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Contributions of USS West Virginia remembered on Memorial Day

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The USS West Virginia was a Colorado Class battleship that was commissioned in 1923. Through the 1930s the battleship participated in routine training missions called Fleet Problems.

The warship was 624-feet long, had eight 16-inch naval guns, torpedo tubes, anti-aircraft guns, 16 5-inch guns and was built by the Newport News Shipbuilding Company.

On December 4, 1941, the ship was moored alongside the USS Tennessee on battleship row in Pearl Harbor. At Pearl Harbor the “Wee-Vee” was being retrofitted for action in the South Pacific Theater.

During the Japanese attack the Wee-Vee was hit by seven torpedoes and two aerial bombs. A total of 106 members of the 1,400 crew were killed during the attack.

Captain Mervyn S. Bennion commanded the ship and was struck and killed by shrapnel while directing anti-aircraft fire during the attack.

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This is a circa 1960 photo of the mast of the USS West Virginia on WVU’s downtown campus.

“Shrapnel from the bomb strike that killed him did not hit the West Virginia, it hit the Tennessee,” U.S. Naval Historian Rick Stone said. “But, the shrapnel flew across the bridge of the West Virginia and killed Cpt Bennion who later received the Medal of Honor.”

The first African-American to earn the Navy Cross was Doris Miller, a mess attendant on the USS West Virginia earned the honor for his efforts to continue anti-aircraft fire.

“The United States Navy has decided to the next aircraft carrier after him,” Stone said. “So, a nuclear aircraft carrier named the USS Doris Miller is underway.”

Following the attack, sailors began to rescue and recover shipmates who were trapped in lower compartments.

Three sailors trapped in a dry compartment tapped distress signals on the hull of the ship during the rescue. Stone says Marine guards heard the tapping nightly, but they were never able to rescue them.

“When she was finally raised and salvaged they found their bodies and there was a calendar on the wall where they had marked off the days until December 23,” according to Stone. “So, they had lived from December 7 to December 23 and marked off the days on the calendar and probably succumbed to a lack of oxygen”

By September of 1944 the Wee-Vee was back in the Philippines with two other battleships damaged at Peal Harbor, the USS California and the USS Tennessee.

When the fight resumed the Wee-Vee continued to make history supporting invasion at Okinawa, Iwo Jima and participated in a historic battle according to Stone.

“The last known battleship-to-battleship engagement ever was by the Wee-Vee,” Stone said. “She took under fire at night, about three o’clock in the morning two Japanese battleships and a cruiser at a range of over 44,000 yards and scored a hit with her very first salvo.”

Stone says the Wee-Vee had a very distinguished record during World War II.

“The Wee-Vee was there at the beginning of the war on December 7 at Pearl Harbor, and she was there at the end of the war in Tokyo Bay when the Japanese surrendered,” Stone said. “They did the surrender ceremony on a newer battleship, the USS Missouri.

After the war, the ship was used to bring Americans home from the Pacific Theater.

In January of 1947 the Wee-Vee was decommissioned and in 159 the U.S. Navy sold it for scrap and by 1961 she was being broken up at the Todd-Pacific Ship Yard in Seattle.

 

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Gold Star Family Monument waiting for dedication date

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — An empty concrete slab stands on the grounds of the West Virginia State Capitol complex, well landscaped and professional lighting installed. Everything is there, except for the center piece of the display.

The vacant spot is slated to become the permanent home of West Virginia’s Gold Star Families Monument.

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Medal of Honor recipient Woody Williams

First envisioned by West Virginia Medal of Honor recipient Hershel “Woody” Williams, the monuments have been installed at veterans cemeteries, courthouses, and state capitols all across the United States. Williams has a dream to have them installed in all 50 states as a tribute to the families of service men killed in action defending the country. His dream for West Virginia’s state capitol memorial was that it be bigger than any other.

“It’s 12 feet tall, so it’s twice as tall as any other one,” said Jerry Beckett with the committee to erect the monument on the Capitol grounds in Charleston.

Ground was broken for the West Virginia project July 27, 2019.

“They are sending a message to the families of those who have sacrificed a loved one for us and our freedom, that they are being recognized, appreciated and honored for the very first time in America’s history,” Williams said at the ceremony.

