants to offer every service to citizens possible, but no one wants to pay taxes for those services.”
Rogers referenced debate in the city council concerning increasing the B&O tax, adding service fees for non-residents, or adding the municipal sales tax.
Rogers said, when it comes to taxes, finding the right balance about where the tax level is appropriate is the hardest task.
“Finding the right balance about where the tax level is appropriate to offer citizens what they want is the really the hardest tax.”
New Martinsville City Recorder
Sandy Hunt was the only New Martinsville City Recorder candidate present at the candidates forum. She spoke on her history in the area, her volunteer endeavors, and noted how her time with the Wetzel County Convention & Visitors Bureau has shown her “the potential we have,” including the powerful strengths in New Martinsville.
“It is time we start progressing the city and community instead of things remaining the same.”
Hunt was asked the same question as Rogers, to give one to two key issues facing New Martinsville.
Hunt noted the drug epidemic as being one key issue facing the city.
“We are losing an entire generation of children.”
Hunt noted the importance of engaging the youth. She said there needs to be vocational training in the schools, so the youth have opportunities to do things they feel good and important about.
Delegate Dave Pethtel and Senator Charles Clements were both present at the forum; therefore, the chamber gave them the opportunity to speak.
Each were asked what they felt were some of the key issues facing the county.
Clements noted the key issue for Wetzel County, like most other counties, “is employment.”
“If we don’t have base jobs, it just doesn’t work If you get one job, a base job I’m talking about a job in the plant, the job in the coal mine”
Clements said these jobs produce other jobs.
Clements said the area has to produce the atmosphere that attracts companies. He noted the drug problem needs to be addressed, as it hurts the area’s ability to attract jobs.
Pethtel also expressed the importance of providing jobs, so “people can stay here and raise a family.”
Pethtel said having qualified workers are “very important.”
Pethtel said the continued expansion of the oil and gas industry is very important, and having the opportunity to “get downstream jobs will be very important.”
Pethtel agreed with Clements, concerning the area’s drug addiction problem.
“There is no easier answer. The easier answer is to tell people not to start drugs.”
Pethtel said the legislature recently passed a couple of bills, reducing the use of certain drugs and create more facilities.
“I believe those are very important,” he said.