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Locals serve on Manchin transition team

December 09, 2004|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - At least six people from the Eastern Panhandle have been appointed to the transition team for Gov.-elect Joe Manchin, and for some of them it means an opportunity to push for issues that are important to the local area.

When a new governor is elected to office, typically a transition team is assembled to help the governor-elect prepare for the term ahead, said state Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley/Jefferson, a member of Manchin's transition team.

Unger said he is not sure how many local people may have been on transition teams for governors in the past.

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Manchin, a Democrat, defeated Republican Monty Warner in the Nov. 2 election.

Others named to Manchin's transition team include Lori Stilley, president of the Jefferson County Board of Education; Susan Sowers, who works as a coordinator of instruction for Jefferson County Schools; Patrick Blanc, director of pupil services for Jefferson County Schools; Tom Lange, a Charles Town resident and president of the West Virginia Education Association; and Mary Jo Brown, former spokeswoman for Berkeley County Schools.

Manchin's transition team is divided into two components, Unger said.

One component is the steering committee, or the executive committee, of which Lange is a member, Unger said.

Other transition team members deal with various policy issues, Unger said.

Stilley said she is on Manchin's kindergarten-through-12th-grade education transition team.

The focus of the different groups is to identify needs in the state and forward those to the governor-elect, Stilley said. An issue Stilley has been working on is changing the method of how the state funds rapidly growing school systems.

"It's exciting. It's a great time to get some attention for the Eastern Panhandle," Stilley said Wednesday.

Stilley said she was appointed to Manchin's transition team after she talked to Manchin and his wife during his campaign and offered the couple her help.

Unger said he is working on the policy group that is dealing with personnel and purchasing. That group's work includes determining how state government will be structured and how to make it efficient, Unger said.

While working on those issues, Unger said he plans to seek support for issues important to the Eastern Panhandle, which include improving Eastern Panhandle roads. Unger said many roads are unsafe and are strangling economic development efforts.

Unger and Stilley said Manchin and the people who will be working in his administration are genuinely interested in local issues.

"They're open to suggestions. They're open to ideas. They're very receptive," Unger said.

Larry Puccio, who will be Manchin's chief of staff, said Manchin is interested in the Eastern Panhandle, especially with regard to the economic growth potential here.

Puccio said the idea behind the transition team is to "build a library" of information which Manchin can not only use now, but use throughout his term to address issues.

Manchin will take office in January, Unger said.

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