The project has hit a couple of bumps along the way. The original plans was to have it installed last October on the occasion of Williams’ 96th birthday. Initially there was difficulty securing and the marble from where it is quarried in India, which pushed the dedication to June of 2020. Eventually the was delivered to an Atlanta firm which polishes and etches the stone with various words and designs. Then came COVID-19.

“The last project we had going was choosing the images to go on the monument, because this thing is forever and it’s going to outlive our grandchildren. We want it right when it comes out,” Beckett said.

Due to the virus, the June dedication had to be scrubbed. According to Beckett, the site is ready and the monument will soon be ready. The only thing they don’t have is a date.

“It’s ready to be set. The landscaping is done, the lighting is done, the foundation and pad has been poured. All we’re waiting on is a date to install and dedicate it, “he said.

The first monument was built in 2013 at the Donel C. Kinnard State Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Institute.

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Second group of contact tracers being trained through West Virginia University

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — More than 100 public health students at West Virginia University along with other health professional students from WVU, nursing students from the University of Charleston and others make up a second cohort of Mountain State contact tracing trainees.

Their online training to eventually help track the spread of COVID-19 in West Virginia began last week through the WVU School of Public Health’s Contact Tracing and Pandemic Response course.

The online course was developed quickly in collaboration with the state Department of Health and Human Resources to prepare contact tracers to work in communities statewide.

Until there is a COVID-19 vaccine, “This is really our sole tool at our disposal right now to limit the forward transmission of disease,” said Dr. Chris Martin, course co-director.

“The contact tracers have to have some understanding of the infection, some of the principles of infectious disease and how this disease is spread in order to determine who are the contacts that are at risk for having acquired the infection.”

Instructions for activity restrictions follow for people identified through contact tracing as “at risk” for COVID-19 to try to limit any further forward transmission.

Dr. Chris Martin

“One person can make a huge difference in the spread of disease,” said Dr. Martin.

More than 70 people recently completed an initial round of training and were the process of being placed, via DHHR, in areas across West Virginia to support local health officials where COVID-19 case numbers are rising.

Dr. Martin said he was “flooded with interest” in the course from the start.

“Often these were people who had academic backgrounds or healthcare backgrounds, some retired individuals who contacted me and simply wanted to help and that’s the first group that we trained,” he said.

Dr. Cathy Slemp, state health officer and commissioner for DHHR’s Bureau for Public Health, has estimated 300 contract tracers would be needed to effectively track COVID-19 in the coming weeks and months in West Virginia.

The course, designed to help build up that number of public health investigators, was being offered as a credited course for students, a free, non-credit course to volunteers and used to help other health students build needed service hours.

“Contact tracing, in its modern form, was developed in the 1930s for sexually-transmitted infections because it was recognized that, once you diagnosed a case, you then had to systematically go out and identify all the contacts,” Dr. Martin said.

“It’s very common to any infectious disease.”

Course topics included basics of infectious disease epidemiology with reference to COVID-19, a general overview of COVID-19 testing, infection control measures for COVID-19, public health surveillance and motivational interviewing.

All participants who completed training were required to assist with contact tracing efforts in West Virginia at community levels.

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WVU furloughs begin Monday

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Pandemic-related temporary layoffs begin Monday at West Virginia University.

The university notified 900 workers earlier this month that they were being furloughed to save nearly $4 million.

Rob Alsop

WVU Vice President for Strategic Initiatives Rob Alsop said furlough decisions were made based on what functions are required to keep university functioning at this time of year.

“We did an analysis of over the next 45 to 60 days, given that our campus is closed and some of our revenue streams have dried up,” Alsop said. “What employees do we have that have been on home work assignments that are not critical over that time period.”

The furloughs will last either to the end of June on the end of July. Workers keep their benefits during their time off. They’ll be able to receive unemployment through WorkForce West Virginia and the additional $600 weekly benefits through the CARES Act.

Furloughs also begin Monday for 65 workers in the WVU Athletics Department. There are pay cuts for the rest of the staff between 2.5 and 5 percent.

The athletic department hopes to save $3 million.

WVU President Gordon Gee, his senior staff, Athletic Director Shane Lyons and the highest paid coaches are all taking voluntary pay cuts.

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Former state park superintendent reflects on Battle of Droop Mountain

DROOP MOUNTAIN, W.Va. — The Battle of Droop Mountain, in November of 1863 is known as the largest Civil War battle on West Virginia soil and the action that ended Confederate resistance in the Mountain State.

