West Virginia Focus - September/October 2015

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September/October 2015

Our annual celebration of women showcases more than 100 Rosies who are proving WE CAN DO IT.






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Lisa DeFrank-Cole, Liza Heiskell, Kris Wise Maramba, Samuel Speciale, Jake Stump, Lydotta Taylor, Michelle Wittekind


Email info@newsouthmediainc.com. West Virginia Focus is published by New South Media, Inc. Subscription rates: $20 for one year. Frequency: 6 times a year. Copyright: New South Media, Inc. Reproduction in part or whole is strictly prohibited without the express written permission of the publisher. Š New South Media, Inc. All rights reserved


Focus September/October 2015

Editor’s Letter “We still think of a powerful man as a born leader and a powerful woman as an anomaly.” Margaret Atwood


recently read that women have outnumbered men on college campuses since 1988. We hold almost 52 percent of all professional-level jobs, have earned almost half of law degrees since 2001, and, since 2002, have outnumbered men in earning undergraduate business degrees. And yet, women aren’t proportionately represented in leadership and decision-making positions. What stunned me the most was that, at the current rate of change, it will take until the year 2085 for women to reach parity with men in leadership roles in our country, according to the Center for American Progress. To quote Wonder Woman, “Hera, give me strength!” When we started to work on this issue, there was much discussion on whether we should focus an entire issue on celebrating strong and influential women. Shouldn’t we celebrate all strong and influential people? In a perfect world, we wouldn’t need to do this. But our world isn’t perfect. The statistics prove that. By showcasing more than 100 women, we are shining a light on a segment of our population that has gone unchampioned for too long (page 66). We hope this issue of West Virginia Focus inspires the best among us to continue to step into leadership roles, to reach back and bring others along, and to say “thank you” to those who have made West Virginia an even better place. Sometimes we all need a little bit of acknowledgement. This year we asked our 2014 Wonder Women to nominate women they think are the movers and shakers, the decisionmakers, the givers, and the doers—the women who are moving the state forward, one business, one charity, one idea at a time. I must say, after reading about each of these dynamic and inspirational women, I have great hope that we won’t have to wait until 2085 to reach leadership parity with our male counterparts. Our modern-day Rosie the Riveters don’t necessarily look like the Rosies of the ’40s. But they do share the same battle cry: WE CAN DO IT! Take Bryn Perrott, our cover model. This multitalented artist (page 76) exemplifies strength and individuality. The girls of Truck Country are proving that the auto dealership business isn’t just for men (page 10). And Isabella Yosuico didn’t give in to adversity when dealing with the effects of her son’s Down syndrome; instead, she invented a product that is now helping thousands of children around the country (page 84). And there are many, many more stories within these pages of women who have found success in West Virginia. But we can’t stop there. Everyone needs to read the article “How to Run for Office,” on page 48. Women are grossly

Our office is filled with Wonder Women and one Super Man!

underrepresented in political positions. In 1985 the West Virginia Legislature was 17 percent female, but today, women comprise only 15 percent. Why is it important to elect more women into decision-making positions? Tara Martinez, executive director of the West Virginia Women’s Commission, says it best. “They have perspectives that are a lot of times left out of male-dominated policymaking.” Research shows that women in office tend to be more transparent, inclusive, and accessible. And who doesn’t believe we need more of that in government? Our step-by-step guide is a great toolkit for how to run for office. It takes the mystery and the intimidation out of the process. Share this with others and make sure you attend the Ready to Run conference on September 18-19 at the Four Points by Sheraton in Charleston. Another event you won’t want to miss is our celebration of our state’s Wonder Women. On October 19, at the Holiday Inn & Suites Charleston West in South Charleston, we will host a luncheon honoring our 2014 and 2015 classes. Get out your lasso and bulletproof bracelets, and as Queen Hippolyte said to Diana Prince, “Go in peace my daughter. And remember that, in a world of ordinary mortals, you are a Wonder Woman.” nikki bowman Publisher & Editor

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Dialogue Feedback Fighting for food

Featured Contributors


Great article (“Regrowing a Wasteland,” July/Aug. 2015)! Mingo County is also working hard to provide healthy food throughout the county. The Diabetes Coalition and other groups are encouraging gardens, sponsoring a seed exchange, and started a farmers’ market. Yes, we still have grocery stores on the Kentucky side but the market helps the local economy and brings food to our food desert areas. Dee Kapourales

After a successful career in television, Liza Heiskell left the profession to become a stay-at-home mother. She is now co-owner of the furniture rejuvenation company Coco & June and recently started a video production company, Park Street Productions.


Editor’s note: We received several thoughtful responses to “Mind the Gap,” a story about West Virginia’s labor force problems from our July/ August 2015 issue. Here are a few of those comments.

Lydotta Taylor is president and CEO of The EdVenture Group, a Morgantown-based independent nonprofit organization providing innovative solutions for the education world as well as consulting services and professional development for businesses and communities. She was a member of West Virginia Focus’s 2014 Wonder Women.

Don’t blame the workers

It’s not just workers but also employers. This article (“Mind the Gap,” July/Aug. 2015) focused on, and blamed, only workers. The flip side to “lazy workers” is “capitalistic greed.” There’s a reason why the Walton family is worth over $30 billion while Walmart workers depend on taxpayer-subsidized benefits like food stamps, AFDC, and CHIP. Joseph Smith

MICHELLE WITTEKIND Michelle Wittekind is a vice president and regional manager at United Bank. She is a graduate of Marietta College and a member of the American Society of Pension Professionals and Actuaries.

Not a new problem


The state has a very low work ethic as evidenced by the labor force participation rate (percent of the population in the civilian labor force). It's been the lowest of all 50 states for at least 40 years. Coupled with low educational attainment and adverse health outcomes, the state’s human capital is not very appealing to employers. Tom Witt, via Facebook

Face the truth

What a great article. Unfortunately, it’s a truth we have to face that we no longer deserve to say, on the whole, we have hard workers here. Kudos to Mingo Central for addressing this issue! Justin Seibert


Focus September/October 2015

Lisa DeFrank-Cole is an associate professor and director of Leadership Studies at West Virginia University. Her research interests include the topics of women and leadership. She currently serves as the 2015 chair of the Women and Leadership Affinity Group in the International Leadership Association.

ABOUT THE COVER Morgantown artist Bryn Perrott came into our Morgantown office for this Rosie the Riveter-inspired shoot. Read more about Perrott's work on page 76.

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Contents FOCUS ON 10




Performance Chevy in Elkins is proving the car business isn’t just a man’s world anymore. 12


Tina Nipe’s TenthDegree Technologies allows sports leagues to spend less time on paperwork and more time on the field. 33

A newly enacted state law protects pregnant women and new mothers in the workplace.





Top Issues

Some are concerned West Virginia’s new 20week abortion ban is unconstitutional, but how likely is a court challenge? 18

Turn This Town Around

Volunteers in Whitesville are working to fight blight. 20


West Virginia Women Work has helped scores of women find construction jobs. Now short on cash, the program may soon shut down. 24

Noteworthy Launch WVU Tech hosts its first girls-only summer camp for teenagers interested in science, technology, engineering, and math. 26


A new report looks at West Virginia’s gender wage gap.


Focus September/October 2015

We take a look at two important stories from West Virginia’s fourth estate.

More West Virginians than ever depend on federal assistance to buy groceries. 44


A Charleston doctor has a plan to halve the number of drug-affected babies by 2020.



Lessons Learned

Building a successful business sometimes means biding your time. 80

Higher Ed

Colleges and universities have lots to gain from hiring female leaders— but academia isn’t always friendly to women. 82


Each generation has its strengths and weaknesses, and effective leaders must learn to balance them. 84

How We Did It

Necessity is the mother of invention for one Berkeley Springs mother. 86

Work-Life Balance

Liza Heiskell tells of her unlikely transformation from corporate climber to stay-at-home mom to small business owner. 92 48

Ready to Run

The biggest challenge for female politicians isn’t getting elected—it’s deciding to run in the first place. Here’s a 10-step guide to getting started in politics. 56

West Virginia’s Wonder Women Celebrating 50 ladies—from all over the state and all walks of life— working hard to make a difference.


With the holiday shopping season right around the corner, it’s time to get ready for Small Business Saturday. 94


Women earn less than men and also save and invest less than men. It’s time to change that. Editor’s Letter


Dialogue 4 Power Points


Focus wvfocus.com



Focus September/October 2015



Catching up with the Wonder Women of 2014 It should come as no surprise the women we profiled in the inaugural Wonder Women issue (September/October 2014) have continued to do great things for their communities, their state, and their world. Here, we check up on a few.

Roseanne Barr


All around the state, women are getting down with roller derby.

PG. 40

Queen for a Day

The royal edicts of Dreama Denver, a 2014 Focus Wonder Woman.

PG. 11

Power Lunch In November 2014, Shelley Moore Capito was elected U.S. senator— the first woman in West Virginia to hold the office.

In April Mandy Curry, who created the Healthy Kids, Inc. online meal planner with her husband, Kirk, launched Start A Garden to help teachers start classroom gardens. The program now has more than 7,000 users nationwide.

April Hamilton published her cookbook, Counter Intelligence: The Best of April's Kitchen— Smart, Delicious Recipes from My Family to Yours. It’s available now on amazon.com.

April Kaull, a veteran television news reporter at WOWK in Charleston, joined West Virginia University in January as assistant director of news at University Relations.

Dining at 34:Ate, a new Williamson lunch spot with a low-country vibe.

PG. 16


Morgan Richards talks about her luxury leather goods brand, Morgan Rhea.

PG. 28

Who’s Stepping Up

Ann Montague wants us to remember the women of the war effort.

PG. 46 Carolyn Long, campus president of West Virginia University Institute of Technology in Montgomery, also became campus president of WVU Beckley in June. The new divisional campus will begin offering classes in fall 2016.

Former Delegate Meshea Poore graduated from the Women’s Campaign School at Yale University and is the new vice president of the West Virginia State Bar’s Board of Governors.

Elaine Sheldon, awardwinning director of the interactive documentary HOLLOW, launched a podcast with Sarah Ginsburg called SHE DOES, which features personal stories and advice from women working in the media. Check it out at shedoespodcast.com.

Lydotta Taylor’s EdVenture Group was named “Small Business of the Year” by the Morgantown Area Chamber of Commerce and has expanded its workshops and leadership trainings into Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.

Focus wvfocus.com


The Women of Truck Country Performance Chevrolet in Elkins proves the auto dealership business isn’t just for men. Not anymore.



hen Jessica Phillips got her first big break in the automotive industry almost 14 years ago, she knew she had an interesting climb ahead of her. “It was tough,” says Phillips, who had then taken a job handling dealership relations for a major lending institution in her home state of Florida. “I was young, I was 25. In Florida, back then, a woman in the car business was tough to begin with.” She made the decision to drop the “ca” from “Jessica” and just be “Jessi Phillips” on her business cards. The name change fed an assumption many of her business contacts already had made. “They didn’t


Focus September/October 2015

know it was a woman to begin with and sometimes, yeah, that made it easier,” Phillips says. “They just got my business card first and or heard the name and really didn’t know I was female, and then when it was time for me to meet face to face, I knew the business. You have to stand your ground in this business. It was definitely a man’s world back then.” These days? Not so much. Phillips, now 38, is now one of four women running things at Performance Chevy, a GM dealership in Elkins. She is the finance and insurance manager there, overseeing the financial side of sales and negotiating with banks. And today, she goes by Jessica. Her boss is dealership co-owner Christy



Hines, and she works hand in hand with service manager Sarah Hines and marketing director Stephanie Murphy. “It was sort of a slow realization that, wow, almost all of our managers are female,” says Murphy, 45, who joined the dealership last year after running her own community relations firm and being a stay-at-home mom. “It was not intentional. It just kind of evolved that way.” They’ve recently started referring to themselves as “The Women of Truck Country.” Truck sales make up the bulk of business at the dealership, the growth of which prompted a move from Parsons to a larger facility in Elkins in August. “We are absolutely in a male-driven industry,” Murphy says. “Our whole image is masculine. (The women executives)—it’s kind of the secret here. Our target audience has been predominantly male, but the females are making most of the decisions.” Murphy isn’t just talking about decisions behind the scenes at the dealership. “There have been so many studies done, even if it’s the men who are coming in here buying, the majority of the time it’s the women who are making most of the financial decisions for the families,” Murphy says. “Women are buying more trucks. They are looking for larger vehicles that can accommodate their families, all the sports gear. And then of course, here, there’s the fact that we live in the mountains.” Automotive News reported that women purchased about 15 percent of trucks sold the first three quarters of last year, and the National Automobile Dealers Association reported that, in 2014, almost 18 percent of dealership employees were female. Seven percent of those women were in leadership roles, the association found. Murphy points to GM’s top executive, CEO Mary Barra, who took over last year as the first female to lead a major automaker, as an indicator of how the industry is changing. “Her philosophy is to incorporate the views of women into the design,” Murphy says. “She makes sure their needs are heard. There’s an emphasis on thinking of children, making everyone comfortable. And, of course, she said when she started, ‘No more crappy cars.’” That direct approach to leadership reminds Murphy of somebody else:

STEPHANIE MURPHY, MARKETING DIRECTOR Performance Chevy co-owner Christy Hines. “There was a description of (Barra) that reminds me of Christy: ‘She has an iron fist and a velvet glove.’ She is professional, attractive, composed, but don’t let any of that fool you because she is very intelligent and she knows how to make the tough decisions to succeed.” Hines, 45, got into the auto business the long way around. She was an experienced nurse and midwife in Buckhannon when her brother asked her and a few other family members to help him open a new dealership. The mother of five, whose children range in age from 5 to 25, was going to be a “silent backer.” She found she couldn’t stay silent for long. “Things change when you own a business,” she says. They bought the dealership in 2007. GM had, as Hines puts it, “a very bad year” in 2008, and the family assumed they would quickly be shut down like a lot of other small dealerships. But that isn’t what happened. “We kept getting superior ratings,” Hines said. “They kept us open and kept growing our territory.” The dealership, which initially served just Tucker County, now serves Tucker, Randolph, the majority of Barbour, and parts of Preston and Pendleton counties. The new 29,500-square-foot Elkins facility has 300 new vehicles on the lot and expects to sell about 120 a month.

QUEEN for a

DAY Dreama Denver was married to Bob Denver, titular character of Gilligan’s Island, for nearly 30 years. Together they formed the Denver Foundation to help children with special needs and Little Buddy Radio, a nonprofit radio station. She has continued the work since Bob’s death in 2005, while also founding Always Free Honor Flight to give state veterans free trips to Washington, D.C., and leading the effort to make “Take Me Home Country Roads” an official state song. If I were queen of West Virginia for a day, I would decree the following: Bob was once quoted as saying, “West Virginia is so pristine, so beautiful that someone should build a fence around the entire state, set up entry points around its perimeter and charge admission for anyone wanting to travel through.” That would be my first decree, in his memory. That Little Buddy Radio (littlebuddyradio.com) become mandatory listening for all citizens.


It was sort of a slow realization that, wow, almost all of our managers are female. It was not intentional. It just kind of evolved that way.”

