Almost 60 people from Jefferson County came to Charleston early this week in two groups (and on two large buses) to visit the state capitol, promote our county and learn from legislators (local and otherwise) about state government.
The two groups were Leadership Jefferson and another one organized by Cheryl Keyrouze and others for the second annual Jefferson County Day at the Legislature. The second, consisting of about 40 people, was here for one day. The first, about half that size, was here for two. Both groups came in on Sunday evening, Feb. 19. The Jefferson-at-the-Legislature folks went to a reception at the governor's mansion while Leadership Jefferson held its own dinner.
Governor Earl Ray Tomblin was at the last minute unable to make the reception. He sent Secretary of Commerce Keith Burdette in his stead to be the official host. Secretary Burdette talked about the great progress West Virginia has made in recent years improving its economy and its fiscal condition.
Both groups converged for an informal post-reception/post-dinner open house at the hotel where both were staying. Delegate Tiffany Lawrence, Senator Herb Snyder, Senator John Unger and I attended this very nice soiree. The next day both groups attended a short rally at 10:30 am in the capitol, near the entrance to the State Senate chamber. At that rally a citation was presented honoring Shepherdstown's 250th birthday. The Jefferson-at-the-Legislature contingent was introduced to each of the houses of the Legislature after that.
The members of Jefferson-at-the-Legislature then spent a few hours attending committee meetings and meeting with individual legislators before hopping onto their bus for home. Leadership Jefferson stayed for another night and part of the next day.
That night Leadership Jefferson met for dinner at a restaurant owned by one of the Charleston area legislators, Delegate Doug Skaff. Hoppy Kercheval, host of "MetroNews Talkline" (a call-in radio talk show heard all over West Virginia), was the principal speaker at this dinner.
Hoppy is a native of Jefferson County. He grew up in Summit Point and his brother still lives in our county. In addition to hosting "Talkline" he writes a column each week that appears in several statewide newspapers. As I mentioned above, this is the second year for Jefferson County Day at the Legislature. Leadership Jefferson has been coming here for about a half-dozen years now.
Leadership Jefferson is a voluntary civic education program for adult citizens. Several counties around the state have similar "leadership" programs. The groups meet periodically in their home areas for lectures from various people and come to Charleston as part of the course. Charles Town lawyer Andrew Skinner organizes Leadership Jefferson each year.
Between the two groups I think much was accomplished. I've heard from quite a few of my fellow legislators about conversations between them and various Jeffersonians that were both pleasant and informative.
We need to keep this going. I commend Cheryl Keyrouze and the folks who help her organize Jefferson County Day at the Legislature and Andrew Skinner of Leadership Jefferson for the hard work they do and long hours they put in on this effort.