Mike Smith spent 32 years working at the Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park in Pocahontas County and retired as Superintendent in 2016. He says during the Civil War, the only way to move large amounts of supplies and troops in rugged terrain was the rail road.

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A view on a fall day from the observation tower.

The Confederate Army had the Virginia Tennessee and Virginia Central Railroads and the Union Army relied on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad for supplies.

“Everything that happened in West Virginia was a result of the Confederates either trying to go up and tear up the B & O Railroad OR the Union Army trying to push down into the south tearing up the Virginia Tennessee or the Virginia Central Railroad which connected the Shenandoah Valley with Richmond,” Smith recently told MetroNews.

When Confederate troops were dispatched west after Chickamuaga in the fall of 1863 trying to push the Union Army out of Tennessee. That troop movement left many military targets relatively unprotected in the area of Dublin, Virginia.

When Union Army officials heard the news they sent Colonel William W. Averell and 3,800 men to strike the railroad and other military targets.

Soon, Brigadier General John Echols was at the Confederate headquarters in Lewisburg, got word of the movement. Echols marched his troops through the night to Droop Mountain. Droop Mountain was the high point on the way to Lewisburg and provided an ideal defensive position.

“(Echols) Got there about dawn and held off the Union Army through the early part of the day,” Smith said,”But, in the afternoon was driven back and the Union Army followed up through the night, chasing him back to Lewisburg and into Virginia.”

The second in command of the Confederate forces was the grandfather of World War II General George S. Patton, Colonel George Patton Snr. Echols regularly left Col. Patton in charge while he performed political duties. On one occasion, Patton successfully battled Union forces in August of 1863 in White Sulphur Springs while Echols was away from the battlefield.

“He was sent over to the left flank at the tail end of the battle by Echols to try to pull things together, but it had already fallen apart,” Smith said. “It was chaos as the men fell back to the highway and tried to escape.”

After 275 Confederates were killed they were chased into Virginia. The Union Army losses totaled 119.

Like many Civil War battles, brothers fought against brothers and neighbors fought against neighbors.

“They has been fighting on opposite sides in the war, and some of them had a hard time getting back together,”Smith said. “Some just couldn’t get along and moved west, but others managed to put their differences aside and went back to being neighbors.”

Smith says for 32 years it was a privilege to open the gate every morning and take in the beauty and history.

“It’s about 3,000 feet to the top of the mountain, and the valley below is about 2,300. So, all along it you can see the fog coming up from the river, sometimes it looks like the ocean out there and you could just walk on top of the clouds, sometimes the fog is low enough and the little hills stick and they look like islands in the ocean,” Smith said.

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Daily positive coronavirus rate drops below two percent

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The daily percent of positive coronavirus cases fell below 2% Sunday morning according to the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources.

The daily rate is 1.66% with a cumulative rate of 2.05%. Testing in minority and vulnerable communities took place Friday and Saturday in various parts of the state.

The department noted 1,759 West Virginians have tested positive — a 30 case increase from Saturday evening — and 85,694 tests have been conducted. Seventy-two people have died.

The department also released updated numbers regarding confirmed cases and probable cases: Barbour (7 confirmed cases, 0 probable cases), Berkeley (275/10), Boone (9/0), Braxton (2/0), Brooke (3/0), Cabell (57/2), Calhoun (2/0), Clay (2/0), Fayette (45/1), Gilmer (10/0), Grant (8/1), Greenbrier (9/0), Hampshire (15/0), Hancock (16/2), Hardy (37/0), Harrison (38/1), Jackson (135/0), Jefferson (150/3), Kanawha (210/2), Lewis (5/0), Lincoln (5/0), Logan (16/0), Marion (48/0), Marshall (27/0), Mason (16/0), McDowell (6/0), Mercer (13/0), Mineral (36/2), Mingo (4/1), Monongalia (120/1), Monroe (6/1), Morgan (17/0), Nicholas (10/0), Ohio (38/0), Pendleton (8/1), Pleasants (3/1), Pocahontas (23/1), Preston (15/5), Putnam (31/0), Raleigh (14/1), Randolph (36/0), Ritchie (1/0), Roane (8/0), Summers (1/1), Taylor (8/0), Tucker (4/0), Tyler (3/0), Upshur (6/1), Wayne (97/0), Wetzel (8/0), Wirt (4/0), Wood (48/3) and Wyoming (3/0).