“When you expand a territory, you have to be able to service it,” Hines says. That’s where she came in, eventually stepping into a full-time, on-site management role with her brother and father, Gene and Patrick Darlington, who are both co-owners. She credits them for helping get her up to speed on the auto industry. “I deliver cars now instead of babies,” she jokes. But Hines says her work is, in some ways, reminiscent of her career in health care. “There’s still the personal contact,” she says. “Many of these customers have been my patients in the past. And at the end of the day I’m still a caregiver.” Hines says her more than 40 employees, the majority of whom still are male, work together like one big family. But she sees some things about her female executives’ leadership styles that allowed them to get ahead. “It is a different approach,” Hines says. “The majority of women in this business are type-A personalities. They’re aggressive and goal-oriented and they have very strong personalities. I don’t mean that to be negative. They are driven. Women are also very good at paying attention to detail. We are detail-oriented.” That’s a trait that helped Christine’s daughter, Sarah, land in a management role. At 25, she heads up the dealership’s service department, overseeing a staff of seven (all male) technicians. It’s really no big deal, Sarah says. While she’s had some customers give her grief and question whether a “young lady” can really know her way around a garage, the employees don’t doubt her. “I think, if anything, they have a high respect for you,” she says. “The techs maybe wouldn’t have an issue spouting off to a man, but they think a little bit more before they speak. And they know I stand my ground.” Sarah Hines started at the dealership when she was 20 and worked her way up as a cashier, accounts receivable clerk, advertising clerk, and service writer. “The challenges for anybody in this business, man or woman, you’ve got to work your way through them.”

Guaranteed three-day weekends for every hardworking, tax-paying citizen of this state. That West Virginians focus their attention on gratitude, cease to judge one another, and appreciate the blanket of freedom we sleep under every night thanks to the brave men and women and their families who sacrifice so much on our behalf. Focus wvfocus.com



Baby on Board A now-effective state law protects pregnant women and new mothers in the workplace. WRITTEN BY ZACK HAROLD


assed by the state Legislature in 2014, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act went into effect July 1, 2015. The law applies to companies with 12 or more employees and all government entities, and requires employers to provide “reasonable accommodations” for pregnant women and new mothers. That could include allowing the woman to sit on a stool rather than stand, avoid heavy lifting, move to a light-duty assignment, and have guaranteed lactation breaks and ready access to bathroom facilities. Employers also cannot deny employment based on pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions, force an employee or job applicant to accept accommodations against her will, or require the employee to take leave “if another reasonable accommodation can be provided.” The law does allow employers to request written documentation from health care providers specifying a woman’s limitations and suggesting accommodations to address those issues, so long as those accommodations do not “impose an undue hardship” on the business. Delegate Don Perdue, a Democrat from Wayne County, was chairman of the House of Delegates’ Health and Human Resources Committee in 2014 and helped usher the law through the legislative process. He says legislators did not have statistics on pregnancy-related discrimination in the workplace but heard a number of anecdotal reports from women in West Virginia and around the country. “Their pregnancies might have been in danger by personnel policies, mostly from oversight,” he says. “It seemed to me the time was right and the need was there.” The reproductive rights organization WV FREE also helped push the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act through the statehouse. “It’s a basic human rights issue,” says Carrie-Meghan Quick, a WV FREE program manager. “Women make up a significant part of the workforce. It makes sense: If you want to have happy and productive workers, you need to be able to give women reasonable accommodations at work.” Quick says her organization continues to see pregnant women and new mothers who have quit or been threatened with losing their jobs because their employers are unwilling to make accommodations. The group is keeping track of these violations and helping to connect women with legal representation, and has launched a public information campaign to spread the word about the new law to both employees and employers. Perdue says there could be an initial rush of complaints filed early on, but the number should level off as employees and employers become better acquainted with the law.


Focus September/October 2015

CHEERS & JEERS In May, Sheetz announced it would no longer sell pepperoni rolls made by a West Virginia company, and would instead get its rolls from an out-of-state bakery. The decision sparked fierce public outrage—and the company quickly reversed itself, picking Home Industry Bakery of Clarksburg as the pepperoni roll contractor for its West Virginia locations. #LikeThereWasAnyOtherOption #RecipeForABoycott #SeriousEats

Don Blankenship’s lawyers have asked the court hearing his trial to exclude “all evidence about the (Upper Big Branch) explosion, cause of the explosion and responsibility for the explosion” as well as to “instruct the jury that this trial does not concern the UBB explosion,” claiming such evidence would unfairly prejudice jurors against him. #ExcuseUsWhat #FindYourShovelFindYourGloves #We’reKneeDeepInIt

Gary Southern finally pleaded guilty to three criminal pollution charges in the 2014 chemical leak at Freedom Industries in Charleston that left 300,000 without drinking water for days. He faces up to three years in prison. #DarnTootin’ #RaiseAGlassToCleanWater #RaiseItHigherForHonestIndustry

A Wheeling murder trial ended in mistrial when too few jurors showed up to begin jury selection. The accused is out on bond pending a new trial. This isn’t the first time this has happened. #ThisIsAJokeRight #CitizensHaveResponsibilities

The Huntington VA Medical Center is expanding its addiction services following last year’s criticisms about the organization’s inability to handle veterans’ needs. #MindfulOfMentalHealth #ServingOurServiceMenAndWomen

Marion County Sheriff Joe Carpenter spent $260,000 on a military vehicle called BearCat, telling The Times West Virginian, “The way stuff has been going on in our county and the world today, we thought it would be good.” #ISISWouldHaveToGetThroughTexasFirst #OrThePentagon #CommunityPolicingBeforePoliceMilitarizing Focus wvfocus.com


enough votes to overturn the veto. We won’t know until someone challenges the law whether Tomblin’s concerns are warranted—but how likely is a challenge? A small number of women are affected: West Virginians seeking laterterm abortions number in the single digits each year. But these women are often in the direst situations, says Tisha Reed, deputy director of reproductive rights group WV FREE—for example, bearing fetuses they’ve just learned have lifethreatening birth defects. Amniocentesis to test for genetic abnormalities is not performed until 18 weeks of gestation, “so women often aren’t able to know in time (to abort before 20 weeks),” Reed says. Other reasons for later abortions include late awareness of the pregnancy and difficulty arranging an abortion. So-called “paincapable” bills have cropped up at the state and national levels over the past several years. Pro-life groups cite research indicating the fetal structures and processes for feeling pain may be in place by 20 weeks. Pro-choice organizations say the science isn’t settled and a 20-week cutoff places an “undue burden” on a woman—that’s the Supreme Court’s standard for assessing restrictions on abortion. But those on the pro-life side are emboldened by the Supreme Court’s 2007 decision in Gonzales v. Carhart, says West Virginia University College of Law Professor Kendra Fershee, who has a focus on family law. The decision upheld a 2003 federal

Open Challenge LEGISLATURE

Will anyone test West Virginia’s PainCapable Unborn Child Protection law?



ince May 26, abortion has been illegal after 20 weeks of pregnancy in West Virginia except in rare cases where the mother’s life is in danger. That’s four weeks earlier than the longstanding 24-week cutoff. The law changed with the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, passed by the newly Republican state Legislature in March. Tomblin struck the bill down, just as he did in 2014, over concerns about its constitutionality. Republicans garnered


Focus September/October 2015

ban on intact dilation and extraction. “The Supreme Court held in Carhart that it is not an undue burden on a woman to ban that specific abortion procedure,” Fershee says. Since Carhart, states have seen rafts of bills proposing other targeted restrictions on abortion. “I think the theory is that, if the Supreme Court says you can ban a particular procedure, then there may be other procedures that could be banned, too,” she says. “Or other concerns—like, if a fetus can feel pain at certain gestational age, can we ban abortion at that age?” Some dozen states have passed versions of pain-capable laws, and lower courts have so far found Arizona’s and Idaho’s versions unconstitutional. In West Virginia, a challenge would likely come from a national organization. “It’s incredibly time-consuming and it’s incredibly expensive,” Fershee says. “So usually these sorts of challenges would come from an organization that would have the resources to challenge all the way to the Supreme Court—Planned Parenthood or an organization like it.” A challenge might take in other states’ 20-week bans, too, she says. “They could be heard all at the same time. And then the question would be, Is banning abortion after 20 weeks an undue burden? I would hazard a guess the Supreme Court would say, ‘Yes, it is.’” The high court may be more tempted to hear challenges to other recent laws, though. “In North Dakota now, the fetal heartbeat is the trigger for the ban, and Texas has been battling it out with federal courts down there about physician hospital privileges—they’ve passed laws that make it illegal to perform abortions in clinics that aren’t affiliated with hospitals,” Fershee says. “These more restrictive bans might be more enticing to the court.” So West Virginia’s 20-week ban may stay on the books—or, if enough states’ laws are challenged successfully, Fershee says, lawmakers may decide to repeal it on their own. Meanwhile, Reed reminds us of the women who are affected. “The bill’s very limited exceptions ignore the tragic situations that lead to making this decision in the first place,” she says. “That decisionmaking has been taken away from them.”




“I just cook the way I cook at home,” co-owner Debbie Young says. That means the restaurant uses as much locally grown produce as possible and tries to keep the menu “reasonably healthy.” There’s no deep fryer in the back.

Young and co-owner Robyn Gannon had lots of ideas about how the restaurant should look—so they used them all. “It’s kind of an eclectic mix of Robyn and myself,” Young says. "We love to find unique things.”



Young drew lots of inspiration from her favorite restaurants in Charleston, South Carolina, especially Cru Café, a gourmet comfort food restaurant run out of a small house.

34:Ate doesn’t serve what you’d call “home cooking,” but often updates classic dishes. The “grown-up bologna” sandwich features thicksliced fried bologna, onion, lettuce, tomato, and chipotle mayonnaise.


Poppyseed Salad $7.50

Grown-Up Bologna Sandwich $7

Chicken & Waffles (only on Wednesdays) $9

Debbie Young might be a glutton for punishment. After spending 34 years as an elementary school teacher, no one could blame her for sitting back in an easy chair. But instead she entered another very demanding fiel­d­­—the restaurant business. “It’s one of the most rewarding things I’ve done,” she says. In September 2014 Young and longtime friend Robyn Gannon launched 34:Ate, a lunch joint that is developing a steady following among the town’s office workers with a menu of gourmet sandwiches, salads, and ever-changing daily specials. The restaurant also hosts regular “pop-up dinners,” each with a different theme like Italian night, cheeseburger night, or South of the Border night. The name is a subtle nod to Psalms 34:8, which begins, “O taste and see that the Lord is good.” It’s fitting, because diners can taste and see—34:Ate is very good.  210 Pike Street, Williamson, WV 25661, 304.235.3488, 34atewilliamson.wix.com/34ate



Fighting the Blight When abandoned properties infect a community, the only cure is a lot of hard work.



im Browning knows exactly what visitors think when they drive down her town's main drag. “At first glance it looks like the town needs to be dozered,” she says. There are a few businesses along Coal River Road in Whitesville, but many of the properties are vacant, slowly collapsing in disrepair. You can see what the abandoned buildings once were— a department store here, a funeral home there, a gym back there. You can see their wasted potential reflected in the darkened windows. Derelict properties are a cancer: Just one cell can destroy lots of otherwise healthy tissue. When a property sits abandoned, it often attracts homeless people, crime,


Focus September/October 2015

and drug activity, says Luke Elser, coordinator of the Brownfields, Abandoned, Dilapidated (BAD) Buildings Program for the Northern West Virginia Brownfields Center. Surrounding property values decline, so those buildings don’t sell and also become abandoned. That leads to even more drops in property values, more crime, and more run-down buildings. “Abandoned properties hurt people in very physical ways,” Elser says. So earlier this year Browning and some fellow volunteers decided to do something about it. In addition to being selected as one of 2015’s Turn This Town Around communities by West Virginia Focus, the West Virginia Community Development Hub, and West Virginia Public Broadcasting,

Whitesville also was selected to participate in the BAD Buildings Program. Elser says the program, now in its second year, aims to give communities the tools to tackle blight. Communities build “redevelopment plans” with prioritized inventories of abandoned properties—where the buildings are, what condition they are in, whether they are occupied, and who owns them. The BAD Buildings Program then helps its partners figure out new uses for the properties. It’s not all about bulldozing. “We don’t want just a flat piece of land. We want something that would be beneficial to the community,” Elser says. The program also helps municipalities with legal tools to fight blight. In conjunction with West Virginia University’s Land Use and Sustainable Development Law Clinic, Elser and company work with communities to beef up municipal codes that combat derelict properties and make sure those codes are enforced by certified building inspectors. Elser says it’s much more difficult for communities to win revitalization grants if they do not have legal tools in place to go after deadbeat landlords. But even though the BAD Buildings Program can provide tools for dealing with

abandoned properties, Elser says it’s up to residents to make the plans and do the work. “The community has to do its own soul-searching,” he says. “I don’t live in Whitesville. I can’t say what the right thing to do is. What we provide is, basically, the road map and the directions.” Whitesville is off to a good start. Even before their first official meeting with Elser, Browning and other volunteers began working to catalog the derelict properties in their community. “We just got started. We were excited about getting the process going,” she says. The group obtained maps and a data report from the county with information about each property’s owners, and Browning went around town taking photos of abandoned buildings. She calls them “before” photos—Browning is confident there will be an “after,” too. With everything on paper, it became clear Whitesville was better off than previously thought. Only two or three buildings along Coal River Road were beyond repair and only about five structures elsewhere in town needed to be demolished. Others might be vacant and in disrepair, but they’re not hopeless. “The bones are good,” Browning says. Volunteers also learned most of the abandoned properties belonged to the same two landlords. One man recently died, but his brother is trying to sell off the properties. Four buildings along Coal River Road are now for sale and a local entrepreneur hopes to open a bakery in one of them. The other landlord is a bigger challenge. “He’s 80-some years old. He’s known to be stubborn and not cooperative,” Browning says. This man isn’t against selling out—his prices are just too high. “He thinks (the property) is worth a million dollars.” Whitesville’s town government has tried to crack down on blighted properties in the past but ended up in a drawn-out, unsuccessful court battle. “They’ve just lost heart,” Browning says. “If the ordinances that are in the book were enforced, this town would not look the way it does.” Unfortunately, “the book” is part of the problem. The town’s building ordinances exist only on paper, stored in three separate three-ring binders. Until recently, the codes were so disorganized and confusing police were afraid to try enforcing them. Volunteers recruited a local judge to go through the books and put everything in order. Browning hopes the town government will now have the confidence to enforce its rules. Elser says legal action should stay pretty far down a community’s list of tactics, however. It’s better to build relationships with landlords and convince them to do the right thing. “What we want to avoid is property owners feeling victimized,” he says. Browning has taken the advice to heart. After some long conversations, that “stubborn and not cooperative” landlord has allowed Browning to clean his windows and install a temporary historical display. He even gave her a key to one of the properties and has started attending Turn This Town Around meetings. “It’s working,” she says. “Sometimes it just takes a different time. With Turn This Town Around, with excitement building up, I think it’s a new time.” Focus wvfocus.com


West Virginia Women Work has given thousands of low-income women the skills and confidence to make a living in a nontraditional field. Now, it might have to close its doors. WRITTEN BY SHAY MAUNZ


Focus September/October 2015


et’s try a thought experiment. Imagine a job field where the demand for workers is high, the barrier for entry is low, and the pay is good. The jobs are upwardly mobile, too. You can climb up the career ladder as you get more experience and more training, until you’re eventually making even better money, often something like $50,000 a year. You don’t need a lot of fancy schooling to do these jobs, and it’s not difficult to get your foot in the door—entry-level positions are readily available for people who don’t have any work experience in the industry. Sounds great, doesn’t it? It sounds like the type of job field that all kinds of workers would flock to in large numbers.




