ELKINS - West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, a Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, paid a visit to Randolph County Tuesday to visit with residents, officials and business owners as part of her "Talk with Tennant" initiative to visit all 55 counties in the Mountain State on her campaign trail.
Tennant kicked off her visit by stopping at the Randolph County Senior Center to converse with residents. She also visited Hometown Cafe in Elkins for lunch, before going to the Elkins Train Depot for a round table discussion about economic development with city and county officials, including Elkins Mayor Van Broughton, Randolph County Commissioner Mike Taylor, and Delegates Denise Campbell and Bill Hartman, both D-Randolph County, as well as local small business owners.
Gary Clay, representing the Randolph County Development Authority, talked with Tennant about the work of the Wood Technology Center, as well as about how the completion of Corridor H would help build the local economy.
The Inter-Mountain photo by Beth Christian Broschart
West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, center, visits the Tucker County Courthouse Tuesday, meeting employees and learning the history of the old facility and the new annex. Tennant, left, brought her daughter, Delaney Rose Wells, left, and looks through record books with Tucker County Clerk Sherry Simmons.
The Inter-Mountain photo by Chad Clem
West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant shares a ‘fist bump’ with local resident Bill Phares at the Randolph County Senior Center Tuesday.
"I agree, especially with the resurgence of the timber industry, that it will give the economy a boost," Tennant replied. "I would love to see Corridor H completed in my lifetime, as I'm sure most people here would, as well. We need to fuel the timber industry here, manufacture it here and get things moving for this economy."
On the importance of coal, Tennant said "coal as an energy source is vital" and the next step is to support advanced coal mining technology to make the practice more efficient.
"I feel like we, as a state where coal is so much in the fabric of who we are, feel like we have to prove coal again and I feel like that starts with the technological aspect," Tennant said. "Coal is obviously essential, but we also need wind, timber, natural gas and solar energy as well. We don't need to limit our options; we need it all.
"The EPA regulations on coal are unrealistic and unfair," she continued. "(Coal) is of the utmost importance to ensure the safety of the public and for workers. Living in Charleston during the Freedom Industries incident, I understand the impact that corporate oversight can have on a community. I stood in water lines alongside small business owners and citizens. But in terms of coal, the technology is there to ensure that it is clean and that we can get better use for it and make it more efficient in a way that meets standards."
Tennant also commented on the recent raise in the state's minimum wage.
"It's a step in the right direction to stimulating the economy," she said. "You should be able to feed your family and pay your mortgage on a 40-hour work week. We also need to keep the message out to keep creating good-paying jobs, both professional and vocational."
Local officials said they enjoyed the chance to meet with Tennant.
"I've known Natalie Tennant for many years, dating back to when I was working with the State Police and she was a reporter at Channel 12," Taylor said. "The Randolph County Commission interacts with the Secretary of State's office frequently and I've enjoyed working with her in that capacity as well. She has always been cooperative, helpful and willing to work to help others. It's a pleasure to have her back in Randolph County."
"I love Randolph County," Tennant told The Inter-Mountain. "When I visit I get to see a lot of my friends. But mostly I love how forward-thinking the citizens are here. This is a place that is very much in touch with its roots, with the timber industry and the Forest Festival. It's an area that is full of pride and people willing to work to maintain that pride."
Tennant also visited the Tucker County Courthouse before moving on to Mineral County Tuesday as part of her tour, which began in January. Tennant aims to visit more than 30 counties this week.
Tennant is vying for the soon-to-be vacant Senate seat held by Sen. John D. "Jay" Rockefeller IV, who is retiring at the end of his current term.
Six candidates will vie to fill the position. Tennant and Shelley Moore Capito, the current Republican Second District Congresswoman from Kanawha County, are the best known of the field, which also includes Democratic candidates Dennis Melton, from Lewis County, and David B. Wamsley, from Wood County, as well as Republican candidates Larry Eugene Butcher, from Wood County, and Matthew Dodrill, from Wood County. The primary election will be held on May 13.