As we prepare to select nominees from the Democrat and Republican parties Tuesday, there are many issues to consider before casting your votes. It’s important that we make our choices for the right reason, that we select the people who will best serve us in the U.S. Senate, House of Representatives, state Senate, House of Delegates and County Commission.

If there’s anything we have learned during the past few years, it is that southern West Virginia is the stepchild in the Mountain State. It’s obvious, most state’s officials ignore us and act like the state line is in Beckley.

Through the years, we have watched major funding for special projects go to other areas.

We have seen budget digest monies go in large hunks to other localities while we settle for small chunks.

We nearly lost Bluefield State College.

The Parkways Authority members thought they could sock it to us with a 60 percent tolls increase last December and we would just sit back and take the financial blow. They argued that the majority of the funds are paid by out of state people, but didn’t seem a bit concerned that those of us in Mercer County and other southern counties made up that small percentage not paid by out of state travelers.

They simply ignored our argument about the negative impact on the economy.

The attitude was almost like the superior folks had spoken and those subservient types in southern counties shouldn’t argue about what they were told to do.

A loud southern protest resulted from businesses when the tolls were raised, probably to the surprise of people who expected us to grumble under our breath but pay what we were told to pay.

We showed strength — a united power to be proud of when it got down to the nitty gritty in court, with the state legislature and with Gov. Joe Manchin.

The people who represented us in Charleston stood tall and worked together, Senate and House, with business people and everyday citizens. We won the first battle — but the war is far from being over.

Sadly, attitudes that the complaints from the southern people is like a gnat to be swatted away hasn’t changed with Parkways, Economic Development and Tourism Authority members. They are still making plans for their projects and indicating they expect to have their money “in about six months.”

So, electing people who feel strongly about how southern West Virginia counties are mistreated by some sources and practically ignored by others, is important when we go to the polls on Tuesday.

There is much to be negotiated with Gov. Joe Manchin, who has ordered a study by consultants to be received in January. I am hopeful that he will find, as he told me he expects from the consultant’s report during the legislative session, that money can be found to take care of the financial needs of the parkways authority without extending a bond issue or raising tolls. Southern counties are vastly outnumbered in the legislature.

Fortunately, this past session our representatives were persuasive and popular with their fellow lawmakers.

We must have a team of legislators prepared to go back to Charleston next January, not just to fight for the turnpike, but also whatever they might face that is damaging to southern counties.

As voters, we need to know the candidates, their knowledge and attitudes about issues important to the southern area, their abilities to work with other lawmakers and the administration. Then, vote for the best representatives we can send to the state capitol.

At least three Parkway Authority members have never acted like Manchin’s action, the court decision or the legislature’s mandate are going to stop them.

This past Thursday, the vice chairman, David Dickirson, who I have always believed to be the major player within the authority membership, spoke confidently at least three times, letting everyone know he expects to have money in about six months. Each time he talked about the money factor, he smiled while looking down at his papers, never looking up at his listeners.

Was the message being conveyed, “I know something you don’t know?” One thing is for sure — they didn’t like the editorial they read in the Daily Telegraph the morning of the meeting criticizing them and calling for a new governing body for the turnpike.

Authority member Joe Marsh spoke to me in the hallway outside the meeting room and Beckley newspaper reporter Mannix Porterfield greeted me with, “Did you write that editorial in today’s paper?” I told him we don’t tell who writes them. “Well, I told them you did,” he said laughing.

As he was speaking, I looked toward the board members. All were looking in another direction. And, they never acknowledged my presence through the entire meeting.

So, they’re mad. So are we.

It’s time for the south — the south as in southern counties in West Virginia — to rise, stay united and be prepared to stand behind our legislators next January.

We must pick carefully Tuesday. More is yet to come.

Barbara Hawkins is state editor for the Daily Telegraph.

Contact her at

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