Chamber of Commerce Holds Tyler County Forum
The Wetzel County Chamber of Commerce gave neighboring Tyler County residents one last opportunity April 24 to meet their candidates.
Commission, board of education, and delegate candidates gathered at Tyler County’s senior center in Middlebourne.
Here is a recap of that event, with candidates thoughts on the following issues:
** Tyler County Commission
* Greatest Issue Facing The County
Steve Thomas said the greatest issue facing the county is the lack of public water. He said every individual and resident deserves good, clean water, and he said the lack of such has been going on long enough. He said he would work with the Tyler County PSD to bring water service to all residents.
Scott Strode said the county faces issues with its infrastructure and youth leaving the area.
“We need to figure out a way to get an employer in here, or two. I think the way to do that is through the oil and gas industry. That is our best way to generate revenue and fix the infrastructure, as well as keep young folks here.”
Mike Galluzzo noted economic development would fix a number of issues in the county.
“The oil and gas industry is here to say, so what we need to do is find spin-offs from those types of businesses and create more jobs and small jobs… We need smaller industries which will help the tax base and give us more money to do improvements.”
Charlie Delauder noted, “If we had someone come in and say, ‘I’m going to bring 5,000 jobs here,’ the county wouldn’t be prepared.”
“If you’ve driven Route 18 and dodged pot holes who would want to come to Tyler County?”
Delauder said although the county commission is not charged with taking care of the roads, the commission could let its concerns be known with officials in Charleston.
Roseanne Eastham said if the county is going to bring businesses in, the county needs something to attract the businesses. “We need more small businesses, mom and pop stores. That is what this county is about, people helping people.”
* On why they want to be a commissioner
Strode said he was a business owner for 15 years, “and this county supported me like nobody else.”
Strode said he has tried to give back, through community service and other areas. “This is my final stage of trying to give back to the county that has given me so much.”
Galluzzo said he has donated his time to various organizations; he said he now wants to be beneficial to Tyler County. “I could sell Tyler County to some of the businesses that need to come in.”
Delauder noted he would do his very best and leave the county better than it was before his service. “I believe I have the experience,” he said.
“I consider Tyler County my mom,” Eastham said. “There is a great sense of community here, and I want to see that grow into something bigger and better.”
Thomas said Tyler County would no longer be “passed over.” He said he has experience and influence. He said he attributes his accomplishments to “the roots here.”
* * Tyler County Board Education
Board candidate Katrina Byers said she is willing to listen and make decisions that serve the best interests of the school system. She said she has a valuable understanding of the school system.
“I think our schools are good, but we can always improve upon everything,” Byers said.
“I’m often out in the community and pretty well known because of all the organizations I’m a part of.”
Board candidate Dave Roberts said he feels he has the ability to sit and talk to anybody at any level.
“I speak softly, but I listen hard,” Roberts said.
“We have a good school system. One of the things coming up, in this term, would be replacing a superintendent. That is a pretty big decision that will affect the future of all students.”
Roberts said he is visible throughout the area. He said he has been a part of the American Legion and Moose Lodge organizations. He said he has worked through the school system and conducted volunteer work.
James Eric Mason said he is open-minded and approachable. He said he can work well with all board members, as well as teachers and administrators. Mason said he has had experience in law enforcement and would work as a team member.
“I’m not afraid to voice my own opinion and won’t sit back on my heels and go with the flow when I don’t believe the right choice is being made,” Mason said.
Tarina Morris said first and foremost, she is not a politician.
“I’m a mom. I’m a parent. I’m a concerned mother and citizen, and I feel I bring a lot to bring.”
Morris said she is the secretary of her church and sits on other board and committees. She said she is able to sit and “rationally discuss things,” in hopes to come to a consensus of how to best take care of a decision.
Julie Bolin said she possesses a unique perspective, as she works in the school and with students, youth, administrators, and service staff.