Now imagine all the people working in this industry are men. Or most of them anyway— all but around 10 percent. I know what you’re thinking: How could that be? Why are all the women in the world letting these lucrative and plentiful jobs pass them by? That’s a good question, and here’s the answer: Because this lucrative field is construction, and women don’t generally work construction jobs. Of course, that isn’t really an answer at all, or at least it’s a very bad one. Women can and do hold construction jobs. They can—and do— build entire careers in that industry. Just not very many women do. Some would argue not enough. Enter West Virginia Women Work, a statewide nonprofit that has been ushering

women into construction jobs for the last 15 years. They do it through free 11-week training sessions at the group’s sites in Morgantown, Charleston, and Martinsburg. “We capture these women who are looking for jobs and need them right away—they can’t afford to go to a two- or four-year school because they need to put food on the table now,” says Janis Gunel, the group’s executive director. “We work with them and quickly turn them around and put them in an entry-level job where they can start out making $3 more an hour than they would in a fast food job, and then they can progress up the career ladder and eventually make really good money.” West Virginia Women Works bills itself as two things: a “pre-apprenticeship”

program in the building and construction trades, and a ticket out of poverty for West Virginia women. Students spend 11 weeks in the program learning the basics of carpentry, plumbing, and electrical wiring, earning preliminary licenses in each. Normally a job seeker doesn’t need that type of license to get an entry-level construction job—if that job seeker is a man. But if you’re a woman looking for a traditional job in one of these male-dominated fields, it helps to have it. “It’s harder for women when they’re looking for these jobs,” says Misty Nicholas, a graduate of the program who now works there as a coordinator. “But in my experience, once you go in there and show your licenses and everything else, I think it’s all equal. Focus wvfocus.com



Focus September/October 2015

even a full-time job couldn’t support her husband and two children. But during the program she realized how much she enjoyed electrical wiring and set about finding a job in that field. She succeeded even before she’d graduated, leaving West Virginia Women Work early to start working. “There are so many jobs that women just never think about getting into,” Gunel says. “When a woman is going through grade school and junior high school nobody ever says to them, ‘Hey, you can be an electrician.’ They’re just automatically geared toward going into health care or something. But they can really excel at these jobs.” Last year, 63 women graduated from the program and 46 immediately found work. On average they earned $11.45, $3 more than minimum wage. West Virginia Women Work boasts its program has contributed more than $2.5 million to the state’s economy over the last four years—that’s the compounded benefit of all those women’s salaries. It helps to have those numbers fresh in your mind when you learn this next thing about West Virginia Women Work: It might have to close its doors at the end of this year. Funding for the program has

always been tenuous. It is completely funded by grants, which means that the amount of money coming in naturally waxes and wanes over time. That approach has worked for 15 years—until now. “Every year it’s a struggle, but this year in particular the grant funds are lower,” Ganel says. “And now we’re in a position where we’re going to have to close our doors in December if nothing else comes in.” To shore up their resources, officials are looking to the state for help. The government has money for economic development, but most of that goes to career and technical education in public schools or universities, or other state-run training programs. Gunel hopes state officials might find a way to funnel some money into West Virginia Women Work. “I feel like we’ve proven ourselves over the years, we’ve proven we’re doing a good job,” she says. “And I’m hoping that if the state sees that we’re really helping not only women and families out, but we’re helping the state out, maybe they’ll see that if they have some resources that could be good for our nonprofit they would help the state too.”


It’s very impressive when they walk into an interview with all their certifications, their licenses, a resume.” There’s proof this technique works. The last graduating class Nicholas oversaw had a 90 percent job placement rate. Graduates include people like Georgia Day, who relied on public assistance to help support herself and her young son when she was working as a cleaner. She applied for the program in 2014 and called the office every day until she got an interview. Once accepted, she never missed a day of class and read all of the assigned material—plus extra texts she found in the local library. When she graduated she found work as a laborer, and within a week her boss reported back that she was the hardest worker on the job site. She’s now in the first year of a plumbers apprenticeship program and makes $15 an hour. Or there’s Ashley Hayes, who had an associate’s degree in criminal justice but couldn’t find work. She resorted to selling drugs for money and was eventually convicted on a felony distribution charge. After prison the only jobs for a person with her background were in the food service industry, where


At WVU Tech, there’s a new camp about math, science, and tech. No boys allowed.



t’s June, so the campus at the West Virginia University Institute of Technology is pretty quiet. Most of the students are gone, the classrooms empty, the professors off relaxing. But in one computer lab in the engineering building, things are different. Here, students sit at rows of computers, their faces lit by the screens. They tap on mouses, dragging symbols from menus at the bottom of their screens onto lines of text at the center, dropping them with a satisfying click. In their laps and on their desks sit little robots—boxes with wheels, small LCD screens, and a few antennae. At


Focus September/October 2015

the front of the room Kimberlyn Gray, an assistant professor of chemical engineering at Tech, starts talking, and students look up from their computers to listen. “Has anyone ever done any coding before?” she asks. A half-dozen hands shoot up. As for the other 20 or so students, well, they're learning to code right now. If you glanced in the room you might be surprised to learn this is a computer coding class. These students don’t look at all like Mark Zuckerburg. They’re younger, for one thing—high school age. And they’re all girls. This is the STEM Summer Academy

for Girls at WVU Tech. Tech has held a summer camp for teenagers interested in STEM fields—that is, fields related to science, technology, engineering, or math—for years, but that camp is co-ed and the majority of campers are boys. This summer Tech introduced a new STEM camp just for girls. “It will never happen to them again, that they’ll be in a room with all women like this,” says Afrin Naz, an assistant professor for computer science at Tech. “In the real world if they go into a STEM field they will always be in the minority.” She’s right. A troublingly small number of women enter STEM fields, and as a result those professions are filled with a homogeneous sea of men. Only 13 percent of engineers are women, and women make up only a quarter of the workforce in computer and mathematical sciences fields. That’s bad, and not just because nobody wants to think of the United States as a country where little girls aren’t afforded exactly the same opportunities as little boys. For every girl who is gifted in science or math but doesn’t go into the field—because of some deeply ingrained belief she doesn’t belong there, or because she doesn’t

want to spend a whole career as the odd-woman-out, or maybe just because the thought never occurred to her—that’s one less gifted biochemist or mechanical engineer or computer programmer in the world. She could have gone on to help find a remedy for global hunger, or discovered a new power source, or built whatever website will eventually unseat Facebook. But instead, because of her gender, she’ll be shuffled into another kind of job and the world will miss out. Experts say gender disparities in science, technology, engineering, and math will only inhibit America as it tries to maintain its competitive edge in the global marketplace. With this camp, the administrators at WVU Tech are trying to show girls that STEM fields could be right for them. All the girls here have already demonstrated an interest in math, science, or technology, but this is a way to show them how much fun those fields can be outside the classroom. The program they’re using during that robot programming class is called a GUI (say “gooey”), or a graphical user interface. The program gives students a set of commands for the robot that they can drag from a menu

and drop to form a line of code, instead of writing all the instructions themselves. Learning to code involves memorizing a lot of commands that a computer can understand, and then learning about how to organize those commands in a way that will make a website or computer program or a robot run smoothly. By using a GUI, students can focus on the organizing part and worry about memorizing all the computerese later. “So they don’t have to worry about the syntax of coding,” Gray says. “They can learn about programming a robot more quickly this way.” The idea here, and throughout the camp, is to give the girls just enough of a taste of STEM subjects to make them hungry for more. At the start of this robotics class on the first day of camp, the girls learn how to use the program, and eventually manage to make their robots reliably follow a course in the hallway—a piece of tape laid down to make a square. Then they "write" more code to take advantage of the sensor on the front of the robot, teaching it to stop when it reaches a wall. As soon as they’ve done that, Gray gives them a new instruction. “Now use the ultrasonic sensor and make

it into a pet that will follow you and bark when it sees you, and do whatever else you want.” The girls get to work fiddling with the program, testing out the different sounds programmed into the robots, and making them do, well, whatever they want. The hope is that the camp might nudge some girls who are already interested in math and science in the right direction—that they’ll get to Tech’s campus and begin to envision themselves here, or on a college campus like it, preferably in a science or a computer lab. That’s the goal of any STEM camp, but it’s especially important here. Hopefully, after spending a few days with 20 other girls doing math and science, students will realize there are lots of girls out there who are interested in this stuff. “It’s hard being a woman and deciding to do these things, and that’s why we need people to say to them, ‘You can do this,’” Naz says. “That’s why we need women showing them that women do these things.” Plus, it gives administrators the chance to tailor the camp to girls, if only slightly. Students spent a few sessions, for example, designing and building high-heeled shoes from cardboard. The project culminated with a fashion show in which the girls had to prove their shoes would support them as they walked at least 15 feet. “I was worried the camp was going to be too girly,” says Rhane Napier, a 17-yearold from Ohio who attended to the camp. She says at home, she mainly hangs out with guys because they’re the people at school who share her interests. When she decided to go to an all girls summer camp she was worried she wouldn’t get along with the other campers. She was worried all the girls would be annoying, because she finds girls “generally annoying.” She was worried they’d all be on their periods and be in a bad mood. She was worried she wouldn’t like the stuff they had to do, because she doesn’t like the stuff most girls like. “But it’s not like that,” she says. “You can take the assignments any way you want.” She pulls out a sketch she’s made for the high-heel competition. The shoe looks like a cat—a whole new play on the term “kitten heels”—proving a feat of engineering doesn’t have to be masculine to be impressive. Focus wvfocus.com
























32% $49,865





men women



The Great Divide

Women make far less than men in West Virginia, but we can only guess why. WRITTEN BY ZACK HAROLD


he average West Virginia woman made $11,600 less than her male counterpart in 2013, according to data from West Virginia University’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research. The numbers were released this summer as part of WVU’s yearly “From Higher Education


Focus September/October 2015

to Work in West Virginia” study, which combines West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission data on state college graduates with Workforce West Virginia’s data on state workers. The report details average salaries industry by industry, and the gender wage gap is present in all but one: journalism, where the women make about $160 more than men per year. In science-related fields, men make about $21,000 more than women per year. In health care professions, men make nearly $38,000 more. Although the WVU study shows the existence of a gender wage gap, it does not attempt to explain why the gap exists. “It’s expensive to do that type of research,” says Tara Martinez, executive director of the West Virginia Women’s Commission. There are several widely held theories, however. Martinez says in most rural parts of the state, mining and agriculture are the


predominant industries, and there is very little room for women in those markets. As a result about 58 percent of state women— that’s almost one in three—work in lowpaying service industry jobs. The state also suffers from a lack of services like public transportation, childcare, and elder care. Since caregiving duties usually fall to women, many decide it’s not worthwhile to have a full-time job and at the same time pay for transportation, childcare, and caretakers for their elderly parents. “Sometimes it’s just easier to not work a full-time job and get supplemental benefits,” Martinez says. It’s a problem state lawmakers need to find ways to address, she says, because placing everyone on equal footing will only strengthen the state’s economy. “You’re not allowing for economic stability for 51 percent of our population,” she says. “That’s big.”



Morgan Rhea Richards FOUNDERS


South Charleston native Morgan Richards has just about always known she wanted to be a fashion designer— although it hasn’t worked out exactly the way she imagined as a child. Founded in 2015, her boutique design company Morgan Rhea makes custom luxury accessories that tell personal stories. We asked Richards about her splash into the design world and her decision to start her company in West Virginia.

»» Ever since I was little I’ve wanted to be in the design

industry. I have a note from second grade. We had to write down what we wanted to be and I wrote, “I want to be a fashion designer—but I don’t want to make shoes and bags, especially for men.” Now that’s exactly what I’m doing.

»» I studied accessory design at the Savannah (Georgia) College of Art and Design and graduated in May 2014. While I was a student, I designed a menswear collection. A briefcase I made won Best Student-Made Handbag at the 2014 Independent Handbag Designer Awards, and that gave me a three-month internship with Coach in New York City.

»» After New York, I wanted to come back to my Appalachian

roots and start something here and be able to create some jobs back here in West Virginia. We get a little hidden, definitely within fashion, but we are such an amazing state.

»» My fiancé, Michael Beals, and I hand-make everything.

Literally everything we do is from scratch, start to finish. We use buffalo leather, the holes are hand-punched, and we handstitch and hand-patinate the leather, working one on one with customers on each accessory. It takes up to two weeks for smaller items, four to six weeks for bigger accessories. In the end they’re pieces that can be passed down for generations.

»» Our current collection, “Silently Speaking Gratitude,”

was inspired by people and their stories in my life. I have a duffel bag and a tote bag inspired by my Aunt Sandy, and the story of her journey through breast cancer is written on the accessories. If you have a love letter, or a story from your

grandmother, anything significant in your life, we can laser etch that onto your accessory. Our tagline is, “Everyone has a story. What’s yours?”

»» The market is a wide variety of people. Our briefcase that

won the award was in InStyle magazine last September, and that helped out. And word of mouth has been fantastic. The volume varies. Last month we did a wedding where the bride got clutches for her bridesmaids and the groom bought wallets for his groomsmen, and we did bracelets for them, so we were working on tons of pieces.

»» We do a lot of fundraising. My nephew, Carter, was born

premature, so we did a little bracelet for the March of Dimes, for the “Carter Dean Team.” And we give part of our proceeds to charity.

»» In 2016, we’re planning to start making shoes from scratch. We’re getting the equipment now. It’s such a dying art. It’s super fun. When you’re finished you’re like, “Wow, I just made a pair of shoes.” We also want to have a storefront, definitely in Charleston, hopefully downtown.

