DAILEY - The Randolph County Democratic Executive Committee offered local residents a forum to meet and hear from Democrat candidates and non-partisan Randolph County Board of Education candidates Monday at the Tygart Valley Fire Department.
Each candidate present had three minutes to speak. Meshea Poore, who is running for the United States House of Representatives 2nd Congressional District seat being vacated by Shelley Moore Captio, said, "I am a 'true blue all the way through' Democrat, born and raised in Charleston. I attended Howard University in Washington, D.C. I understand West Virginia because I was born and raised in West Virginia."
Poore said West Virginia has strong roots and its people are strong.
"We need to look at the resources of West Virginia," Poore said. "That is our people. I have always supported working families. I let my people know I will fight and work for them. I will fight for military benefits. We need to protect our military men and women."
Poore said another benefit people deserve is Social Security.
"The United States made a contract with you," Poore said. "I know we are dealing with hard times, but there are other things that we can cut."
Poore said West Virginia also needs to target drug addiction.
"There is an epidemic for meth and prescription drugs," Poore said. "People need to be put into treatment to make sure they are able to go back to work. It's something that affects us all over the state."
Two state delegates spoke at Monday's forum.
"Jobs and workforce development is very important to West Virginia," Delegate William Hartman, D-Randolph, said. "But the most important problem we have in West Virginia is the drug problem. It has affected a generation and we could lose them if we don't get a handle on it. We have to look into rehabilitation."
Hartman said the biggest complaint from employers, whether it be a restaurant or a high tech business, is finding a qualified workforce.
"If they do find someone qualified and give them their training, they will flunk a drug test," Hartman said. "I also think that technical education needs to begin earlier, perhaps during the middle school years. "
Delegate Denise Campbell, D-Randolph, said she serves on the education and health committees.
"These are my passion," Campbell said. "I have been in health care for over 20 years and education is very important to me. I have two sons - one is 25 and the other is Logan, age 11, who attends Third Ward Elementary School. I want to do whatever I can to be sure every single student in Randolph and Pocahontas counties have the absolute possibility to reach the potential of everything they have the ability to be. It is our responsibility to connect them to that."
Randolph County Democratic Executive Committee member Frank Bush introduced those running for the Randolph County Board of Education in the order they will appear on the May 13 ballot.
Ed Tyre, who is seeking re-election to the BOE, said he could promise a lot of things; however, there are only so many things a board of education member could do, he noted.
"We can select a superintendent and we can pass a budget," Tyre said. "You can put pressure on that superintendent to do the things you want him to do."
One of the goals of the board, according to Tyre, is to keep the schools open.
"That is what we are doing," Tyre said.
He thanked Campbell for her help in securing funds for the Vocational Agricultural program at Harman School, and said he had hoped her "cupcake bill" would pass.
"We are throwing $6.5 billion of food away because kids won't eat it," Tyre said.
Tyre said he would continue to work with the residents and for the residents of Randolph County.
Lisa Wamsley, current Randolph County BOE president, said she has witnessed education evolve.
"We have gone from limited technology in the classrooms to a great amount - every student has a computer and they are hands-on," Wamsley said. "It has been great to see. Kids are not afraid of technology."
Wamsley said what makes the difference is seeing the students succeed.
"Teachers are excited to go to work because the students are excited to be there," she said.
Janie Newlon, a challenger for a BOE seat, said she has always been an active parent. She is currently the director of the Shining Light Learning Center in Elkins.
"Currently I am a member of the local school improvement council at North Elementary School, athletic boosters at Elkins High School and past Parent Teacher Organization member," Newlon said. "I am also involved in activities that promote child wellness."
Newlon said she is a supporter of the Good News Club, a Christian-based after school program in three elementary schools in the county. She said kids are a big priority for her.
"Kids are our future and it is our responsibility to provide them the resources to make them successful," Newlon said. "Every child deserves an education. Today's students face many obstacles."
Newlon said being a member of the Randolph County Board of Education is a responsibility she will not take lightly.
Donna Auvil is also seeking a seat on the BOE.
"I have a vested interest in the education system in Randolph County," Auvil said. "Ten of my grandchildren attend Randolph County schools. I worked 30 years in the board office. During my tenure there, I worked for superintendents, assistant superintendents, director of curriculum and was coordinator of personnel for 15 years."
Auvil said she would do the best she could, not only for students, but for teachers and service personnel as well.
David Kesling is seeking re-election to the board. He said he also has a vested interest in the BOE.
"I have two children who go to school," Kesling said. "I have enjoyed being on the board the last four years. Until you are actually in that position, you cannot imagine what it takes to run a school system."
Kesling said people told him he was crazy for wanting to run for the BOE.
"I have enjoyed working on the BOE and working with Dr. James Phares and Terry George," Kesling said. "I want to continue working to make positive things happen, and I am asking for your support."
Four candidates for the Randolph County Commission were also introduced in the order they will appear on the ballot.
Lloyd Heckel said his experience in construction has given him the opportunity to manage multi-million dollar projects.
"I am super proud to possibly have the opportunity to work for the residents of Randolph County and be their voice through commission," Heckel said. "I am just a common man, a hard working person. I was lucky to be born and raised with great values in Randolph County. If elected I will do my very best."
Mike Riggleman Jr. said his experience in bidding, estimating and budgeting skills, along with his background in public administration and economics, would be a valuable asset to the Randolph County Commission.
"I think it's time we get back to having a true county commission," Riggleman said. "We need to get back to having open government in Randolph County. We need someone who is willing to represent the community as a whole, not just the chosen few."
Riggleman said he thinks the property taxes need re-evaluation.
"After the housing market declined, home values dropped but the assessed values of properties continue to raise slowly," Riggleman said. "This resulted in an abundance of cash for the County Commission that they have been able to save. We need to invest this money in some buildings around the county."
John "Andy" Burns is also running for the Commission seat.
"I want all of Randolph County to be a safe community for our families," Burns said. "I want it to be economically stable so all of our families can survive for generations to come."
Burns said drug activity is devastating our communities. He promises to be a working commissioner.
"I will not just come in every two weeks for meetings," Burns said. "I will be in the office every day to answer questions or to educate myself on issues being brought before the commission. I will not make an uneducated vote while serving as your commissioner."
Chris See, who currently serves as president of the County Commission, is seeking re-election. He said owning his own business has helped him make good decisions as a commissioner. He said he is especially proud of two things.
"As a commissioner, we were able to pay the Randolph County Annex off early, saving the taxpayers $750,000 over the course of the loan," See said. "We also have 24/7 police protection."
See said the county Prosecuting Attorney's office is now watching the state jail bill and is saving money.
Sen. Gregory Tucker, D - Nicholas, was unable to attend Monday's forum because of a death in the family. Campbell said a few words on behalf of Tucker.
Democratic committee candidates Julia Stevenson, Frank Bush, Carol Cain Bush, Jerry Simmons, Charles Church and Bob Elbon asked those in attendance to vote for them for the various committees listed on the ballots.
The Randolph County Democratic Executive Committee is sponsoring two more forums. One is slated for 7 p.m. April 30 at the Elkins American Legion and one at 7 p.m. May 7 at Harman Fire Department. Candidates wishing to speak should report by 6:30 p.m. for registration.
Questions may be addressed to Randolph County Democratic Executive Committee Chairwoman Julia Stevenson by calling 304-636-6466.