Welcome back to “Wrong Side of the Mountain,” my column about what makes life in Boone County good or bad, depending on your perspective.

Well, here we are. We’re entering another election cycle and I don’t think I have to tell you what a crucial time this is for us all. Unless you’ve been in a coma for the last two years, you know what I’m talking about.

The purpose of this column isn’t to rehash the fiscal condition of Boone County. We’ve been over that a few times. I have a burning desire to discuss what I see as a glaring hole in the (early) campaigns of at least half of our participants.

I attend quite a bit of meetings in this county. While I put in a sold 50-60 hours per week covering local government, community, crime, sports and a smidgen of education, I know that I have failed and it drives me absolutely bonkers because I know that there are things that I simply cannot get to as a newsroom of one guy. I have a family, too and I plan my weeks out to embrace them as much in advance as possible.

With that said, I do attend A LOT of meetings and events from Whitesville to Wharton.

What I don’t see is (some of) our candidates for county-level and some state-level government seats as much as I need to.

I don’t understand how you can even begin to tackle the problems of this county or district if you don’t attend meetings, get out and talk to people and identify some initiatives of your own to make this place a better environment for us all.

I’ll use Whitesville as the perfect example of this. I’m about to give Mayor Freddie Harless a big heaping-helping of credit here. Harless isn’t running for office but he should be. He and that council have transformed a dying town that could barely pay their electric bill into a highly functioning body that has a little money in the bank and is starting to make much needed improvements in the community. They’ve done this in a relatively short time.

My point is, when a candidate rolls into Whitesville, you generally know it’s an election cycle and they are pandering for support.

I also have to give some credit to Commissioner Brett Kuhn and Prosecuting Attorney Keith Randolph, who I have seen MULTIPLE times at Whitesville events. I’ve also seen Craig Bratcher at MULTIPLE functions around the county. I saw Commission President Eddie Hendricks, Bratcher, Kuhn and Delegate Rodney Miller at a retirement party for a fire chief recently. Now, I’m sure they were invited as elected officials but, you have to show up to these things. It is important not for the veil of involvement but for the actual knowledge and connections you make there – Invaluable stuff, folks.

I also saw District 23 Delegate candidate Josh Holstein (and Miller, who is everywhere) at the Whitesville Christmas Parade. It was good to see him out there meeting folks. Holstein is a young Republican from the Ashford/Rumble area that I look forward to getting to know better. 

My point is, you can’t come out from under your rock in April and expect to get the vote of the casual citizen in the primary (providing your primary matters) who doesn’t closely follow local politics. You’d better start galvanizing now. Despite what poor advice you’re getting from your clown car of campaign volunteers, some folks don’t know who you are. You can’t sit in your chair at home, post links to national initiatives and expect to move us here at home. What are your plans locally? I don’t care about your stance on social issues. I care about your ideas for our local economy, the drug epidemic, senior citizen services and education, among others. I’m not interested in your religion, but I’m very interested in what you are going to do to stimulate economic growth, make our community centers available to tax payers who built them in the first place and protect the retirements of county workers who are in danger of losing their jobs as we approach another cut to payroll in our elected officials' offices. I’m interested in knowing what you think of the job we’ve done in economic development realm and how we could improve in that area. Without even taking a breath, I can think of an immediate way to generate $100,000 by trimming some fat. Can you do that? That isn’t a lot of money, but when we are in danger of losing essential services, it is.

I’m sure the ages-old process of candidates tagging along with someone who has “connections” or is owed “favors” in a community will carry on as they look for “pockets” of support. If you roll up on my porch or deck with a traveling monkey like that, you’ll not get far with me. I see right through you. Show up alone and we’ll talk shop.  Show up with your circus monkey and I’ll call you out.

I’m preparing to begin my series of campaign stories profiling local candidates who are actually opposed by someone. HD Media (my bosses) will do their comprehensive questionnaires with each one, or at least give them opportunities to do so but if you’ve read my features on candidates in the past, they are fair and consistent, providing my readers a glimpse into what the folks representing us are all about.

First up to the plate are Boone County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Chad Barker and Madison City Manager/Police Chief Chet Burgess who are both running for Boone County Sheriff on the Democratic ticket. Look for those stories in the Feb. 12 edition of YOUR Coal Valley News.

Some of my questions for them may be tough, but they’ll be fair and both candidates will have the opportunity to wax a bit about their platforms. I have respect for both men and I appreciate them stepping up to the plate and taking advantage of what I see as a great opportunity.

As with any small rural area, the Sheriff’s seat can either be the most powerful position in the county, or it can be a punchline for jokes over a cup of coffee across West Virginia. I look forward to digging in and seeing what Barker and Burgess have to say. My hope for you faithful reader is that you’ll dig in along with me. The next few months are going to be fun so buckle up!

I’m going to leave you with a favorite quote. Live well until next time.

“A politician needs the ability to foretell what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month, and next year and to have the ability afterwards to explain why it didn't happen.” – Winston Churchill