»» We’ve had so much support. Our studio is at the Charleston

Area Alliance right now. My sister-in-law, my brother, and my mom all help out. We’re a pretty good team, working together, and I couldn’t have done this without them. It’s my first business, coming out of school, so I’m sure there are some things I could have done better, but I always try to focus on the positive. I think that’s the only way we can move forward is focusing on what’s next. Focus wvfocus.com


To the Tenth Degree INNOVATION

An innovative service helps coaches, players, and parents stay connected. WRITTEN BY MAIA BRUMAGE


Focus September/October 2015



hristina Nipe has been involved in sports her entire life—as an athlete, referee, athletic director, and league manager— so she knows where the difficulties lie. One of the biggest problems in sports leagues that deal with young people, she says, is communication between the league and the parents. After searching fruitlessly for some kind of a software solution, Nipe decided to come up with one on her own. “I’m a software developer by trade, so I actually wrote a software package to solve the issues I was having with trying to manage the league,” she says. So began TenthDegree Technologies, LLC, an online service designed to make managing leagues easier. The business is divided into two portions. One is the software component, which can include everything from setting up custom websites for leagues and teams, to managing online registration, and even creating apparel shops for teams. The other side of TenthDegree is devoted to service. “We can help them do everything from completing their schedules, to doing manual registrations for those who don’t do online registration, to collecting their fees,” she says. “So we kind of do a complete management package based on what the organization needs.” Nipe started her company in April 2014, but it wasn’t until October 2014 that she released the software. TenthDegree currently serves 10 leagues and counting. Nipe attributes the rapid growth of her company to her bifurcated business plan. “There are a lot of people out there that are doing software, but not a lot of companies that are doing the actual support side of it.” TenthDegree isn’t targeted specifically toward a single team, but toward entire leagues, where management needs to be carefully controlled. “A lot of our organizations are run by volunteers, and people come and go. So we give them consistency,” Nipe says. “That means even if a treasurer up and quits in the middle of the season, we can step in and help them with that need.” Nipe recognized the need for a business like TenthDegree while she was a partner in a basketball league. “There were other leagues out there that needed the same help,” she says. “Most people that are in leagues are former players. They are people who either played or have kids who played, and they enjoy being involved in the sport. They don’t necessarily enjoy the administrative side of it.” Doug Arndt, president of Tri-County Football, says the best feature of TenthDegree Technologies has

There are a lot of people out there that are doing software, but not a lot of companies that are doing the actual support side of it.” CHRISTINA NIPE, FOUNDER, TENTHDEGREE TECHNOLOGIES been the ease of communication. “We have 54 teams and four different fields that we play on. Let’s say that we have a horrible lightning storm that comes through and we have to cancel eight games,” he says. “Rather than having somebody call 16 different coaches who then have to call 16 team moms or dads to call 20 to 25 players apiece, I can send out one email, and it goes out to everyone’s email that we have on file, and it also sends a text message to everyone that has a phone on file.” Arndt has opted to use all of the web features that Nipe offers, like online registration. Players manually enter their contact information. “Then when a player gets drafted, we just take his name and put it to a team. It is fantastic,” Arndt says. “I recommend it to any sports league there is,” he says. “We have done other sites ... but this is something that is jaw-dropping for us, as a league. We’re just glad to have it.” To get started, leagues simply send a message via TenthDegree Technologies’ website detailing what services they need. Pricing is determined after a consultation. The service can be used for tournaments, sports camps, and parks and recreation. “Everybody’s busy,” Nipe says, “And they’re volunteers, and they’re trying to do this stuff at eleven o’clock at night. They need it to be as simple and easy as possible so they’re spending less time managing and more time playing.” Focus wvfocus.com



Although it is as often reviled as it is revered, the media holds a special place in American democracy. Journalism is the only private industry explicitly protected by the Bill of Rights. It serves as the unofficial fourth branch of our republic, the final failsafe when our system of checks and balances falters. But who watches the watchdogs? In June, the faculty advisor of Fairmont State University’s student newspaper, The Columns,

was allegedly fired following the publication of controversial stories about the school’s residence halls. Then, in late July, the owners of the Charleston Gazette and the Charleston Daily Mail unceremoniously merged the publications with no warning to readers or staff. In this special section of West Virginia Focus, we take a look at these important stories and examine what they mean for both the publications and the public.

“Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” —Thomas Jefferson Focus wvfocus.com


WVU senior and Daily Athenaeum Managing Editor David Schlake. DA positions are paid jobs with real deadlines and real material, says Editor in Chief Madison Fleck. “If we print something that is wrong, it’s our fault, and we have to go out and fix the problem ourselves. Students just can’t get that kind of real-world experience in a classroom.”

but it made us here at West Virginia Focus think about the importance of campus newspapers. Several among our own writing staff have glowing memories of their days at student news publications: Katie Griffith and Shay Maunz at West Virginia University’s Daily Athenaeum and the West Virginia Uncovered project, and Zack Harold at the University of Charleston’s Eagle. In celebration of the underappreciated campus newspaper, we talked with several professionals about their views on the institution. Ed Dawson and Brad McElhinny edit the two of the largest dailies in the state, and Frank LoMonte directs the Student Press Law Center (SPLC) legal advocacy group in Washington, D.C. Their observations highlight the critical roles student-run publications play on campus and in society.


Learning to Ask the Hard Questions The unsung campus newspaper plays a critical role in society.



n May 2015, Fairmont State University journalism professor Michael Kelley was told his employment contract had expired and would not be renewed. Student journalism watchers are still trying to understand whether Kelley’s dismissal was related to his role as faculty adviser


Focus September/October 2015

to the university’s student newspaper, The Columns, which had recently published stories alleging the presence of toxic black mold in student housing. The situation hasn’t fully played out— Kelley has an outstanding grievance against the university and it’s not clear yet how The Columns will function this school year—

Most straightforwardly, college papers spread the word on everything from the new degree program to upcoming music performances. “They promote campus cohesiveness,” says McElhinny, co-editor at the newly formed Charleston Gazette-Mail. “Profiles of professors and students, opportunities to get involved in clubs, classes you haven’t heard about, entertainment options—student papers play a campus togetherness role.” At the same time, student reporters bring to light important day-to-day details of college administration. “Sometimes student journalists cover real problems that deserve attention, like financial issues,” says Dawson, editor and publisher at the Huntington Herald-Dispatch. West Virginia examples in recent memory include the Daily Athenaeum’s 2007-08 coverage of a controversy over an MBA degree awarded under unusual circumstances and stories in Marshall University’s Parthenon on discontent over then-President Stephen Kopp’s 2012 sweep of revenue accounts and hiring freeze. Students are sometimes


Elevating Campus Life

the first to turn up systemic problems in higher ed at large—LoMonte cites national attention on campus sexual assault and sorority segregation over the past year, matters of general concern he says originated in student reporting. “Colleges are an enormous and powerful part of our national economy,” notes LoMonte, who in his seven years at the SPLC has helped students gain access to records and meetings, checked copy for libel concerns, and bailed out students who were arrested at protests. “We need persistent, well-trained reporters keeping watch over these institutions that spend hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars. The depth of coverage and the level of insight you get from student media is irreplaceable—it’s an essential public service.”

An Apprenticeship of Sorts

Reporting isn’t just a skill; it’s what people these days like to call a “skillset.” Cultivating sources, asking penetrating questions, shaping the results into straightforward prose that engages and informs readers, listeners, or viewers—and it all has to happen accurately and on deadline. None of us wants the reporters who bring us our news to learn that from scratch on the job. Campus papers let rising journalists begin to hone that complex skillset under close-to-realworld conditions. “Students learn wonderful lessons in the classroom, but working at a student newspaper lets you see what happens when you actually publish a story and people read it,” Dawson says. “That gives you life lessons about the impact of your work: who reads it, if anyone does, and what they think about it. Some of that’s little things like getting names right—you don’t really understand the importance of that until you spell somebody’s name wrong in the paper. There are also bigger lessons. Maybe you find your story could have been more balanced or you didn’t see there were other sides. A student journalist begins to recognize there are responsibilities and consequences to what we do.” McElhinny named off the top of his head several recent Gazette-Mail writers he originally hired at the former Daily Mail, in part on the strength of their campus journalism

experience: Marcus Constantino and Samuel Speciale from The Parthenon, and Matt Murphy from The Huntingtonian at his alma mater Huntington University, in Indiana, and then at West Virginia Uncovered. “We’ve also got employees with newspaper experience at smaller campuses, like Shepherd (The Picket) and Concord (The Concordian) universities, some who held editors’ positions for several semesters at each of those newspapers,” he says. “So it’s not just the big campuses that play valuable roles.” Dawson is similarly aware of his writers’ collegepaper backgrounds. “Probably half of my staff today are people who worked at The Parthenon, and many of the others worked for campus papers at Ohio University and Kent State.”

Raising up Democracy’s Watchdogs

LoMonte says it straight: “You can’t have a well-functioning democracy without a well-functioning press. The student media is where people learn to understand the workings of government and to ask the hard questions about why it can’t work better.” Student journalists play a more important role than ever as traditional newsrooms cut their staffs and the new crop of Internet publications doesn’t necessarily follow the old beat-reporting model, he says. “Multiple misconduct complaints had been filed against the school board superintendent in a district in northern New Jersey last year,” LoMonte recalls by way of example. “The person who found out about it was a high school journalist because she was often the only journalist routinely attending the school board meetings.” The local media picked up the story after the young reporter got the scoop.


Editorial independence of campus papers from their host institutions is a complex matter. “For a student journalist to come in my door able to make responsible, fair decisions, they need to have had practice being held accountable for responsible, fair decision-making in that earlier arena,” McElhinny says. “If they’re forcefed positions or coverage areas, they can’t develop the critical thinking skills they need on my end. That being said, I don’t

want to employ loose cannons, so they shouldn’t be encouraged to blow up the paper in an irresponsible way. There does need to be some sort of oversight, whether it’s an adviser or a faculty committee.” Every college has to make its own call about independence, Dawson says. “But if you’re going to set your paper up as independent, you need to recognize that some stories may not be as flattering as you’d like.” It’s an issue that will only become more tricky with new forms of on-the-spot coverage, says McElhinny, who enjoys mentoring up-and-coming journalists. “Student newspapers are transforming into outlets where much more immediacy is expected so you’re getting students live-tweeting from faculty senate or student government and these judgment calls on what’s fair and accurate are going to come much more quickly and in a much more challenging way,” he says. “I have sympathy for students who are just learning and what they do is coming much faster and in a much more public way than when I was a student and the paper came out the next day and multiple eyes had seen it.”

Ed Dawson is editor and publisher of the Huntington Herald-Dispatch, the second largest-circulation newspaper in West Virginia. A self-described “big advocate of campus papers,” he served as editor of the student newspaper, The Blue Stocking, as an undergraduate at Presbyterian College in Clinton, South Carolina. Frank LoMonte is executive director of the Student Press Law Center, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit advocate for the rights of people working in student journalism at the K-12 and college levels. Brad McElhinny is co-editor of the Charleston Gazette-Mail. McElhinny worked his way up at the Marshall University’s Parthenon from writer through managing editor when he was a student there in the early 1990s. For gaining experience as a young reporter, copyeditor, or news photographer, he says, there’s no substitute.

Focus wvfocus.com


Late Edition MEDIA

How Charleston became a one-paper town.



round 3 p.m. on Sunday, July 19, the newsroom staffs of the Charleston Daily Mail and Charleston Gazette were called to the front lobby of their shared headquarters at 1001 Virginia Street East in downtown Charleston. Employees immediately knew something strange was happening. Although situated on opposite sides of the same hallway, the newsrooms seldom had contact with one another—and certainly did not hold mid-Sunday afternoon meetings by the front door.


Focus September/October 2015

Workers walked down the stairs from their second-floor offices and stood around the perimeter of the high-ceilinged lobby. Only about 30 people were in attendance. The newsrooms ran bare-bones staffs on Sundays, mostly just the sports departments along with copydesk staff, who edit stories and design the next day’s paper. When everyone was assembled, recently named Gazette publisher Susan Chilton Shumate spoke up with an announcement: Effective immediately, everyone worked for the same publication, the Charleston

Gazette-Mail. The brand-new publication would go to press in just a few hours. After more than 100 years as fierce competitors, the Gazette and Daily Mail were no more. A flurry of confused activity consumed the newsrooms, according to several employees who spoke with West Virginia Focus. They asked not to be named, for fear of losing their jobs. Both papers had been planning their respective Monday editions since the week before—now Daily Mail editors had to send each story and photo to the Gazette. Daily Mail copy editors went to the Gazette newsroom to help lay out the paper but had trouble accessing the computers since they did not have log-ins for the Gazette’s system. Someone cobbled together a new Gazette-Mail flag for the top of the front page. Charley West, the cartoon punster who had appeared in every issue of the Daily Mail since 1958, was nowhere to be found. Copies of the reborn newspaper arrived

on newsstands and doorsteps Monday morning. The front page featured a story about a domestic violence pilot program from crime reporter Tyler Bell, of the former Daily Mail, and a story about the Public Service Commission of West Virginia by business reporter Andrew Brown of the late Gazette. Both were listed as “staff writers.” A photo spread of public murals took up the middle of the page—although copy editors, in their haste, had forgotten to include an accompanying story by Gazette city reporter Rachel Molenda. But the big news on that Monday’s front page—the “play” story, as it is called in newspaper lingo—does not feature a byline. The headline simply reads: “Announcing the Charleston Gazette-Mail.” The text of the article was the same as an email sent to staffers around 5 p.m. Sunday. The statement also was published online around 8 p.m. Sunday night. “Beginning today, the two newspapers are combining newsroom functions with the exception of editorial page content,” it read. “Welcome to the Charleston GazetteMail.” The story assured readers the new Gazette-Mail would retain two independent editorial pages—a conservative Daily Mail page and liberal Gazette page—and the new, larger staff would be able to cover more news than ever before. “This is not one paper gobbling up the other. It is a combination of the two newsroom staffs working in cooperation to produce the most comprehensive news product in West Virginia.” What the story did not mention was the interesting timing of this change.

Paper Route

The Gazette and Daily Mail had shared the same printing press, advertising, circulation, and business operations under a joint operating agreement established in 1958, but the newsrooms had remained independent. The Daily Gazette Company owned the Gazette, while MediaNews owned the Daily Mail. Each company held a 50-percent stake in Charleston Newspapers—the legal name for their joint operations—until 2004 when MediaNews sold the Daily Mail to the Daily Gazette Company for a reported $55 million. The deal drew scrutiny from the federal

government, and in 2007 the U.S. Justice Department filed an antitrust suit alleging the Daily Gazette Company “planned to deliberately transform a financially healthy and stable Daily Mail into a failing newspaper and close it.” Three years later U.S. District Judge John Copenhaver issued a final judgment in the case, requiring that the Daily Mail remain a daily newspaper and returning control of the paper to MediaNews Group. No changes could be made to this arrangement without federal approval for as long as the judgment was in effect. Copenhaver set the ruling to expire five years from the date it was issued: July 19, 2010. It seems no one outside the newspapers’ upper management noticed as the fifth anniversary approached. In the meantime, the world became an increasingly inhospitable place for newspapers. Especially after the Great Recession, publications all over the country folded as a result of diminishing advertising revenues and faltering subscription numbers. Charleston’s newspapers were not immune. In the spirit of full disclosure, I spent five and a half years working at the Daily Mail, leaving in January 2015 to become managing editor of West Virginia Focus. During my final months at the Daily Mail I watched as the company made efforts to cut costs, raise revenues, and shore up its finances. Some of these changes were relatively small, like replacing expensive comic strips with less expensive ones. Others were more pronounced. In January 2014, the Daily Mail sold its longtime domain name, www.dailymail. com, to the Daily Mail of London. The much larger London newspaper had coveted the web address for years, and the sale netted Charleston Newspapers around $1.6 million, according to news reports from the time. In October 2014, the Daily Mail and Gazette increased their newsstand prices from 50 cents to 75 cents Monday through Saturday, and from $1.50 to $2 for the Sunday paper. The newspapers also began producing joint editions for holidays. Subscribers received combined papers on Thanksgiving and Christmas 2014 as well as on New Year’s Day and Memorial Day 2015. The company got rid of its in-house custodial staff, allowing some of those workers

to move to other departments, and began contracting with an outside company for janitorial services. In January 2015, employees were required to begin using a new time clock and automated payroll system, which the company installed to replace its retired payroll clerk. Charleston Newspapers also switched to a thinner-weight newsprint in early 2015. This initially caused some headaches, as the paper had a tendency to break while passing through the printing press, leading to multiple delivery delays. But the biggest indicator of Charleston Newspapers’ financial distress would not be made public until 10 days after the merger was announced, when the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation (PBGC) filed a federal lien against the company. It turns out Charleston Newspapers had fallen behind in payments to the PBGC to the tune of $1.34 million. So as the clock counted down on Copenhaver’s final judgment, executives had begun eyeing the company’s biggest cost-saving measure of all: combining the two papers.

