Residents discuss community improvements

ELKINS — Local residents discussed ways to make Elkins a vibrant community during a Town Hall meeting at the Elkins Depot this week.

“At the end of the day, we want positive things to happen in the community,” said Elkins-Randolph Chamber of Commerce President Mark Doak, who has distributed copies of the book “Building a Vibrant Community: How Citizen-Powered Change is Reshaping America” to community members. “One of the stories in the book says that there are two frogs sitting on a lilypad. One decides to jump off. How many are left?

“The answer is two. There’s a big difference between deciding and taking action. We all sit around and decide that we want a better community, but actually jumping and taking that decision to action is what’s key.”

Doak stated that bringing people to action requires having a burning platform, wherein one has to make a decision to stay the same or to jump.

He questioned attendees about what they would say in a 15-second “elevator speech” in order to teach someone new about the Elkins area.

Local business owner Mark Tomblin shared what he would theoretically tell a newcomer.

“Elkins is a small community that has so much to offer — beauty, natural surroundings, friendly people. It’s a great community. It’s got issues, and those issues can be fixed,” said Tomblin. “I could move somewhere and live in another area, but I don’t want to live in another area. I want to live here.”

“There are a lot of great things going on in Randolph County,” said Randolph County Commission President Mark Scott. “As a matter of fact, I consider Randolph County to be the hub of tourism for North Central West Virginia.

“We know the problems that we have,” Scott said. “We know the issues that we deal with, but people who come through don’t see it. They’re excited.

“We’ve got people out there who are just down on every single thing about Randolph County, and we don’t have to be like that. We do need to talk about our challenges. At the end of the day, it’s still a great place to live.”

Scott said West Virginia is leading the nation in GDP growth for the first time in its history.

Doak added, “It kind of goes back to asking ourselves how to build a vibrant community, and I don’t have the answers. There are suggestions (in the book) about trying to bring people together, but first you have to identify what your burning platform is. In other word — what are we really trying to accomplish? Why are we doing this?”

Dr. Richard Topping stated that he believes the area’s burning platform should center on keeping children in the community.

“My legacy is my children,” he said. “I want them to at least have the option. I want (staying) to be an option.”

Logan Smith said, “To me, the burning platform is our self-esteem and lack of respect for ourselves, our community and for everything that we have.

“It seems like we have all the things that make a vibrant community.”

Scott added, “Randolph County has a pride problem. We don’t have enough of it.”

“We need to celebrate the positive aspects of our community and try to drown out the negative,” said Smith.

“Let’s tell the story of what good is happening in Randolph County. Let’s see if we can begin to change the attitudes of people, and as we change people’s attitudes, I believe we’re going to begin to see more positive change,” said Scott.

The next Town Hall meeting is set to occur on Oct. 15.