OPINION

Candidate Announcement: Smoot running in new delegate district

Special to the News Tribune
Stephen Smoot

Since its creation 156 years ago, Mineral County has served as a vital keystone for the Potomac Highlands. The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad relied on dedicated and skilled workers from the area for generations. Others worked to build munitions with which America defended freedom. Soon one of the world’s most innovative companies, Virgin, will conduct research and development right on Mineral County’s doorstep.

Just as exciting is the potential. Mineral County has a crown jewel in Jennings Randolph Lake. Nearby Piedmont should benefit from its proximity to this natural feature, gorgeous locale, historical homes, and its Potomac waterfront, to grow into a tourism region as seen in nearby Tucker and Garrett counties. Fort Ashby’s connections to George Washington, fascinating frontier history, and beautiful setting also have brought business to eastern Mineral.

With Mineral County poised to leap forward, I am excited for the opportunity to join the team working to bring even more opportunities.

I am running for delegate in the newly created 88th district. No incumbent currently holds the seat, which will represent an area stretching from Elk Garden to Rio in Hampshire County. It also extends from Purgitsville to Short Gap. A vote for me does not go against any officeholders currently holding a delegate seat.

The next logical question is this. Why Stephen Smoot?

I bring years of experience in public policy, thorough knowledge of the region and state, and also hold dear the conservative ideals shared by the district. I pledge to support the rights to bear arms enshrined in the Second Amendment and the right to life guaranteed in the Declaration of Independence.  Also, we must undergo the hard work of finding savings and expanding the state’s economy to pay for state services rather than raising taxes that burden our working families.

Mineral County has tremendous assets and potential for development. Realizing the growth ahead means that we must work on expanding trades education and workforce programs.  A larger pool of skilled workers creates the best conditions for both building small businesses at home and attracting investment from elsewhere.  With Potomac State College, Mineral County Technical School, and other regional facilities, we will teach skills and provide more high paying job and entrepreneurship opportunities for our young people.

Tourism enriches the counties and business communities around Mineral and we have the opportunity to join the growth.  From Travelers’ Rest to Ashby’s Fort, our region offers opportunities to experience life from two and almost three centuries ago. We also must explore using Jennings Randolph Lake, as well as the wild and wonderful upper Potomac, as a magnet for tourism development to benefit Elk Garden, Piedmont, and surrounding communities.  

In our region, tourism is tied to our resilient and productive agricultural sector. I have worked with regional efforts to develop local and regional food supply chains so that restaurants and groceries can buy directly from our own farmers as often as possible. These efforts have not yet borne fruit, but I will continue the effort as delegate.

Finally, although the rest of the world seems to have forgotten, the opioid crisis continues to ravage communities throughout our state. Overdoses have reached their highest historic numbers in recent years. We must work to keep the focus on creating practical and compassionate solutions to address the needs of the chronically addicted and mentally ill. Almost all of us have lost at least someone in our lives to deadly drugs and we must continue to search for answers to roll back this human tragedy.

To work issues and opportunities important to Mineral and Hampshire counties, I draw upon years of experience working as regional director of an Eastern Panhandle congressional office. There, I led efforts to develop a conservation plan that did not add to the burdens of farmers and other residents.  Additionally, I worked from that office to connect foreign diplomats, members of other national parliaments, and trade representatives with local and state officials to develop connections of business and culture.

 I also have thorough knowledge of local, state, and national history. I earned degrees in history at both West Virginia University and Marshall and taught the subject at five institutions of higher learning, including Potomac State College and Marshall University. With American history and education currently a topic of national debate, I can devote my expertise to ensuring that our students develop a strong understanding and appreciation of the subject.

Over the past decade, West Virginia has surged forward to develop new industries and attract investment from across the nation and around the world. As Ronald Reagan once said of our nation, it is truly morning in West Virginia. Our best days do lay ahead and I promise to work to help Mineral and Hampshire counties become a vital part of that growth.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Every candidate for local, county or state office is given the opportunity to run one free announcement, 500-800 words, with a photo, prior to the election. Further information can be found on the editorial page of the News Tribune.