Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV


April 27, 2014

Endorsement: Mercer County Commission: Puckett, Sommers

— — Voters in Mercer County will have to make a critical decision May 13 in the closely watched race for a single seat on the Mercer County Commission. Five Democrats and one Republican are vying for their party’s nomination in the race to fill the commission seat vacated by the death of the late Joe Coburn.

All six candidates, including Democrats Terry Basham, Robert W. “Bob” Carter, Phillip B. Ball, Lyle Cottle and John Sommers, and Republican Greg Puckett, recently met with members of the Daily Telegraph’s editorial board. We quizzed them on a variety of topics, including the duties of a county commissioner, economic development, whether a county administrator is needed, lodging for the Hatfield-McCoy Trail, fire fees, regionalism and the King Coal Highway. And we feel confident in saying that we were impressed with all six men. And that’s a good thing for voters of Mercer County. However, there can only be two winners on May 13 — one Democrat and one Republican. After careful consideration and debate, we endorse Sommers for the Democratic nomination and Puckett for the Republican nomination.

For far too long, we’ve seen Mercer County falling behind. And that, in part, is due to our county commissioners. We need aggressive commissioners who will stand up and fight for jobs, new tourism opportunities, economic development projects, housing and the betterment of our region as a whole. Sadly, commission meetings have been and are still simply routine gatherings where economic development and other great needs are rarely even discussed.

Simply put, we need new blood on the Mercer County Commission. And Puckett and Sommers fit that bill perfectly. Both men appear to be very well knowledgeable on the issues, and display a fighting spirit. We believe they would be willing to stand up and fight for our county. We believe they would be commissioners willing to make tough decisions — whether it is the hiring of a county administrator or assembling a new economic development team.

Although still youthful in age, Puckett is no stranger to our region. As the current executive director of Community Connections, Puckett has worked with communities across the region in recent years on special projects and initiatives aimed at preventing the use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs among youth and family. He spearheaded the charge in 2006 to support funding for teen courts throughout the state and has advocated for the establishment of local community-based coalitions in every county. Puckett also helped with the formation of the local Creating Opportunities for Youth community coalition, which was recognized by America’s Promise as a four-time winner of the 100 Best Communities for Young People awards from 2005 to 2010. Puckett also serves on several state and national committees, including the Governor’s Committee on Crime, Delinquency and Correction and the National Coalition Advisory Committee for the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America. And he’s been at the forefront in recent months of the ongoing efforts to revitalize downtown Princeton. Puckett is already a proven leader and would make a fine commissioner.

Sommers impressed us with his strong conviction, and willingness to fight for the betterment of his county. Also youthful in age, Sommers also is a veteran when it comes to emergency medical services in our region. He is the current assistant chief of the Matoaka Volunteer Fire Department and also the current Mercer County Medical Examiner. Sommers is certified as a master critical care paramedic training officer, as well as a master critical care EMS trainer. He works full time as a critical care paramedic with the Princeton Rescue Squad. He is also a veteran of the U.S. military. But his passion extends beyond emergency medical services. He seems to have a clear understanding of what Mercer County needs to do to move forward. And we believe he will fight to make it happen.

Voters in Mercer County have a tremendous opportunity May 13 to cast a ballot for a strong county commissioner. We strongly encourage Republicans to cast a ballot May 13 for Puckett and for Democrats to vote for Sommers. By doing so, we can take steps today toward building a stronger Mercer County.

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