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Supreme Court choices include circuit judge, family court judge, prosecutor and longtime legislator

The second Supreme Court seat on West Virginia ballots is a choice among a sitting circuit judge, a family court judge, a prosecutor and a longtime legislator.

They all agree the race is very important.

This is one of three seats up for the Supreme Court this year, which means shaping the majority of the five-member court for years to come. This is the second of two 12-year terms on the ballot.

“This is, in effect, voting for the majority of the court with a five-person court,” one of the candidates, Kris Raynes, an assistant prosecutor in Putnam County. “The people can definitely speak on which way they want it to swing.”

Another candidate, lawyer and longtime legislator Bill Wooton, echoed that.

“With a five member court, you can change the majority for this election,” Wooton said.

And because judicial races are nonpartisan in West Virginia, voters only get one shot at deciding on Election Day, June 9.

“This election cannot be overstated,” said another candidate, Jim Douglas, a Kanawha Family Court judge.

“There’s two 12-year terms at stake here. That could set the law for the next decade on.”

Another of the candidates, Kanawha Circuit Judge Joanna Tabit, agreed on that point.

“Let’s talk about it as a whole and look at it as, you’re electing a majority of the court,” Tabit said, noting that the sum of the three terms on the ballot equates to 28 years. “That’s an entire generation of jurisprudence, which highlights how historically important this election is.

“I can’t overstate that and why it’s important to put people in there who have experience, character and energy to lead the court into the next generation.”

MORE: Supreme Court Division 1 race pits chief justice vs earlier chief justice vs circuit judge

Candidates for Supreme Court Division 2

This is a 12-year term with no incumbent running. Justice Margaret Workman opted not to run again after completing her second full term.

Jim Douglas

Douglas has been a family court judge in Kanawha County since 2016 and spent many years in private practice before that.

He ran for Supreme Court two years ago after Justice Robin Davis resigned. Douglas finished fourth out of 10 candidates.

Douglas says his experience with family court sets him apart. He noted that much of what winds up being appealed in the courts system constitutes domestic relations issues involving grandparents, child custody issues or abuse and neglect cases.

“It’s unfortunate that we have never had a family court judge or someone with a substantial family court background on the Supreme Court of Appeals,” Douglas said in a telephone interview.

“I think it would be a tragedy to go into the next decade and not have anybody on there who has had that family law experience. Everybody has to go through some kind of family law experience at some point in their life.”

Douglas calls his approach a kitchen table campaign, envisioning people pouring a morning cup of coffee and not worried about mass tort litigation or whether an intermediate appeals court should be established.

“What people are sitting around those tables in West Virginia thinking every day, is they’re worried about whether they’re going to see that little grandchild. That single mother is worried about child support. That domestic violence victim is worried about what’s next. That’s what I bring to their kitchen table.”

Joanna Tabit

Tabit has been a Kanawha Circuit judge since 2014 and was in private practice before that.

Tabit also ran for Supreme Court in 2018 for the seat that opened when Justice Menis Ketchum resigned. She finished second out of 10 candidates, gaining the most votes of anyone out of the running.

“That was my first statewide race. We can in a close second to the eventual winner,” Tabit said over the telephone. “We have been continually running since August of 2018, really. So I hope that hard work will pay off in June.”

In the current race, she has been endorsed by the political action committees of both the state Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO, among a variety of groups.

“That’s an indication those entities and their membership view me as being fair and thoughtful in the cases I’ve decided as a circuit judge,” she said.

Tabit said her experience as a circuit judge in the state’s most populous county would be valuable as a justice.

“Because now more than ever our court needs proven, qualified judges,” she said. “We have the breadth and the volume of work, particularly in Kanawha County.”

Kris Raynes

Raynes is an assistant prosecutor in Putnam County, where she handles felony cases ranging from controlled substances offenses to first degree murder cases. Her specialty is prosecuting the majority of the child sexual abuse cases in the office.

“I’ve always kind of wanted to head to the judiciary after a career in prosecution. I realized this was my 20th year in prosecution. Kind of crept up on me a little bit,” Raynes said over the phone.

The time as a prosecutor, she said, translates into experience with criminal cases and abuse and neglect cases.

“I’m familiar with the two largest amounts of cases that the court will hear on the bench. That’s where I feel I have a pretty strong background there,” she said.

Judicial candidates aren’t allowed to describe how they would rule in particular cases. Raynes points people to her campaign website, which identifies her as a conservative. She regards former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia as a role model.

