KEYSER - Twenty-three people braved Wednesday morning’s ice to attend the Mineral County Chamber of Commerce / CVB’s first task force meeting at the Candlewyck Inn in Keyser.

For the News Tribune
KEYSER - Twenty-three people braved Wednesday morning’s ice to attend the Mineral County Chamber of Commerce / CVB’s first task force meeting at the Candlewyck Inn in Keyser.
Burlington, Ridgeley, Fort Ashby, Elk Garden, Piedmont, New Creek and Keyser - all seven districts of the current chamber thrust - were represented.
Mayor Ben Smith from Piedmont expressed enthusiasm for the upcoming Chamber District Meeting scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 22 at 6 p.m. at Piedmont’s  American Legion Hall. He presented his idea for a regular Mineral County Mayor’s meeting to be hosted by the chamber, to a very warm reception from the group.
Keyser City Councilman Eric Murphy, also a mayoral candidate, told of recent meetings with administration and students of Potomac State College of WVU aimed at enhancing relationships between the college and the city of Keyser.
Lucas Taylor, director of development, who represented the college at the meeting,  following President Jennifer Orlikoff’s suggestion to set up the first meeting to discuss this closer relationship, welcomed such efforts.
The chamber, with the help of Councilman Murphy, plans to help host a reception for the Keyser City Council at the college this spring, and another for students to meet the three Mineral County Commissioners.
Dr. Richard Lechliter represented the county commission at the meeting, along with county coordinator Drew Brubaker, who has recently been appointed to a vacated board position of the Chamber and CVB. Drew noted the warm Highland hospitality and great food from attending the recent Elk Garden mayor Marian Droppleman’s First Friday Fire Hall Supper with commission president Jerry Whisner.
Young businessman Brian Wilson, from New Creek, talked of his vision for Terry Stephens’ new Queen’s Point Coffee coming at Main and Armstrong streets in downtown Keyser. Vision for a new chamber was part of the meeting focus, and Brian relayed his vision of people enjoying themselves over coffee downtown. Chamber president John Lecky pressed Stephens to open the shop sooner than later, with humorous agreement from the crowd.
Ridgeley Councilwoman Tanya Ryan explained her work to prepare for the Ridgeley Chamber District meeting coming up next week on Thursday, Feb. 15, at 7 p.m. at the Life Center on Second Avenue. She, along with 75 others, recently enjoyed Mineral County Day in Charleston on Jan. 11. Patsy Koontz, chairwoman of the Mineral County Day Planning Committee, and community affairs director for Western Maryland Health Systems, gave a thorough briefing on the positive outcomes of this program among state leadership in Charleston.
Lecky described Wednesday’s luncheon as the first of nine such meetings to take place through the rest of the year to address the Chamber / CVB vision and purpose, membership and leadership, structure and finance, programs and events, with a focus on creating a 2020 plan. Efforts to cultivate young leadership and shape programming that will address wellness opportunities for county residents are high among priorities, especially in partnership with educators.
Mineral County Schools superintendant Shawn Dilly welcomed the partnership concept with the chamber, especially as new efforts to interface business persons with kids is concerned. Keyser Middle School principal Dr. Edward Holler came prepared with suggestions for an interest inventory to be conducted at his school relative to optimizing local business resources for kids’ career choices.
Keyser High School principal Mike Lewis noted the strong positive response to the chamber’s guest pro-basketball player James JC Carlton in 2016 and again this past fall.
Principals Dawn Burke, Ft Ashby Primary, and Mike Saturday, Elk Garden Primary, also hosts of JC Carlton and testing the chamber partnership, planned to be present but were prevented by heavy ice in their areas of the county.
The presence of these educators signal the chamber’s strong turn toward education, and especially toward the youngest kids, to develop resources to build holistic wellness among the youngest of the county.
At the end of the meeting, Lecky likened the chamber to guns, tractors, and hearts. Unlike the traditional chamber association with a room for a meeting, Lecky associated the developing chamber to the firing chamber in a rifle, the combustion chamber in a tractor (or car), and to the right atrium, or upper chamber of our hearts: all of these combine the right mixture of fuel with a spark to fire movement forward with direction and purpose.
He said the group is that mixture for the chamber. It must decide on a vision statement such as “a powerful engine of positive change and forward movement for the community, especially in terms of economic wellness.
“The new vision should be one of fire, explosive with power to change, and targeted to make lives better,” he said.
The Task Force will work together at noon on the first Wednesdays of each month this year, with the next three at the Candlewyck in Keyser and June through August in varying districts of the county to be announced.
For those not able to come to a lunch in Keyser, evening meetings will be held on the 15th of each month in the disticts such as the coming Ridgeley Chamber District Meeting.
 Persons interested in the Task Force can contact John Lecky at