“I see multiple viewpoints, and I’m good at listening and understanding those viewpoints. I’m fair, honest, and a very good listener.”
* Combating Drugs/Safety In Schools
Roberts said opioid abuse is “way out of hand.” He said children need educated at all levels. “We can incorporate parents and teachers into this as well.”
Roberts said a resource officer is needed at each county school, each campus. “I would seek funding to make sure that happens,” he said.
Roberts said he has spoken to several county residents who express concerns about bullying. “Most of them will say there is definitely a problem Every complaint, I feel, needs looked into swiftly and dealt with harshly,” he said. “There is no place for it. Our children are our future. We need to make a safe haven for them.”
Mason said students need educated on the dangers of drugs at a very young age. He said students don’t need to be afraid to talk about drugs. Mason said to ensure school safety, he would take recommendations from school resource officers. He noted that there has been discussion on arming school teachers. He said he wouldn’t be opposed to this, “under the right kind of training.”
Morris said drugs is a serious issue in the entire society. “Our children are growing up in a very corrupt world, and it has become the norm almost to see drugs and see addicts out on the streets.”
Morris said it education first starts at home, to teach children “right from wrong, and make them aware of the consequences.” Morris said she prays everyday when her children walk out the door, that they are safe. “It is sad our world has come to what it has.”
Morris said metal detectors wouldn’t be a bad idea. She said it is important to take proactive measures. “A lot of school shootings that have happened, the schools thought it wouldn’t happen to them. Then it was too plate.”
Bolin said a multi-faceted approach needs taken to combat drug abuse.
“Addiction is a disease, and once that switch is turned on, it is hard to turn off.”
Bolin said she agrees with the implementation of school resource officers and making them available in the elementary schools. “We need to take a multi-faceted approach, but Tyler County Schools have made great strides.”
Byers said she would make sure all state policies on school safety are followed. She said she has served on the safety committee at the county level, “and I know we have our students participate in ALICE training.” Byers noted the special lock systems the schools have. “I do think we are trying to make it safer for children. I think we do a good job.”
Byers noted the importance of drug awareness at a young age. She said through the Family Resource Network, she works with elementary-aged kids on character building, in order to “get them to realize they can say no.”
* * County Democratic Executive Committee
Rebecca Hayes is running for County Democratic Executive Committee. She says she lives on Oil Ridge. She said she went to vote three years ago and discovered there was no female Democrat on the ballot for the executive committee. She said after she filed for the office, she found out there were two other female candidates.
“Whoever wins, I will help them,” she said.
Hayes said when she was 10, Jay Rockefeller came to town “and asked if someone would help him (campaign).” Hayes said she took the initiative.
Hayes said, today, she knows lots of candidates, “knows how to get the vote out.”
* * House of Delegates, Sixth District
* The Number One Issue
David Kelly said a solution needs found for PEIA. “I think we have kicked the can down the road for too long We need to make sure we take care of our state employees, our teachers and service personnel and other folks that work for the state. We need to find funding for PEIA, and we need to find permanent funding, so we don’t go back and address this again and again.”
Chris Combs said increasing the severance tax on gas could help fund PEIA.
He further noted drug issues, lack of jobs, and education were all areas of concern for the region. He noted the necessity of apprenticeship programs for oil and gas industry jobs, to better train local men and women for the jobs.
* Why Do You Want This Job?
Kelly said he thought after serving as a commissioner, his work was done. “I thought I could sit on my front porch and relax and drink coffee.”
However, Kelly noted, he received calls from folks who encouraged him to run for House of Delegates. “I called the family together and talked. My daughter said, ‘You have worked your whole life for this moment. It is time to do what you have dreamed of doing.'”
Kelly said he wants the job because he wants a better state, a better District Six.
Combs cited his Christian faith. He said he wants to help people, and be a voice for other people.
“We should work to help everyone and not a select few. We should work across the aisles… I don’t like the party thing. Parties divide.”