Press Release

At 3 p.m. Monday, July 20, staff members of the newly combined paper gathered in a conference room to hear from top executives and editors about the future of the company. A staffer who attended the meeting provided West Virginia Focus with an audio recording. Shumate began with a brief statement, echoing the story in that morning's paper. “We’re not losing one newspaper … we’re combining them together to make the best possible news product we can for this area, for this size paper.” She said the new, combined newsroom would be “considerably larger,” allowing reporters to write “deeper stories” and “take a different or more creative look.” But Shumate made clear there would not be enough room for all existing employees. At the time of the merger the Daily Mail had around 33 full-time positions while the Gazette had 44 employees. The newly combined newsroom would only have room for 67 people. Every member of the newsroom staff—with the exception of former Gazette executive editor Rob Byers and former Daily Mail editor and publisher Focus wvfocus.com


Brad McElhinny—would have to reapply for his or her job. The newspaper would offer severance packages for those who chose not to reapply and those who were not rehired. McElhinny encouraged employees to view this as a positive step. “If you feel stuck in a beat or stuck in a role, there are going to be new opportunities,” he said. “This is not newsroom versus newsroom. This is, I swear, an attempt to find the best possible personnel moving forward.” About halfway through the meeting, staffers began to ask questions about the merger. One asked why the change was so abrupt. “There’s no real easy way to do something like this,” said Trip Shumate, president and chief financial officer of Charleston Newspapers and Susan Shumate’s husband. Another staffer asked how long the merger had been in the works. No one answered. Susan Shumate only said, “It’s a necessity. I know that’s not the answer. But unfortunately now, it’s an economic reality.” She said the company planned to send out a press release to “make a positive spin” on the situation. The statement drew a few rueful laughs—the papers were usually in the business of deciphering “spin,” not publishing it. The meeting did little to allay some staff members’ concerns about the future of their jobs. For some, it seemed to add insult to injury. “They didn’t have answers to legitimate questions,” said one former Daily Mail reporter following the meeting. “There’s just so many I-don’t-knows." But others were optimistic, excited


Focus September/October 2015

about what a larger newsroom might be able to accomplish. In their minds a larger staff would give reporters freedom to cover stories they couldn’t before, give copy editors more time to work on pages, and make photographers’ schedules a little less hectic. “I think the Gazette-Mail is in a position to do great things,” one editor said. In the intervening weeks, the two staffs grew steadily more comfortable working together. The copy desk staffs divvied up pages, while editors worked together to assign stories. Erstwhile Daily Mail reporters went on assignment with former Gazette photographers, while former Daily Mail photographers shot photos for exGazette reporters. The competition between the two papers did not completely cease, however. Although they were no longer jockeying for stories, staffers were now competing for jobs. Some employees cranked into overdrive, determined to prove themselves before the rehiring process was over. “It’s easy to spot somebody that’s going to an interview,” one staffer said. “They’re dressed better than they have been all summer.” Others became listless. Suddenly unsure of their roles in the newsroom, their bylines began appearing less and less frequently. Employee interviews began on Monday, August 10, conducted in the same conference room where employees first learned about the rehiring process. Tables were arranged to resemble a capital letter I. Shumate, Byers, and McElhinny sat at one end with large binders full of resumes. Employees sat at the opposite end. One employee said the three-

judge panel reminded her of American Idol. Each interview took around 15 minutes. McElhinny or Byers led the conversation, depending on which newsroom the employee came from. They asked why the employee wanted the job and quizzed them about their work experience. Shumate mostly remained silent, staffers said, only occasionally chiming in with a question. Almost every employee West Virginia Focus interviewed described his or her interview using the same word: “awkward.” Some opted to avoid the process altogether. Like several employees, Gazette reporter Rusty Marks opted to take severance. He spent more than a few sleepless nights mulling his options. “I’ve been at the Gazette more than half my life,” he says. “I had intended to retire from the Charleston Gazette. I’d say it’s one of the four toughest decisions I’ve had to make in my life.” But Marks, 50, says he expects the newspaper will see more layoffs in the near future. “I just wasn’t willing to take the chance the paper would still be around in some kind of form I could live with in 15 more years,” he says. “I don’t want to be 55 or 60, laid off, and much more unemployable.” Although he knew there was a chance he would be laid off, Daily Mail photographer Bob Wojcieszak wasn’t too worried. He'd first arrived at the newspaper in the early 1990s and had proved himself as a more than capable photographer. His photo essay about a local homeless shelter won Best Photo Feature at the 2015 West Virginia Press Association awards ceremony, held August 15. But when Wojcieszak arrived at work on Tuesday, August 18 he quickly noticed something was amiss. He tried to log onto the paper’s computer system to check his assignments for the day but couldn’t. He rebooted the computer and tried to log on again. This time there was an error message. “It said my account had been deleted,” he says. A few minutes later he received a call on his cell phone. It was Crystal McIntyre, Charleston Newspapers’ human resources director. She instructed him to report immediately to her office. “There’s Crystal, and Susan, and Rob, and Brad. Basically,

The hair on the back of my neck always stands up when I hear publishers talk about streamlining and efficiency. That's what they always say when (a merger) happens. ROB RABE, MARSHALL UNIVERSITY JOURNALISM PROFESSOR they told me I didn’t ‘fit their vision.’ Whatever that means.” Wojcieszak was asked to forfeit his parking garage keycard and key to the photo lab. McIntyre offered to escort him from the building and box up his possessions later. He balked. “They weren’t even going to let me say goodbye to anyone.” Wojcieszak walked back to the newsroom, shook a few hands, and collected his things. He already had everything packed up, assuming he would have to move to the Gazette newsroom sometime soon. His recent West Virginia Press Association award was still lying on the desk. Reporter Tyler Bell learned of the layoffs over the phone. He got a call that morning from the newspaper but ignored it. Then his girlfriend, a copy editor in the former Daily Mail newsroom, called and said she was let go. Bell realized what the missed call was probably about. He called back and reached McIntyre, who put McElhinny on the phone. “I just start laughing because I know what’s coming,” Bell says. His time at the Daily Mail had ended after only seven months. In all, seven people were laid off, including four employees from the former Gazette newsroom and three from the Daily Mail. An additional eight opted to take severance or left for other jobs, while three—the Daily Mail’s Charlotte Smith and Craig Cunningham, as well as Paul Nyden from the Gazette—decided to retire. All told, the rehiring process cost the

Gazette-Mail 18 staffers. West Virginia Focus asked Shumate for comment after the rehiring process was completed. She declined our request for an interview but sent a press release that also appeared in the Friday, August 21 newspaper. “Unfortunately, we said goodbye to a number of employees who were talented, dedicated members of our newspaper family,” she wrote. “The GazetteMail will miss them.” Shumate also repeated her assurances the combined papers would “provide deeper, stronger local coverage.”

Hard News

Rob Rabe has heard all this before. “The hair on the back of my neck always stands up when I hear publishers talk about streamlining and efficiency,” says Rabe, a journalism professor at Marshall University who specializes in the history of American newspapers. “That’s what they always say when one of these happens. Then a year, two, three years out, that doesn’t always happen." When papers merge, Rabe says, it’s common for publishers to tout a bigger, better paper. But as advertising and circulation continue to decline, it usually isn’t long before another round of layoffs. “I’ll be surprised if in three or four or five years the combined newsroom isn’t substantially smaller. That’s the way it seems to go,” he says. Democratic political consultant Tom

Susman says he feels the Gazette-Mail is living up to Shumate’s promises, so far. “It appears the paper’s thicker, there’s more content in it. It seems like they’re maintaining a writing staff and covering more stories.” But Susman, also a former newspaperman, predicts it will be more difficult to pitch stories. In the past, if one paper didn’t bite on a story, there was a good chance the competition would. Now, you get one shot. Conrad Lucas, chairman of the state Republican Party, wonders how the newspaper will handle political endorsements in the coming election year, with the newspaper’s dueling opinion pages. “Is every candidate going to be endorsed by the Gazette-Mail?" There is some effort to postpone the inevitable. West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is now pursuing a possible suit against Charleston Newspapers, alleging executives violated Copenhaver’s judgment by planning the merger while the judgment was still in effect. “This conduct, if proved, is a violation of the Antitrust Act,” Morrisey wrote in a petition filed in Putnam County Circuit Court on Aug. 13. The attorney general asked the court to cease “further merging” of the newspapers until the company complies with his subpoena. At press time, judges have not taken any action on Morrisey’s request. It’s difficult to imagine what “further merging” might be left. All around Charleston, at gas stations and fast food restaurants, it is common to see two newspaper vending boxes sitting side by side. There’s a blue one for the Gazette and a green one for the Daily Mail. For years, the newspapers in these boxes often looked extremely different. There were different stories on each front page, different photos, different bylines. Now the boxes are sometimes filled with the same newspaper, but most often one box— usually the green one—is left empty. This is the unfortunate history of American newspapers. It’s a story that has played out again and again throughout the country, in Cleveland, Denver, Seattle, Tuscon, and innumerable smaller cities and towns. As with most things, the news just took a little longer to reach West Virginia. Focus wvfocus.com



Fishnets and Fisticuffs Although it initially gained popularity in the 1970s as a kind of professional wrestling on wheels, women’s roller derby was a bonafide sport when it began its resurgence in the early 2000s. With its fast pace and aggressive play, the sport’s popularity has only continued to grow. Here’s a look at a few of the teams that have popped up around West Virginia. WRITTEN BY MAIA BRUMAGE


ber ing grou al : Novem ’s stomp e of the chemic m a te F o rme d e h s T u : a e c e m ears b In A Na ey” for y What’s ical Vall m er. e iv h R C “ n aw h a called g the Ka n lo a ts plan ize : 12 team Team S d of the : A frien s utout of n c io rd it a Trad cardbo a t h ved it at g u t and wa llergirls u once bro o b a Ro ple to nds . T he a pineap m the sta now take the o fr rs te sk a a o they travel as t bout, s en they h won tha w g n le alo pineapp . k charm c lu d o go


Focus September/October 2015


Formed : Februa ry 2011 Home Base : Hu ntington What’s In A Nam e: Boat workers on the Ohio River ad mired the emerald green landscape of Huntington, nicknaming it “Je wel City.” Team Size : 20, but growing stead ily with several ro okie skaters Traditions: Befo re each bout, all sk aters pass around in a bottle for good a beard luck, says Preside nt “Sick Foley” (T Stone). Teammates eri ensure ever y playe r touches the bottl of trimmed facial e full hair.


IRLS LLE RG O R Y ston E LL : Charle CAL VA I e B as e m M o e been E H H | C nds hav 20 0 8

Formed : 2011 | Home Base : Be ckley What’s In A Nam e: Skaters wante d an acronym that spell ed out a clever na me. They originally dubbed themselves the Be ckley Area Derby Dolls (BAD D) —but were quick ly hit with a ceas desist order from e-anda roller derby tea m in California wh already claimed th o had e name—so they switched to “Dam es” Team Size : 20, plus 45 skaters in the B-team, Badd and the junior lea Intentions, gue, Badd Apple s Traditions: The team always gets a stomach full of a good night’s re pasta and st the night before each bout.


Formed : Januar

y 2014 | Home Ba

se : Huntington

What’s In A Nam e: While being int er viewed about the whose members team, had not yet figured out a name, a pla blurted out they we yer re the Poison Apples. The rest of the team just went with it. Team Size : 15


Traditions: Team mates make fun of each other to lighten the tension before ma tches.

GREENBRIER RIVER ROLLERS Formed: May 2011 | Home Base: Greenbrier Valley What’s In A Name: Originally called the Greenbrier Roller Vixens, the team later changed the club’s name to better represent the coed or men’s team they hope to one day create. The women’s team remains the “Roller Vixens.” Team Size: 20 Traditions: At the end of each practice, teammates make sure to point out each other’s improvements, and high fives are the preferred currency among skaters.

E NS LLER VIX O R N W O T organtown M O RG AN e Bas e : M

n the H om ea had take pril 2010 | m in the ar a Formed : A m te a o te n n g w in ee Morganto A N am e : S ixens,” the “v r e What’s In ik n o ller derby m popular ro ged it. meat” quickly snag new “fresh 25, with a : e iz S m Tea nth ng this mo class arrivi s, the team efore game B : s are n io it Trad MRV! What ho are we? — n “W so ts p m an o h c Th er! ” Joanna m”— we? Togeth “Déjà Boo s a k ac tr e th they n o re n fo e w kno one up b ry ve e s p m says it pu k. hit the trac




IA ROLL March 20 E R DE R 11 | Hom BY What’s In e Bas e : K a n aw h a A N am e Valley : Teamma vote whe tes picke n th d the nam MacMena e team was forme e by p o p u d. Team C ce” (Arian lar a a Kincaid b e c ause ) says the ptain “Chieftain its acrony n a m e wa m is “H.A is a nod to sp .R .D.,” an the team’s d the word opular communit commitm “Heart” ent to y service . Team Siz e : 16 Tradition s: in a circle Pre-bout, teamma tes gathe , put their r han H.A .R .D.! ” It’s a rem ds in, and yell, “G o inder to le on the tra ave it all o ck when they play, ut Kincaid s ays. Formed :

Focus wvfocus.com





More than 50 years after the food stamp program launched in the Mountain State, more West Virginians than ever depend on federal assistance to buy groceries. WRITTEN BY JAKE STUMP


Focus September/October 2015

t all started in McDowell County, courtesy of President John F. Kennedy and a can of pork and beans. That's what set the table for more than 50 years of what some consider the chief component in the safety net against hunger: the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the Food Stamp Program. These days, government-funded assistance has morphed into a political wishbone—pulled between those who believe SNAP helps nourish the needy and those who think it serves as a crutch for the unmotivated and dishonest. Regardless, SNAP enrollment in West Virginia has remained high since the program’s inception. Currently, the Mountain State ranks fifth per capita nationally in SNAP enrollment behind Washington, D.C., New Mexico, Mississippi, and Oregon, according to data collected by the Food Research and Action Center. One in five West Virginians—more than 368,000 of the state’s 1.85 million people—are enrolled in the program. That’s an 8 percent increase from 2010 when just under 340,000 state residents were enrolled. Kennedy may never have envisioned the critics and the unintended outcomes while blazing through southern West Virginia on the campaign trail in 1960. There he witnessed rampant poverty firsthand. Alarmed by what he saw, he vowed to give a helping hand to West Virginians if elected. “Thousands of your citizens—14,000 here in Mercer County alone—are forced to struggle for subsistence on a diet which consists primarily of flour, rice, and cornmeal,” Kennedy said at a campaign stop in April 1960. “A diet which does not permit a healthy, decent existence, a diet which is causing malnutrition, chronic diseases, and physical handicaps, a diet which is a disgrace to a country which has the most abundant and richest food supply in the history of the world.” Kennedy delivered on his promise to West Virginia. In fact, his first executive order called for expanded food distribution as he launched a food stamp pilot program. This federal aid program, administered

