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Morgan, Wysong square off for vacant 58th seat

October 25, 2004|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Both candidates for West Virginia's 58th District House of Delegates seat say economic development in Jefferson County and the ability to get the local school system the resources it needs are priorities in their platforms.

Democrat Locke Wysong and Republican Suzanne Morgan will face each other in the Nov. 2 general election.

The 58th District House seat is held by Dale Manuel, who is stepping down to run for a Jefferson County Commission seat.

The position has a two-year term and pays $15,000 a year.

Morgan said she can see the potential for economic development in Jefferson County when local officials talk about ideas such as a plan to redevelop an old commercial area along North Street into a business district that could include high-tech companies and retail and entertainment-based businesses.

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And Morgan said county residents would love to work in Jefferson County instead of commuting to nearby cities if more good-paying jobs were available here.

But Morgan said no businesses are going to come to Jefferson County given the fact that the state Workers' Compensation program has a $4.2 billion debt.

High insurance rates also keep businesses away from Jefferson County, said Morgan, of Charles Town.

Although the issues have to be dealt with, the state has a "south of Route 60" mentality, meaning the state is only concerned about issues in the southern part of the state, Morgan said.

"Nobody seems to be addressing it," Morgan said.

Morgan said the state tax system also needs to be reformed to make West Virginia more attractive for business.

Wysong said reforms are good, but what the area needs in order to attract business is basic services such as advanced communication networks, expanded sewer, natural gas and new roads.

Wysong said he also wants to see the West Virginia Development Office get more involved in attracting companies to the county and promoting the area as a good place to do business.

"If Charleston never gets involved, it will never happen," said Wysong, 31, of Charles Town.

Some officials have shown concern about local public schools being able to handle increased student population, and Wysong said changes are needed in the way the school system is funded.

The local school system gets money from the state for increased enrollment, but the money the school system receives for more students in a given year is based on enrollment figures from the previous year, Wysong said.

That leaves school systems short on cash because student populations are often steadily increasing, Wysong said.

Morgan agrees that public education is an important issue in Jefferson County. Morgan said she has talked to local residents as part of her campaign, and they are concerned about crowded schools, roads and high insurance rates.

Morgan said another problem facing the local school system is a shortage of school buses. The state has cut funding on buses, which has left the school system about seven buses short of what it needs, Morgan said.

Morgan said buses in the southern part of the state are not being used, and she proposes making school buses state property so some can be moved to Jefferson County.

Morgan, a native of Morgantown, W.Va., who moved here in 2000, comes from a politically active family. She is the daughter of Albert M. Morgan, a prominent Morgantown attorney who once ran for U.S. Congress, and the granddaughter of West Virginia's 16th governor, Ephriam F. Morgan.

Her work experience includes running her own consulting business that helps people with political campaign management and fund raising.

Wysong's family has been in Jefferson County for more than 200 years, he said.

Wysong said because he grew up in the county, he understands the changes that have taken place and what the area is facing.

And because of his background in public service, Wysong believes he has the experience to get the changes Jefferson County needs.

Wysong was a staff assistant and case worker when Gov. Bob Wise represented the state's 2nd Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. When Wise was elected governor, Wysong was appointed as Wise's Eastern Regional representative. His job was to work on constituent issues in the local area.

"I'm committed to my community and I want to go down there and work hard for the people of the Eastern Panhandle," Wysong said.

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