Three vie for WV Senate seat
Three men are on the ballot to represent West Virginia’s Second Senatorial District: incumbent Democrat Larry John Edgell, Constitution Party Jeffrey Frank Jarrell, and Republican Kent Albin Leonhardt.
Edgell, born in Hundred, spent his childhood in Marion County, and junior high / high school years in Elkins. He served in the US Navy on the USS Ticonderoga for two tours in Vietnam before working in the Office of Naval Intelligence, Pentagon. Edgell earned his bachelor’s degree at Fairmont State College, later acquiring his master’s degree with classes from WVU and Salem Teikyo International.
He married Ceci Herrick after teaching for a year at Star City Elementary. In Wetzel County, he taught at Grandview Elementary and New Martinsville School; he is presently a substitute teacher. Serving as a minister of the Eucharist at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church, Larry and Ceci Edgell have two children, Eva and Josh, and three grandchildren.
Memberships: Holy Name Society; WVEA; Charter Member NM Morning Lions Club; American Legion; New Martinsville Moose Lodge; WV Farm Bureau; and Habitat for Humanity. Edgell served on city council before being elected to the state senate. First elected in 1998, Edgell has served as Majority Whip, now serving as Senate President Pro Tempore. Committee assignments include: Vice chair, Natural Resources; Vice chair, Select Committee on Children & Poverty; Education; Enrolled Bills; Finance; Military; Pensions; and Rules.
Leonhardt, age 60, lives in Monongalia County, Fairview, W.Va. He earned his Bachelor of Science in Fish and Game Management and Master of Arts in Business Management. He is a graduate of Defense Language School (Arabic), Defense Intelligence College, and Marine Corps Command and Staff School (above three all college and post graduate credits available). He also spent a Fellowship Year with the Director, National Security Agency, 1993-1994.
Leonhardt ran for Commissioner of Agriculture in 2012, which ended up being a very close race. He has also served on the Board of Directors Monongalia County Farm Bureau and Marine Corps League.
Retired with 21 years service, Leonhardt is a Lieutenant Colonel, United States Marine Corps. He is now a Monongalia County farmer and independent consultant in the gift industry. He is a former retailer and business owner.
Jarrell did not respond to the Wetzel Chronicle’s request for information and questionnaire.
What do you feel is the most pressing issue in our area and what would you do, through this elected position, about it?
Edgell: Our number one problem is drug abuse and the social costs that come with that. I will work to continue to expand the scope of the DHHR and work with county prosecutors to fight this problem. I have and will continue to push for rehabilitation programs to get people the help they need. Drug abuse is a community-wide problem because it tears apart families, threatens public safety, and wastes lives. We need to expand rehabilitation programs here at home to protect those afflicted with addiction and those innocent victims, so often children, who are also affected by this terrible problem.
Leonhardt: Wetzel County has the highest unemployment rate in the state of West Virginia. It is also one of the most resource rich counties in the state. With its location, Wetzel County should be thriving. I am your close neighbor in western Monongalia County; western Monongalia County shares many of the same issues. We must improve here and statewide those conditions that hinder economic development; i.e. tax structure and legal system. Simultaneously, we need to improve the roads and infrastructure to better support business and manufacturing. Then we can capitalize on the abundant natural gas, coal, timber, agriculture, water, etc. Through public-private partnerships and by showing our improved business climate we can attract manufacturing, construction, retail, healthcare, and other jobs. Our youth should not have to move to find a good paying job; our schools should be full of students. We must repeal the coal job killing “Cap n’ Trade” bill passed by our current legislators.
Would you propose any legislative changes that affect the natural gas industry? What and why?
Edgell: We must ensure that severance taxes in drilling counties are used for the highway systems in those counties. As anyone who drives a car knows, the roads are in bad shape and in need of repairs. Of course, those repairs cost a lot of money-money that the state does not have. Natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale provides us with a new, golden opportunity to get our roads back in shape.
Leonhardt: There needs to be better cooperation between the industry and government. Surface owner protection needs to be strengthened, there is no consistency. Our roads are in bad shape. Some of that is industry related and some of it is poor maintenance. We need to find out how the road money is being spent and do the job right the first time. No more “political paving” where four miles of road gets 3/4 of an inch of asphalt to look good for voters and not last when three inches on one mile would last longer. We must enforce the bonding rules currently imposed on the gas companies to improve damaged roads. The roads never should have gotten this bad. Finally, our natural gas should be used here as much as possible to benefit West Virginians. It’s all about jobs-I am less than excited that we have two very large gas transmission lines proposed to move the vast amount of gas out of our area. When the pipelines are complete we will be left with a handful of maintenance jobs. The tax and legal climate must be reformed so the gas industry can build plants to utilize the resource here.
What would you say is one of your greatest achievements that speaks to your ability to serve in this position?
Edgell: I am proud that my ability to work across the aisle and my leadership in the West Virginia Senate are what led then-Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin to select me as Majority Whip, and current Senate President Jeff Kessler to choose me as his President Pro Tem, the second-in-command position in the Senate.
Leonhardt: My career in the United States Marine Corps speaks tremendously to my ability to serve as your next State Senator. While leading men and women in peace and war I learned to react to crisis with calm and common sense solutions. Something we are lacking in Charleston today, but we desperately need. I also earned the limited distinction of being designated a Joint Service Officer. During multiple tours of duties I was tasked with accomplishing multiple service missions with limited resources. I can guarantee the Navy and Air Force can be at odds with each other as much as Democrats and Republicans. I have the ability to bring opposing sides together to find common sense, practical solution