The goal is to encourage location of businesses of all types and sizes to locate here. Greater business in our state would lead to increased employment of our citizens. With greater numbers working we should see a decrease in the need for public assistance programs.” RYAN FERNS, OHIO COUNTY STATE SENATOR

by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, was created to provide food-purchasing assistance for low-income individuals and households. Its first beneficiaries came from McDowell County. In 1961, Alderson and Chloe Muncy drove 25 miles from their hometown of Beartown to the county seat of Welch to receive the program's first $95 worth of food stamp coupons. The Muncys purchased a can of pork and beans and a gallon of apple butter, among other foods, for their 15-person household. Within six years, the Muncys managed to get themselves off food stamps. However, many of their neighbors still needed the program, and the region's and the state's enrollment for such benefits continue to this day. In McDowell County, approximately 9,060 people use the program today. That accounts for 44 percent of the county—the second highest county per capita behind Clay County, where 49 percent of residents are on SNAP. What began as a small pilot program in the 1960s has ballooned to cost $74 billion nationally in the last fiscal year. But just like many other federal programs, SNAP has been hit by funding cuts. Last year federal cuts reduced SNAP funding in West Virginia by $36 million. More could

be taken away as Congress continues its never-ending debate on how to best balance the nation’s budget. To offset cuts, West Virginia State Senator Ryan Ferns, a Republican from Ohio County, says the current legislative leadership is devoted to creating more business opportunities for West Virginians, hopefully lifting more residents above the need for aid. “Due in large part to the economic and business climate that has existed in West Virginia for a number of years, a large portion of our citizens find it necessary to avail themselves of government benefits such as SNAP,” says Ferns, who is also chairman of the Senate Health and Human Resources Committee. Ferns hopes tort reform bills passed in the 2015 legislative session will pave the way for a more business-friendly environment in the state. “We continue to work toward that end as we move forward with potential changes in our tax structure,” says Ferns, looking ahead to the next session. “The goal is to encourage location of businesses of all types and sizes to locate here. Greater business in our state would lead to increased employment of our citizens. With greater numbers working we should see a decrease in the need for public assistance programs.” But state Republicans’ approach might

be easier said than done, says West Virginia University associate professor of economics Brian Cushing. The state has struggled economically throughout the last few decades, with big job losses in the coal, manufacturing, and chemical industries. “There is no silver bullet that will make things great right away,” says Cushing, whose expertise centers on poverty, public policy, and social welfare programs. “It will take time. Improvements can be made, such as changing the tax codes and the legal system. But we still need sound infrastructure, which is something we don't have. I came to West Virginia in 1981. I can count on one hand the number of major road improvements that have happened here.” Ferns cited one piece of legislation, Senate Bill 274, that holds the potential to prepare more folks for employment. That bill altered the Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents program. Those changes go into effect Jan. 1, 2016. He says the adjustments would limit participation in SNAP to three months in a 36-month period and require training or educational programs as a condition of receiving SNAP benefits. “This should train our workforce to make them more attractive to employers who come to West Virginia as the reforms we are undertaking take hold,” he says. “I am committed to making West Virginia business-friendly, thereby making our population more productive and self-sufficient.” Despite the politics surrounding government assistance programs like SNAP, Cushing believes people in dire need, particularly in rural West Virginia, still benefit greatly from the program. “Given the isolation of parts of our state, some people probably aren't getting what they need,” Cushing says. “There are severe places of poverty in the state. Some would argue that we're too dependent on federal money and should be given incentives to get jobs. Sure, there are people taking advantage of the system, as there are companies and high-income people looking at ways to abuse the system, too.” He says we also must consider the value of taking care of our society’s neediest citizens. “And are we willing to accept that there is some wasted cost to make sure we reach the people who need it the most?” Focus wvfocus.com


Affliction of the Innocents HEALTH

A West Virginia physician plans to halve the number of drug-affected babies by 2020—with cold, hard numbers.



he halls at Lily’s Place, an old Huntington podiatrist’s office turned infant drug withdrawal center, are almost noiseless. For drug-affected newborns, almost any kind of stimulus is unbearable. “Sometimes just talking to them is too much stimulation,” says


Focus September/October 2015

clinical care manager Rhonda Edmunds. The nurseries are kept dark. There are no bright colors. Only more advanced patients can tolerate mobiles over their cribs. Staffers walk softly and speak in hushed voices. So it is especially jarring when a baby’s wails cut through the quiet. It’s true what they say about the cries of

infants exposed to hard drugs in utero. They sound different from the cries of a healthy baby—shriller, more pained and desperate. It’s becoming an increasingly common sound in West Virginia maternity wards. As drug abuse continues to climb in West Virginia, so does the number of pregnant users and the number of newborns exposed to these harmful substances. In 2009, the West Virginia Perinatal Partnership conducted a study of umbilical cord blood from 759 babies at eight hospitals around the state. Researchers found nearly 1 in 5 of the infants tested positive for marijuana, opioids, alcohol, or other “significant substances”—and most of the affected babies tested positive for more than one substance. There have been no follow-up studies to show whether those numbers have changed, but speaking with medical professionals it’s clear the problem is only growing worse. Before she helped open Lily’s Place in October 2014, Edmunds worked at the

Until you can show the government what it’s costing them, you can’t expect them to spend money on programs. If we can collect accurate data, we can then put an estimate on the cost of this problem to society.” STEFAN MAXWELL, CHIEF OF PEDIATRICS, CAMC WOMEN AND CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at CabellHuntington Hospital. Drug-affected babies, she says, took up more than half of the 36-bed unit. The hospital eventually had to create a separate 12-bed unit for babies with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, the medical name for infant drug withdrawals. It wasn’t long before the new unit was also filled to capacity. On a recent day, there were 22 babies in the unit. That’s why Edmunds and co-founders Mary Brown and Sara Murray launched Lily’s Place: to free up space in the hospital and get the babies out of the hospital environment. Dr. Stefan Maxwell, chief of pediatrics Charleston Area Medical Center’s Women and Children’s Hospital, has also watched as babies suffering from Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) skyrocket at his hospital, and says all 30 birthing hospitals in the state are seeing similar increases. Kelly Crow, manager of Labor and Delivery at Raleigh General Hospital, told a local news station in April that one in three babies born at her hospital are drug-affected. Medical professionals generally avoid the term “drug-addicted” when referring to infants. Because addiction is both a physical dependence and mental illness, it’s more appropriate to say they are “drug-affected” or “drug-dependent.” “The babies are not necessarily born addicted. They have been exposed to narcotics and are therefore going to have a withdrawal syndrome when that drug is taken away,” Maxwell says.

But no matter the preferred terminology, these babies are extremely difficult to treat. As Edmunds explains, opiates like heroin and prescription painkillers restrict the flow of dopamine to fetuses’ brains. This leads to problems in the central nervous system, which causes excessive crying, tremors, and sometimes seizures. It also affects the autonomic system, which can lead to excessive sneezing and yawning, and the gastrointestinal system, causing vomiting, diarrhea, and severe gas. Medical professionals have to treat these symptoms while also weaning the babies off the substances causing the symptoms. The infants can’t be weaned too fast, however, or else the withdrawals might exacerbate their condition. Some of the tiny patients are released after a few weeks. Maxwell has treated babies for as long as three months. The good news is, Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome is entirely preventable. Mothers just have to stop using drugs—which, of course, is easier said than done. Maxwell has some ideas, however. He would like hospitals to screen expectant mothers for drugs early in their pregnancies. Hospitals would refer users to treatment, in an attempt to get them sober as quickly as possible. “So the baby is not as badly affected in the end,” Maxwell says. He says it’s important to get mothers off drugs by their second trimesters. Any later, and withdrawal symptoms might do additional damage to the baby.

It’s a good plan, but there’s a problem. The screening tests would cost lots of money and no one—hospitals, health insurance companies, the government—is quite ready to pony up the cash. Maxwell, who also serves as chairman of the West Virginia Perinatal Partnership’s central advisory council, has an idea to tackle this problem, too. He believes if he can show how much money Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome is costing society, the government will be more willing to fund prevention efforts. “Until you can show the government what it’s costing them, you can’t expect them to spend money on programs,” he says. “If we can collect accurate data, we can then put an estimate on the cost of this problem to society.” At the moment, there’s no good way to estimate the cost of neonatal abstinence syndrome. Maxwell says it’s probably around $40 million per year in West Virginia but that figure is “based on a lot of supposition.” Medicare data would be the best way to collect information, but because of the way medical coding works, there are myriad ways for physicians to classify pregnant, drug-using patients and their babies. The information is scattered all over the place. So beginning this fall, Maxwell and his colleagues at Cabell Huntington Hospital and West Virginia University’s Ruby Memorial Hospital will begin making rounds to hospitals around the state, trying to get obstetricians to use a standard set of billing codes for Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome and related conditions. “If we can have everybody on the same page within 6 to 10 months, by spring of next year I think we will have accomplished something,” he says. “Once the codes are put in, the (state Department of Health and Human Resources) collects all that data. Medicare will have an idea of how much money they are spending.” Maxwell says it will be easier to ask state lawmakers to fund prevention efforts once solid statistics are available. “We can say ‘Here’s a program that works, here’s what it costs.’” With the right programs in place, he says West Virginia could cut the number of drug-affected infants in half by 2020. “I think it’s realistic.” Focus wvfocus.com


Riveted by Rosies Anne Montague works to preserve an oftenoverlooked corner of American history before it’s too late.



nne Montague has always been motivated to leave her mark on the world. Born in 1939 in Huntington, she remembers “bits and pieces” of World War II. She recalls her grandmother, a social activist, worrying about the lunacy of the war and wondering whether the war would actually mean anything. But Montague left those concerns to her grandmother, for a while. She married, divorced after 15 years, and pursued a career in psychology but felt unfulfilled. “What I needed to do was leave records and build things,” she says. Eight years in marketing and another eight working with the U.S. Army Corps of


Focus September/October 2015

Engineers didn’t fulfill her either. Then, on a 2003 trip to her 45th high school reunion, she decided it was time to return home to West Virginia. “I’d always said I’m going to make sure that my state could be seen for the beautiful people and values (they hold),” she says. She just didn’t have any idea how she would accomplish her goal. In 2005 Montague started the nonprofit Thanks! Plain and Simple, Inc. to help veterans start projects to create something for the common good. Although it stalled a little from her lack of experience working with veterans who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries, it soon took a satisfying turn.



“In 2008 I did the first interview with a Rosie,” Montague says. She’s referring to a nickname given to women who worked in factories during World War Two. It’s based off the famous “We Can Do It!” poster featuring “Rosie the Riveter,” flexing her bicep to encourage women to join the war effort. “Twenty minutes into the interview I knew we’ve got something very special here. This was a woman who not only had come through a world war and made airplanes, but she had also raised children to be independent. She was a pioneer woman. She didn’t know it, but she was.” Montague changed Thanks! Plain and Simple to focus on Rosies. In early 2009, she convinced businesses to help fund a full-page color ad in the Charleston Gazette. Within a week she had heard from 14 Rosies. She interviewed the women about their wartime experience and how it changed their lives, and she also drew them into Thanks! Plain and Simple’s original mission, involving the Rosies in community projects that would leave a visible legacy—all of it allowing her to, finally, “leave records and build things.” On Memorial Day, 2012, the Rosies opened a park in St. Albans named the “Rosie the Riveter Park.” Since then the Rosies have finished 18 more projects. It has been six years since the project started, and in that time more than half the state’s living Rosies have passed away. Montague continues her tireless efforts to preserve the Rosies’ legacy, passing down their stories before the women are all gone. Thanks! Plain and Simple created a documentary about the Rosies, and the women have been publicly thanked by both the nation of Belgium and the King and Queen of the Netherlands. Rosies have created lesson plans for schools about their stories, and Montague frequently gives lectures on Rosies and their importance. Funding remains an issue, Montague says, as does finding the manpower to conduct interviews with Rosies. She’s been disappointed more people haven’t been more eager to support the cause. But ultimately, Montague is happy she returned home to do her life’s most important work and to have found meaning in the Second World War.

How to Run for Office* A 10-step guide to busting up the old boys’ club. written by shay maunz


Focus September/October 2015


*If you’re a woman


hen Agnes Queen was 32, she decided to run for county commission in Lewis County. She didn’t think she’d win, but she’d always been involved in the community and friends and neighbors were pestering her to put her name on the ballot. “The day of the election, before we left the house, my husband and I talked about it and said, ‘Well, we got your name out there. After this we’ll put your signs up and try again,’” Queen says. To her surprise, she won by more than 1,000 votes, beating an incumbent who’d been involved in politics for years. She was the first woman ever elected to the Lewis County Commission. “I was just so excited,” she says. When she went to her first meeting as a county commissioner, in Charleston with commissioners from all over the state, she went prepared. She sat down with a laptop, ready to take notes and eager to learn from her elders. “And they thought I was a secretary for one of the commissioners,” she says. “When I told them I was a commissioner myself they were stunned.” Here’s the kicker: This wasn’t 50 years ago. This was 2007. We might forgive those men because, frankly, the odds were against Queen. There were very few female county commissioners in 2007 and there are very few now. The same is true for just about every elected office in this state and nationwide. Women hold less than a quarter of the seats in state legislatures, and less than 20 percent of seats in Congress. It’s especially bad in West Virginia— there are currently only 20 women in the state Legislature out of 134 seats, and we’ve never had a female governor. Numbers on local offices are harder to come by, but most research indicates women are just as underrepresented in local and county elections. The problem doesn’t boil down to sexist voters who won’t consider voting for a woman. Research repeatedly shows female candidates fare just as well as men at the ballot box, winning at roughly equivalent rates. The problem is, not enough women offer themselves up for consideration. Women simply don’t run for office. And it might be getting worse. The West Virginia Legislature was 17 percent female in 1985. Now, 30 years later, it’s 15 percent female. And a 2013 study from the Women & Politics Institute—charmingly titled “Girls Just Want to Not Run”—found that, despite strides toward gender equality in recent years, young women today aren’t more apt to run for office than their mothers and grandmothers were. The authors surveyed 2,100 college students between the

They thought I was a secretary for one of the commissioners. When I told them I was a commissioner myself they were stunned.” Lewis County Commissioner Agnes Queen

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Focus September/October 2015

champion issues related to women and families more often than men do. If we want to make significant progress on pressing social issues, we want more women in office. Here’s how we get more women to run: This fall, the West Virginia Women’s Commission is partnering with the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University for a weekendlong workshop to coach potential female candidates. “Women don’t see women who look like them in those political roles,” says Jean Sinzdak, associate director at the center at Rutgers. “Women needed more of a roadmap to help them get into office.” In case you can’t make it to that workshop, we’ve put together a handy guide.

Step 1: Decide to run.

O.K., so, you’re ready to run for office! Let’s get started. What’s that, you’re not quite ready? You’re worried a campaign would be hard on your family, or take up too much of your time, or interfere with your career ambitions? Or you don’t think


ages of 18 and 25 to assess political ambition early in life. “And our results are troubling,” they wrote. “Young women are less likely than young men ever to have considered running for office, to express interest in a candidacy at some point in the future, or to consider elected office a desirable position.” The authors proposed a number of factors that might hinder women’s political ambitions, most of which are troubling precisely because they don’t involve blatant sexism. This brand of gender inequality is sneakier, more deeply embedded. And harder to remedy. Young women, for example, tend to be exposed to less political information and discussion than men. Young men are more likely to have played organized sports and care about winning. Young men are more likely to have been socialized by their parents to consider careers in politics. So, why should we care? Research shows that more women in elected office means a more transparent, inclusive, and accessible government. “They have perspectives that are a lot of times left out of male-dominated policymaking,” says Tara Martinez, executive director of the West Virginia Women’s Commission. And even though women care about all kinds of issues, research shows they


you’re smart enough, or have enough charisma or education? You’re concerned you’ll have to deal with grouchy old men who won’t take you seriously, constituents who have never cast a vote for a woman, or endless questions about your hair, your children, or your pantsuit? Or maybe the thought just never occurred to you? Fair enough. Let’s go back a little.