“What he believed was, he was strong in separation of powers. He was strong in the court’s role in the arbiter of the law, not to create the law,” Raynes said.

“The constitution is the same today as it was yesterday and it will be tomorrow because it needs to be a bedrock for citizens to know what their rights are and where they stand in the rule of law. I wouldn’t be an activist judge, won’t legislate from the bench.”

Bill Wooton

Wooton was a mainstay in West Virginia’s Legislature.

He served in the House of Delegates from 1976 to 1986, a period in which he rose to majority leader, and from 1988 to 1990. Then he served in the Senate from 1990 to 2000. He served again in the House from 2008 to 2010.

Wooton has been in private practice at a Beckley law firm for many years. He was a colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves and served in the National Gaurd.

Wooton ran for the Supreme Court in 2016. He came in third in a five-candidate race that was won by current Justice Beth Walker.

“I thought I’d win,” Wooton said over the phone last week.

But with three seats up this year — this one without an incumbent running — Wooton decided he still had a chance.

“I’m the only candidate of the four who is a veteran. I’m the only one that doesn’t live and work in the Kanawha County metropolitan area, and I’m the only one not currently on the public payroll,” he said.

Wooton says his strength is his many years in private practice.

“I think I’ve been involved in just about every proceeding that a lawyer can be involved with in West Virginia,” he said. “I think my experience is broader than any of the other candidates. Like most small town lawyers, you kind of take what comes in the door.”

But he said his experience in the Legislature gives him appreciation for the role each branch should play.

“The court has no function in terms of executing public policy and is not supposed to be involved in making public policy,” he said. “That’s something that is ingrained in you if you have served in the Legislature.

“One analogy is my job would be to call balls and strikes — on an issue that’s challenged, to see that the law was correctly applied, was fairly applied and that it doesn’t violate the Constitution.”

Inspirations

Two of the candidates say they’ve drawn inspiration from the retiring incumbent.

Margaret Workman

Justice Margaret Workman became the first woman elected to the court and the first woman elected to statewide office in West Virginia in 1988.

She served a full term until 2000, when she returned to private practice. Workman then ran again for the Supreme Court in 2008 and won election again.

Workman has served as chief justice five times.

“It would be meaningful to me, personally, to succeed Justice Worknan,” Tabit said. “I can tell you I would not be a lawyer if not for her.”

Tabit recalled being home between her junior and senior year of college and seeing that then-Gov. Jay Rockefeller had appointed Workman to a seat on Kanawha Circuit Court.

“I thought what the heck. I was toying around with law school,” Tabit said.

So Tabit, who did not previously know Workman, sent a letter with a pitch “She wouldn’t have to pay me if she’d let me schlep around her office.”

“I came in for an interview and she said ‘Sure, we can do that,'” Tabit said.

“She has been a lifelong friend and mentor since.”

Raynes volunteered that she was also influenced by Workman.

Raynes said her mother worked for many years as an administrative assistant at the court. When Raynes was a freshman in high school, she said, her mother took her to see Workman’s 1989 investiture ceremony as a new Supreme Court justice.

“I’m trying to maybe fill her shoes, or maybe come full circle. I definitely respect her for being the first woman on the court,” she said.  “Hopefully I can see her and wish her well on her way out.”

Raynes noted that Workman was among the justices who faced impeachment charges in the Legislature in 2018.

One charge was an overriding maladministration allegation that the justices did not hold each other accountable. Two more charges had to do with the overpayment of senior status judges.

But Workman challenged the impeachment process in the court system and won.

“She’s going out a victor too. She challenged that impeachment process and she won,” Raynes said. “She has a lot to be proud of over her long career.”

Wooton said he has drawn inspiration from a different judge, John Field, who served for many years as a U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of West Virginia and then as a U.S. Circuit Judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

.”Just an extremely well-regarded United States District Judge,” Wooton said.

Wooton served as a law clerk for Field before becoming a prosecutor for a few years.

“He was just regarded as the best you could be,” Wooton said.

Vision for the court 

After the impeachment saga in 2018, current members of the Supreme Court have emphasized fiscal restraint and greater transparency.

But the current candidates say more healing needs to take place.

“Nothing has really changed. Like, you never got a full catharsis, a cleansing of the Supreme Court,” Douglas said. “I feel an obligation. I feel that obligation to offer myself to do that. That obligation is overriding.”

Although West Virginia voters approved a constitutional amendment giving the Legislature greater oversight of the judicial system’s budget, Douglas said justices should offer a budget expanding areas of emphasis.

Examples might include restoring funding for guardians ad litem who represent a child’s interest in cases, proposing more money for domestic violence protection or funding day care centers where family court meets.

“Being able to present your budget, you can put a lot of things in the line items that it would be hard for the Legislature to reject,” Douglas said.

Douglas would also like to see more court visits in West Virginia’s 55 counties.

“Why can’t the Supreme Court hold arguments each year in two or three of those places?” he asked. “People would get to see who the Supreme Court justices are and what they look like.”

Raynes describes herself as a “hard-core rules person.”

“I think I can help turn around the court from the problems it had a couple of years ago to make it accountable to its citizens,” she said.

Raynes added, “It started to turn around with Chief Justice Walker and has continued to turn around with Chief Justice Armstead. They’ve really done their level best to try to address the concerns that came out of that judicial implosion.”

She also credits voters with giving the Legislature more oversight of the court system’s budget.

“Checks and balances work,” she said. “That’s too much power in one branch of government. I think the voters took a huge step in passing that constitutional amendment.”

She said drug and treatment courts have been successful, but she said more followup such as jobs skills counseling would help.

“If we can get addicts to, first of all, treat themselves and change their lives, I think that will have a waterfall effect on the abuse and neglect problem in our state,” Raynes said.

Tabit would like to see continued evolution of family treatment courts.

“You’re treating the disease, and that’s what we need to be focused on,” she said. “Get families back together and get people gainfully employed and make them healthy members of society.”

She said the Supreme Court has steadied itself over the past year and a half, and she would like to see that continue.

“I think the court has done a lot in the last 18 months to instill public faith and confidence in the juduciary. Is there more to be done? Sure,” she said.

“I think courts should be fair, effective, accessible and accountable.  I think our courts need to be fair and treat everybody with well-applied law fairly and appropriately to them in the circumstances of their case. The courts just need to be convenient, they need to be understandable and they need to be affordable to everyone.”

Wooton said more needs to be done to improve public confidence in the court.

“I think the court has a problem still, stemming from the scandals of 2018,” he said. “I think we can improve our transparency. Sunlight is the best cure for what happened.

“If every expenditure for travel or office furnishings were made public at the time I don’t think you’d see much of that. Frankly, I think it is improved since 2018. That was a real low. But I think more can be done. What happened in 2018 destroyed a lot of the residual goodwill of the court.”

Campaigning in crazy times 

Precautions to limit the spread of coronavirus curtailed shaking hands and speaking to crowds. That hampered the campaign plans for the candidates.

Wooton said his wife, a graphic designer, had helped him with brochures that he now can’t easily pass out in person.

“Well, fortunately my wife designed our brochure so it could double as a direct mail piece,” he said.

His campaign has also been running advertisements on broadcast stations.

Tabit filed for this race not long after the quick 2018 special election cooled down.

“Hopefully the 10 months of footwork and ground work we’ve put in will help us in the long run,” she said, adding that she has participated in some events using teleconferencing while also reaching out to voters through social media and broadcast.

“We probably have been continually running since August of 2018, really. So I hope that hard work will pay off in June.”

Raynes said the coronavirus has cramped her campaign style.

“It was not ideal, that’s for sure,” she said. “I had big plans starting out. Just dinners every week and events. One by one, cancel, cancel, cancel.”

The result, she said, has required more creativity through social media, radio and newspaper advertisements.

Douglas said he made 13 trips to the Eastern Panhandle and another half-dozen to the Wheeling area before everything shut down.

Now he is relying on social media, some digital geo-tracking and broadcast advertisements as well as 3-by-3 stickers on the front of the newspaper.

“I always like to look in people’s eyes,” Douglas said. “I have about 3,000 orange pins I’m looking at now that I can’t get rid of.”

Election Day is June 9. Early voting in person starts May 27 and goes until June 6. Expanded absentee balloting is also taking place in West Virginia this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

 

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Neal Brown launches ‘5th Quarter Program’ at WVU

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — As part of the WVU football program’s continuing efforts to develop student-athletes beyond the field, Neal Brown has announced details of the team’s ‘5th Quarter Program’.