Step 1, take 2: Care about an issue. Usually, what this means is, “Get ticked off about something.” That’s true for all candidates but especially for women—maybe because they’re less likely to naturally picture themselves in office without that added drive. “With women, they often need some catalyst to get them involved,” Sinzdak says. Take Nancy Cartmill from Barboursville. She spent time as a lobbyist on Capitol Hill and then in Charleston, but somehow

didn’t make the mental leap to consider running for office herself. “It just never crossed my mind,” she says. “I just never thought about being a politician.” Then around 1993 she was appointed to the planning commission in Barboursville, where she lived. And did that little taste of power inspire her to run for office? No, actually. Not at all. But here’s what did: “One day I was coming into town because I had a planning commission meeting. And I came to this traffic light where you have to wait and wait to make a left-hand turn. And I waited and waited and waited there while I was trying to get to my meeting and I just got so frustrated. I sat through that light three times.” When she finally made it to her meeting she walked up to the mayor— a man who had held the office for years—to talk with him about it. She wanted to know if there was room for a turning lane. “And he goes, ‘That’s ridiculous. You’re just a typical woman. You exaggerate everything. I don’t believe anybody has ever sat through three lights before they could make a turn.’” Cartmill was shocked. And furious. “After the meeting a couple people came over to me and they said, ‘You should run against Focus wvfocus.com




(Not at all qualified) (Somewhat qualified)

“Oh yeah.”



(Very qualified)

Men say...





Women say...





Source: “Why Don't Women Run?”, Taubman Center for Public Policy at Brown University, 2004

him,’” she says. “The next thing I know I’m at city hall picking up the paperwork.” She won that election, becoming the first female mayor of Barboursville, and when she decided to run again two years later she won that election, too. She won again and again until 2001, when she ran into a term limit and couldn’t stay in the mayor’s office anymore—so she got herself elected to the county commission. That’s a hugely successful political career spanning more than two decades—all because of a traffic light. “The funny thing is that nothing has been done with that light,” Cartmill says. “We really don’t have the room to make a left-hand lane there, so there’s nothing I could do.”

Step 2: Convince yourself you deserve the job

Most men think they’re qualified to hold an elected office. It sounds like a joke women would make to one another at a backyard barbecue while their husbands fuss over the grill, but it’s backed up by study after study. Most men really do think they’re qualified to campaign for office. And most women lack that self-assuredness. When a 2004 survey asked men and women whether they were qualified to be a candidate, only 12 percent of men said they felt they weren’t at all qualified to run. More than a quarter of men, 26 percent, felt they were “very qualified.” For women, the results were pretty much the opposite. Only 14 percent of women thought they were very qualified to run, and 28 percent said they weren’t qualified at all. That means men are 60 percent more likely than women to think they’re very qualified for careers in politics. And that’s true even when the men and women have comparable educations and levels of success in their careers.


Focus September/October 2015

“It doesn’t make sense,” says Meshea Poore, who was in the West Virginia House of Delegates from 2009 to 2014. “You don’t have to be a lawyer to be a politician. You can have a GED and be just as qualified to do the things they do, because it’s not about the degree—it’s about communicating with the people well enough to convince them you can make a difference, and then following through with that when you get elected.”

Step 3: Get asked to run

Research has found that encouragement to run for office—by anyone from grandparents to the chair of a political party—has a huge effect on whether or not a person will eventually do it. And according to the “Girls Just Want To Not Run” study, men get told to run more often. Almost half of men say they’ve been encouraged to run by at least one person, but only 35 percent of women have. And this isn’t a problem that’s limited to powers within the political machine. Forty percent of men say their parents have encouraged them to run for office, but only 29 percent of women can say that. The men were also twice as likely to have had grandparents who encouraged them to get into politics. And that has a huge impact, because women are three times more likely to be interested in running for office if they have been encouraged to run. So yes, getting asked to run is often a critical roadstop on the route from ordinary citizen to politician. But here’s the thing: It doesn’t have to be. If you’re a woman who’s considering running for office—or, heck, if you’re a woman who’s never considered it—here’s your encouragement. Clip this out and hang it on the refrigerator, or your bathroom mirror. Please, please run. We need more women like you to give it a shot.







15 20

10 20

05 20

00 20

95 19



85 19






Source: Center for American Women and Politics, Eagleton Institute of Politics, Rutgers University

Step 4: Decide to run.

Whew, we finally got there. O.K., let’s see what’s next.

Step 5: Plot.

If you don’t already know what office to run for, just pick one. If you don’t know who’s in that office now or what running against them might be like, find out. Bonus points if you’re going for an open seat—not that you can’t challenge an incumbent; it’s just harder that way. Next, tell your friends and family you’re thinking about running. Tell leaders in your community and your political party. Talk about money with potential supporters. Figure out what you have to do to get your name on the ballot. And please, please, please follow through with all this stuff. Even among people who are interested in running for office, research says men take these preliminary steps toward becoming a candidate a lot more often.

Step 6: Get a thick skin.

When West Virginia Focus started calling around to female politicians for this story, we weren’t necessarily looking for women who had endured sexism in the political arena. But without even trying, we found them. Democrat or Republican, young or old, state or local election, almost without exception, every woman had some kind of story. When Charlotte Lane got pregnant while running for the House of Delegates in the 1990s, she didn’t tell people until she absolutely had to—she didn’t want to have to deal with questions

about how she’d balance her kid and her career. During Cartmill’s mayoral election she heard from a lot of people who said they were utterly confident she was qualified to do the job. But they still wouldn’t support her. “They’d say to me, ‘Nancy, I think you’d do a great job, but I can’t vote for a woman,’” she says. Barbara Fleischauer has been in the House of Delegates for 20 years now, but only recently got her first big committee appointment—she’s pretty sure being a woman has worked against her. “We’ve never had a woman Senate president, a woman speaker of the house, anything,” she says. “And we’ve had women serving for years—it’s not because the women were stupid.” Betty Ireland, the first woman ever elected to the executive branch in West Virginia—and, consider this for a second, she was elected in 2005—is always very diplomatic about the whole sexismin-politics thing. But even she can’t help but relate a few funny anecdotes about her time in office and on the campaign trail. Like the time an older woman told her she wasn’t conservative enough because she hadn’t taken her husband’s last name. Or the guy who, during her 2011 gubernatorial campaign, took issue with her height. She’s nearly six feet tall. “He actually told me I was too tall to be governor,” she says. “But of course, this was coming from a very short man.” Agnes Queen, that county commissioner who got mistaken for a secretary, says she had to work hard to convince people she’d be taken seriously if she was elected. “They’d say, ‘Those men are bigger than you—how will you make them listen to you?’” she says. “And I’d tell them I have ideas just like anybody else and I don’t have a problem voicing my concerns. Though they had a point—it is hard to get a man to listen to a woman.” Focus wvfocus.com


because once you’re elected you’re going to fight for those issues. You can’t think to yourself, ‘Oh, I need your money so I can print postcards for mailers.’ That’s not what it’s about.” Research has repeatedly shown women and men are on equal footing when it comes to raising money, even when it comes to wooing early donors. So even though fundraising isn’t fun for anybody, at least it’s not more fun for men.

Step 9: Develop your message, build your team, talk to the public. This part isn’t easy, but it’s a piece of cake compared with the epic battle you waged with yourself when you were debating whether or not to run. There are no hard and fast rules here, but we’ll leave you with some words of wisdom to get you through it:

At the same time, every woman we talked with said the sexism isn’t that bad. Outside of a few rude comments and a missed opportunity here and there, they say their gender didn’t affect their campaigns or political careers. Some said, although they endured attacks based on their gender, if they’d been running as men they would have just endured different kinds of attacks. Many said they were motivated to work harder than their male competitors—and were grateful for that, because it translated into campaign success. It bears repeating here: When women run for office, they win just as often as men do. There’s no reason to let gender stand between you and a career in politics.

Step 8: Get money.

“I think fundraising terrifies everybody,” Sinzdak says. Nobody is comfortable calling up friends, family, or acquaintances to ask for money. And women often feel at a disadvantage because their networks of acquaintances aren’t as vast as those of their male counterparts. While men are out hobnobbing after work, women are home tending to the stove or the house or the kids. “But at our sessions the trainers will say, ‘Let’s talk about the people you know,’” Sinzdak says. “And then they go through a list of people: You have other moms in the community, your friendship circles, your neighbors. Once they start making a list the lightbulbs go off over people’s heads and they realize they know a lot of people they can ask.” Asking those people for money is probably never going to be fun, but here’s a helpful trick: “Reframe your thought process,” Sinzdak says. “A lot of people will ask for money for a cause they care about, but not for themselves. You have to think about it like you need this money to make your campaign successful—


Focus September/October 2015

“If someone has a desire to be in politics they certainly ought to pursue it. It might be hard at first but if you put together a good group of people and focus on yourself and what you can do you’ll be fine. When I got elected I thought I’d be a one-term mayor because I decided then and there I wanted to get things done that would make the city the best that I could make it, and I knew I wasn’t always going to do what had been done in the past and that I might not make people happy. But I found out just the opposite—people appreciated that I was there to get things done.” Nancy Cartmill “As women, we have to make sure people know we’re confident, we’re qualified, we’re capable, we’re factdriven. They say we women are emotional, and we have to make sure when we’re taking on the opposition we are in a fact-driven mode to counter that. And yet, there’s nothing wrong with being emotional. That’s passion, and that’s good. I would be concerned about people who are not emotional when they see what is happening in our country today.” Meshea Poore “I think it helps for women to stick together. We all have to keep trying.” Barbara Fleischauer

Step 10: Change the world. Enough said. Run.


Step 7: Don’t let your skin get too thick.

“You better consider the passion before you run—you have to either have professional passion or political passion. And no matter how far up the ladder you go you have to love it, because politics now, more than ever, is bloodsport. You have to really have fire in your belly to run and withstand the scrutiny. That said, I think that women also need to realize they have the strength, they can run. If you have that passion it isn’t something you should have to second-guess yourself on.” Betty Ireland

The women featured in the following pages come from all different parts of West Virginia. They have had different family backgrounds and career paths. But these women have one very important thing in common: They are all committed to making West Virginia a better place to live. And for that, they are heroes. They are our Wonder Women.


Alissa Novoselick became the executive director of the Tamarack Artisan Foundation in April. “I think I have the best job in the state of West Virginia,” she says. The foundation helps artists learn to manage their businesses and find new markets for their work. Novoselick also wants the foundation to begin attracting new talent to the state by letting artists know West Virginia is a great place both to live and to run a business. “I see it as the absolute answer to a lot of our economic woes in West Virginia,” she says. Even though she did not come from a musical family, Doris Fields has been a singer for as long as she can remember. “It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do,” she says. “My parents didn’t know where I came from.” She has performed with numerous bands and choirs and even wrote and acted in a one-woman musical about the blues singer Bessie Smith. But Fields—better known by her stage name, “Lady D”—isn’t just a performer. She is also the Beckley music scene’s biggest cheerleader. For the last five years Fields has hosted “Simply Jazz & Blues,” a live radio show on WAXS in Beckley. The show eventually spawned a music festival. In August, Fields hosted the third annual Simply Jazz and Blues Festival featuring three days of jazz, blues, and gospel music from local performers and national groups. Fields wants everyone to know West Virginia has more to offer than traditional “mountain” music. “There’s a lot more music out there.”

Carolyn Rader first ran for Ripley City Council 35 years ago. She’d been an elementary school teacher, then a principal, and wanted to retire. “I’ve lived here all my life and love the ground this city is made on, and decided I was going to jump in and help everybody.” Rader aimed to work on livability but quickly learned infrastructure has to take priority. Now mayor since 2007, she’s putting that lesson to use: The town is improving water service and managing a major sewer system upgrade. Still, Rader’s council does livability large, with the West Virginia Chocolate Festival and America’s largest smalltown Independence Day celebration. Ripley was selected for Turn This Town Around and Rader is hopeful about the town’s participation in America’s Best Communities. “I’ve waved the American flag the past seven years every Friday morning in front of City Hall, and veterans slow down and salute,” she says. “It’s so rewarding.”

Kimberly Shingledecker revolutionized pizza in West Virginia. Or at least she and her restaurant, Pies & Pints, changed the conversation about pizza here, with their artisan pies topped with unexpected toppings—think grapes and gorgonzola or Thai shrimp. “When we first opened in 2003 what we were putting on pizza was really different—we had people asking us if we had any normal pizza,” she says. “And we kind of raised the bar on every part of it—honey instead of sugar, the best possible flour and oil we could find.” Oh, and then there’s the beer. Pies & Pints helped change the conversation about beer in West Virginia too. “Back then any restaurant was serving all the same beers. We only ever served good, craft beer,” Shingledecker says. Since she opened it more than 10 years ago, Pies & Pints has grown to be one of West Virginia’s most successful restaurants. And now it serves as an ambassador of sorts, introducing outsiders to West Virginia’s trademark hospitality and outdoorsy culture—plus really good pizza. In addition to the three Pies & Pints locations in West Virginia, there are now four stores in Ohio and one in Kentucky. Focus wvfocus.com


This summer, West Virginia lost one of the most inspiring women in state history: former Secretary of State Helen Holt. Born in Illinois in 1913, Helen Froelich was teaching college biology in Lewisburg when she married Rush Holt, previously a U.S. senator from West Virginia, in 1941. When Rush Holt died in 1955 while serving in the West Virginia House of Delegates, Governor William Marland appointed her to serve out his term. She would earn respect that led to a career of appointed positions. Governor Cecil Underwood appointed her as secretary of state in 1957, making her the first woman to hold statewide office. A stint as assistant commissioner of public institutions led to her appointment by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1960 to a commission to reform nursing homes nationwide—and to appointments in Housing and Urban Development by every president through Ronald Reagan. Holt received an honorary degree from West Virginia University in 2013. She died in July 2015 in Boca Raton, Florida at the age of 101.


Focus September/October 2015

For years, career and technical education—what used to be called “vocational education”—got a bad rap. School systems figured the programs were fine for middling students, but not good enough for “smart kids.” Kathy D’Antoni is on a mission to change that perception. “We’ve gotten it all mixed up,” she says. “To be a good plumber, to be a good welder, to be a good electrician—you have to be smart.” Although D’Antoni started her career as a teacher, she left the classroom for years while she ran businesses with her brothers, former Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni and Marshall University head basketball coach Dan D’Antoni. She never lost interest in her original occupation, however. “I still missed education. I loved kids. I thought, if I get a degree high enough, maybe I can make some impact on education,” she says. D’Antoni earned a doctorate, then spent a decade in West Virginia’s community and technical college system. In 2010 she went to work as the West Virginia Department of Education’s assistant superintendent of career and technical education, and began designing a new format for the state’s vo-tech schools. Two years later she debuted “Simulated Workplace,” a program that turns classrooms into models of real-world working environments. This way, students don’t just learn how to do jobs. They learn how to be good employees, too. After three years of pilot programs, Simulated Workplace goes statewide in fall 2015. It is gaining attention far outside West Virginia, too. Educators from eight states have visited to see the program in action, and Australia is currently running three pilot programs based on Simulated Workplace, with plans to go nationwide. D’Antoni says the most important thing about education is making sure your heart is in the right place. “You have to love the kids. If they think you have their true interests at heart, you don’t have to worry about a thing,” she says.


Ashley Alford rose from an internship at the Putnam County Chamber of Commerce in her home county to vice president of programs and events in just four years. The WVU grad applies her PR and business administration skills to boosting the chamber’s online presence and her interest in event planning to livability initiatives that include a street fair and a boutique week. She’s working with community partners on a signature event to draw people from outside the region. “Employees are more like to stay on if they like where they live, so a chamber can be a huge driver in community development,” she says. Alford also serves on Habitat for Humanity’s board and co-chairs Generation West Virginia.