Two weeks ago, WVU announced a partnership with brand marketing consultant and author Jeremy Darlow. The program is designed to allow student-athletes to build their individual brand for success beyond their years in Morgantown. The ‘5th Quarter Program’ will build upon their partnership with Darlow and includes an affiliation with INFLCR, an Alabama-based company specializing in social media content delivery platforms.

“We are here to develop young men,” Brown said. “The 5th Quarter Program is an integral part of the WVU football student-athlete experience. We want to position our players for success on the playing field and for life beyond graduation. We want to develop the whole person in the mental, physical, tactical, technical and behavioral areas of their lives.”

Brown, the football administrative staff and director of student-athlete enhancement Tangela Cheatham will implement and oversee each step of the 5th Quarter program, tailored specifically for Mountaineer football.

Ben Queen-USA Today Sports

WVU head coach Neal Brown

“Football has given these student-athletes a valuable opportunity that is not afforded to everybody, but it is up to them what they do with it,” Brown said.

“We are coaching them on the field to develop their physical skills within the team. With the 5th Quarter program, we are going to give them the tools and knowledge to build their confidence in a variety of areas while they earn their degrees. We are hopeful that the end result will allow them to be successful, productive and valuable alumni once they leave Morgantown.”

The five pillars of the 5th Quarter Program include character development, leadership development, real life, career development and social responsibility.

  • Character Development – WVU football student-athletes work to discover and develop their personal beliefs, habits, morals and ideals. The education areas include but are not limited to academic integrity, core value training, drugs and alcohol, healthy relationships and mental health and well-being.
  • Leadership Development – WVU football student-athletes discover their leadership style and develop a personal leadership philosophy. The education areas include but are not limited to accountability teams, individual development plan, speaker series, team culture building and training retreat.
  • Real Life – WVU football student-athletes are educated on issues and topics they will encounter in everyday life. The education areas include but are not limited to agent education, financial literacy, nutrition, personal branding and time management.
  • Career Development – WVU football student-athletes are exposed to career paths, major exploration and practical career experience. The education areas include but are not limited to alumni engagement, internships, interview preparation, networking and resume building.
  • Social Responsibility – WVU football student-athletes positively impact society through civic engagement, social awareness and community service. The education areas include but are not limited to campus involvement, community engagement, cultural education, current events and youth programs.

Beyond the ‘5th Quarter Program’ is the ‘Bridge Program’. It is designed to introduce the student-athletes to the college experience when they first enter WVU and then gives them their final training and prepares them before they embark into life after graduation. 

  • Bridge ProgramThe Bridge program provides student-athletes with structured programing to assist in their transition to college and ultimately into their lives after college athletics. The Freshman Bridge program prepares the student-athletes to navigate college and educate them in the areas of college transition, academic preparation, campus resources, social development and more. The Senior Transition Bridge program prepares the student-athletes to navigate life in the areas of mentorship, career preparation, identity development, personal finance and more.

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Source: WV MetroNews

Body recovered in Ohio River near Kenova

KENOVA, W.Va. — A man’s body was recovered from the Ohio River near Kenova Saturday morning.

Police said it appeared the body had been in the water for at least seven days.

There was no immediate identification.

An investigation is underway.

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Source: WV MetroNews

Insurance costs going up for Monongalia County

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The Monongalia County Commission has announced new insurance costs for general liability, workers’ compensation and health plans for county workers.

Through the West Virginia Community Risk Pool, the county’s general liability and workers’ compensation plan is effective July 1, 2020 and comes with a slight increase.

“The total policy is $736,148, the general liability portion of that is $544,647 per year which is a seven percent increase over last year or 1.32 percent,” Commissioner Sean Sikora said. “So, it’s a very modest increase.”

The workers’ compensation portion of the policy increased 6.9 percent to $191,501 per year.

Commissioners were able to avoid a health insurance premium increase of more than 25 percent, but the the annual health insurance premium will go up slightly to $4,754,262.

“A 9.5 percent increase, but as you are aware when we first started talking to the insurance companies we were looking for an increase in the mid twenties,” Sikora said. “We got it down to about 9.5 percent.”

Dental coverage premium for county employees went up about 4 percent.

The commissioners decided to keep employee contributions the same as last year and absorb the increase.

“There are so many changes going on and with the uncertainty of what’s happening financially in our community we wanted some stability for our employees,” Commissioner Tom Bloom said. “We believe we can pick it up and still deal with this crisis.”

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Source: WV MetroNews