Beth Vorhees’ voice is the first thing many West Virginians hear in the morning. She’s the longtime host of West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s “West Virginia Morning” newscast. She’s also the network’s news director and producer of the “Legislature Today” television show, which she hosted for more than 20 years. Vorhees is also responsible for designing the WVPB’s unique statewide network of reporters. She helped forge a partnership with universities around the state to set up one-person bureaus at each school. Each university would pay the reporter’s salary and expenses, and in return would receive more coverage and an experienced instructor for its journalism program. “We could never afford to have this newsroom on our own,” Vorhees says. And as far as she knows, it’s the only network of its kind in the country. In addition to her hosting duties, next year Vorhees will help launch “The West Virginia Channel,” a new public TV station featuring live coverage of the state Legislature and public hearings, as well as documentaries.

Ask Marlo Long how she got from studying marine biology in college to working in community development banking today, and she doesn’t blink. “They’re both lots of complex systems working together that support or do not support growth,” she says, only a little tongue in cheek. Working as a BB&T vice president under the bank’s federal Community Reinvestment Act program, the St. Albans native directs funds to lowand moderate-income areas, small businesses, and nonprofits. She’s proud the bank supports The Wild Ramp local food market, which recently moved into Huntington’s up-and-coming Central City business district. “It shows how successes have true integrative community impact,” she says. “Projects like that are very rewarding.” Long chairs the board of the West Virginia Affordable Housing Trust Fund, serves on the steering committee of the Appalachian Funders Network, and contributes expertise to many other organizations. “It’s a wonderful way to engage in what’s really happening in communities,” she says.

Kimberly Moyers recently rose to regional market president at First United Bank and Trust. At 35, the Preston County native is the youngest ever to hold the position. Moyers is a passionate small business advocate. “People going into business for themselves know their trades but may not know the management side,” she says. “What sets us apart is the advising and education we offer small businesses.” She has co-chaired the board of Generation Morgantown and is an alum of Leaderships Monongalia and West Virginia. Among other contributions, she serves on the advisory board for the American Bankers Association’s Commercial Lending School. Oh, and she has four-year-old twins.

Betty Critch once ran a coal company. And a lot of Morgantownies know the Massachusetts native from the popular Montanaro’s brick oven restaurants she and her business partners operated until the mid-’90s. But since subsequently earning an MBA, Critch has directed WVU’s National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health, known for the Women on Wellness (WOW) retreats it’s held several times a year across the state for the past decade. “WOW is about preventive medicine and understanding your health screenings, but it’s also about, how do you go to school? What are healthy finances? What are your legal smarts? Linking women to resources,” she says. Signs show the retreats make lasting improvements, but Critch is working now toward systematic follow-ups for long-term support. “I think we all learn and we teach and we learn and we teach,” she says. “And we always have to be reaching back and bringing somebody up.” Focus wvfocus.com


Inspiration she garnered while working in Scotland, then India after earning her degree at the Rhode Island School of Design led Fayette County native Megan Bullock to start MESH Design and Development with co-founder Josh Dodd in 2009. “We look for overlaps between seemingly different things and then use those overlaps to tell stories,” Bullock says. Conversations with stakeholders in the West Virginia Farmers Market Association, for example, brought out interest in the meaning of being a farmer not only today but also historically, and the studio is creating branding materials that express both. Bullock likes to work with commonalities. “Localized food, diversified education, maker’s culture—those issues resonate in any city we work in.” Offices in Charleston and Brooklyn give MESH both urban and rural footing. Bullock credits her parents and her Appalachian upbringing with great life lessons. “A lot of the qualities I have—my resourcefulness, my desire to know my neighbors, my compulsion to tell stories—come from Appalachia.”


Focus September/October 2015

Keyser native Lee Ann Haley joined the Army ROTC for the educational support and adventure, but she’s turned it into a career. Admiration for pilots she met as a cadet in Airborne School inspired her to overcome a severe fear of heights and become a paratrooper and helicopter pilot. During her combat tour in Iraq, as one of perhaps five female aviators in a unit of several hundred, she flew hundreds of hours of air assault, downed aircraft recovery, and other missions. Her many awards include the Air Medal and Combat Action Badge. Haley has since represented the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs on Capitol Hill and managed veterans’ claims appeals. In July 2015, she came home to a position at the VA Medical Center in Clarksburg. She credits her military leadership experience for her strength and skills today. “I’m truly honored to be back in West Virginia and serving veterans.”


Donna Boley is the only woman in the state Senate (R-Pleasants) but, in three decades of service, the seasoned lawmaker has been an “only” before. Appointed to a vacant seat in 1985 by Governor Arch Moore, her roughest period, she says, was when she was the only Republican in the Senate from 1992 to 1994. “But I did become minority leader by default and could serve on every committee,” she says. Boley served on the Republican National Committee from 1992 to 2004 and served as delegate to the Republican National Convention from 1988 through 2004. She’s proud of instigating changes that led to transparency in the state’s debt, as well as changes that assured that smaller counties would maintain Senate representation. More recently, she’s working to repeal the Common Core education standards. After all these years, Boley isn’t fazed by being the only woman in the Senate. “I’ve been there longer than any of the guys,” she says.


Ask Ellen Taylor about her chamber and prepare to be a little bowled over. “When I first started here we had 250, 300 members. Now we’re up to about 700,” says the BeckleyRaleigh County Chamber of Commerce executive director of more than two decades. By hiring well, motivating volunteers, and inspiring an active board, she’s amped up chamber involvement. That includes city livability events like a three-day arts and crafts fair and a half marathon. It also includes

engaging with students through a career day and essay competition for county 8th graders, a daylong entrepreneurship workshop for high schoolers, and a coming elementarylevel mentorship program. Taylor’s service on city council since October 2014 may have contributed to her recent feeling that the chamber also needs to tackle homelessness and drug dependence. “We think it’s just crucial that the business community be as involved as we can be,” she says.

OUTFITTED FOR SUCCESS Nicole Perrone is not very good at keeping still—but that’s probably expected for a theater professor who teaches acting and movement. Now in her sixth year at Marshall University, Perrone is committed to helping students figure out how to bring characters to life. She also continues to act, co-founding the independent theater company The Lunar Strategem in 2011. Then in 2012, with “a little bit of blind ignorance and enthusiasm,” Perrone and her husband Josh started Sip Wine Bar at Huntington’s Heritage Station. “We love it. We’ve been successful, and we’ve met so many people.” Perrone also organizes “Cinema Under the Stars,” a popular summer outdoor movie series at Heritage Station. In 2014 she helped start Marshall’s Center for Wellness in the Arts, partnering with the university’s health programs to promote health and wellness among theater, dance, music, and art students. “It’s really an innovative new program, the only one of its kind in the state.”

When Maura Kistler and her husband Gene fell in love with the New River Gorge, they started looking for an excuse to stay. It wasn’t long before they found a niche. Although the gorge was a world-class adventure destination, “there was not an outfitter, and we felt like that was a no-brainer," she says. The Kistlers opened Water Stone Outdoors in 1994 with business partner Kenny Parker. They haven’t gotten rich, but that’s not how Maura measures success. “You don’t go into this business to make money. Twenty-one years into this, we’re barely profitable,” she says. “We do it as a community-building thing. So much of what we do is promoting our area, because we think it’s very special.” Last year, Outdoor Magazine named Water Stone one of its Top 100 Retailers. “We’re one of the last hard-core destination climbing shops. We have an old-fashioned model, so the industry is fond of stores like ours,” she says. Focus wvfocus.com


Jen Wood Cunningham grew up not far from WVU Institute of Technology in Montgomery. But when she enrolled there as a first-generation college student, she didn’t quite know what to expect. “The people here gave me the push and support I needed,” Cunningham says. “That’s the way Tech was when I was a student and that’s the way it still is." After a few jobs in Charleston, she returned to her alma mater in 2013, working in student support services before becoming director of university relations. She’s happy to be giving students the same kind of support she once received. “This is exactly where I need to be.”


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Here’s what happens when an artist-at-heart discovers business is fun: Community marketing as an act of creation. Originally trained in art history, Anne Jones was working at the Guggenheim in New York when she decided to get an MBA and make some money for a while. But she found she loved marketing, too. And on a ski trip to White Grass in Tucker County some years later, she found she also loved West Virginia. “It was kind of a no-brainer,” she says. Since 2011, she’s applied her creative and business skills as executive director of the Tucker County Development Authority. Jones spent the first while preparing her canvas: learning businesses’ needs, sharing resources, forming connections. “Before you do outreach you want to get the most you can out of what you’ve got,” she says. It’s already beginning to pay off. The county has appeared more than once atop the Secretary of State’s monthly county-by-county business growth tally. “We’re getting calls now from businesses saying, ‘We’ve heard about you.’ It’s exciting!” And with Corridor H advancing now from the east and west, she sees access to Tucker County’s recreational resources and industrial park only improving. Jones is also creating herself in Tucker County. She’s met a personal challenge of performing at open mic night at the Purple Fiddle and completing the local 40-mile Highlands Sky Trail Run. “If somebody had told me in my 20s that I would be here in my 50s,” she says, “I think I would have been a lot more relaxed in my 20s. Because this is pretty awesome.”


Although the number of female students in West Virginia University Institute of Technology’s science, technology, engineering, and math programs is growing, life can still get lonely for women in STEM fields. “We felt like they didn’t have a system of support. They didn’t know each other,” says WVU Tech computer science professor Stephanie Coffman-Wolph. So last October, Coffman-Wolph and other female science and engineering faculty members launched the Association for Women Engineers, Scientists, Or Mathematicians Empowerment—also known as AWESOME. Since last fall, the group has sponsored guest speakers on campus and hosted a trip to the West Virginia Capitol for Girls’ Day at the Legislature. For the upcoming academic year, AWESOME is planning professional development and mentorship programs, and also will open a lounge area on campus for club members. Coffman-Wolph hopes the organization will someday expand beyond WVU Tech with chapters on campuses across the country. “We look for it to get bigger and take off.”


“I come from a long line of hard workers,” says Deb Hartshorn, who grew up watching her father run his own mechanic shop. Hartshorn was the first person in her family to go to college, but she excelled in school and in her career—she worked in the governor’s office, for a national education program, and for the Higher Education Policy Commission. But then in 2013, Hartshorn gave up her fancy career to work in the trenches—she became a business teacher at Wirt County High School. As a teacher she’s leveraged her real-world business experience to teach her students, and taken on big, unconventional projects— like the one that had them designing real projects to better their community, or the time she bussed a dozen people to the beauty college to learn about being a beautician—all in an effort to give them an education that will prepare them for the real world. “If we can’t give them something that they can see will be of value when they walk outside those school’s walls then we are failing them,” she says.

Several years ago, photographer Betty Rivard stumbled onto some photos. Well, actually, a lot of photos. They were taken in West Virginia between 1934 and 1943 by 10 famous photographers who were in Appalachia as part of the Farm Security Administration’s photographic unit, documenting life in the coalfields. You might remember some old FSA photos—they ran in big city newspapers, showing stereotyped images of hillbillies in Appalachia. But the images Rivard found were different. “They showed a positive view of the state,” she says. Eventually, Rivard compiled some 150 of them and published a book, New Deal Photographs of West Virginia. “What I tried to show was the way people really remember things being here, instead of what they were told to remember,” Rivard says. She calls the project a natural extension of the work she does when she takes her own photos of West Virginia’s landscapes. “I had sort of developed this mission to correct the record about West Virginia,” she says. “And I was able to contribute something with my own photography, but when I saw someone else doing photography showing the beauty of the state I was like, ‘Yeah, let’s work together.’”

Alison Deem pauses a moment when asked what art is to her. “Art is a love of mine, an avocation rather than a vocation,” the Bridgeport native says. It’s no surprise, then, that she and her husband have been enthusiastic supporters of West Virginia University’s new art museum. Deem was on the College of Creative Arts’ Board of Visitors when then-Dean Bernard Shultz brought up the idea for a museum. In addition to donating $100,000 to the project, Deem has spent a year studying the pieces that will be displayed in the museum and established the J. Bernard Schultz Endowed Professorship in honor of the former dean. She is one of the museum’s nine docents, who will be tasked with showing groups around the museum and informing them on the pieces displayed. Deem is also involved with other charitable organizations, including the United Way of Harrison County and the Bridgeport Public Library.

Sometimes it takes an outsider to help locals appreciate what they have. Monica Maxwell and her husband Aaron are from southern California but relocated to Miami as they both climbed the corporate ladder. Around 2002 they started looking for vacation home in West Virginia. Aaron made a house-hunting trip and happened to stumble across Lewisburg. “He called me and said ‘I found the town.’” It wasn’t long before they decided to make the Mountain State their permanent residence. In 2004 the couple opened Harmony Ridge, a gallery focused on American-made arts and crafts. They also became involved in the local business community, spearheading efforts to promote their adopted town, like the Lewisburg Chocolate Festival and the Lewisburg Literary Festival. Maxwell says the events are a great way to bring in tourists, but they also help reintroduce Lewisburg to its own residents. “I think when you get excited, genuinely excited, you can get other people excited.” Focus wvfocus.com


Growing up, Vivien Woofter never dreamed she’d leave West Virginia. Born in Weston and raised in Clay, she studied interior design at West Virginia University, graduating in 1952 with a bachelor’s degree. When her husband became Senator Robert C. Byrd’s chief of staff, the family settled in Washington, D.C. There Woofter earned a position with the U.S. General Services Administration in 1968 and became head of interior design for the White House in 1976. She did master’s work in retailing at the University of Pittsburgh and additional work at Harvard University. She’s spearheaded renovations on historic buildings across the world—from the ambassador’s residence and the George C. Marshall Center in the Hôtel de Talleyrand in Paris to the West Virginia governor's mansion. Today Woofter is historic conservation advisor for the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations in the U.S. Department of State. She has a passion for philanthropy that she credits to her West Virginian upbringing. “People in West Virginia work with you and do things for you just because they want to help, not because of who you are professionally or financially,” she says. “That sincerity is something I cherish and have tried to be as an individual.”

Selina Midkiff started the Appalachian Children’s Chorus 25 years ago with just a dozen students, including her 6-year-old son—“I needed a warm body that could sing, but he had the attention span of a gnat,” she laughs, remembering the organization’s humble early days. In the decades since, Midkiff has steadily grown the chorus into one of the premier arts organizations in West Virginia—all told, more than 3,500 kids have sung their way through the program. “When I think back on it, it’s like, really, gee, I can’t believe it,” she says. “It’s pretty sweet.” And even though the chorus supports itself with a combination of tuition dollars, donations, and grants, Midkiff has never turned away a child because of financial concerns. “It’s about us getting together to make beautiful music so we can touch the hearts of other people and change their lives,” Midkiff says. “And in the process these kids’ lives are changed too.”


Focus September/October 2015

considered going back to radio, however, until she turned 90. “I thought, there’s nothing out there for us older people. It’s all for baby boomers." In 2011 Hille launched the “Good News for Seniors” podcast where she interviews fellow members of the Greatest Generation about their lives. The shows led Guinness World Records in July 2014 to name Hille the “oldest professional DJ.” But she’s not finished yet. “I probably won’t quit until they put me six feet under,” she says.

Growing up in Logan County, Taunja Willis-Miller had no intentions of becoming a lawyer. She got a degree in political science from WVU and didn’t even think about law school until her senior year. But she enrolled, and got a job with Jackson Kelly PLLC as soon as she graduated in 1977, eventually becoming the firm’s first female partner in 1984. In 1988 Governor Gaston Caperton recruited her to lead the state’s newly formed Department of Health and Human Resources, where she fought to improve rural health care. She returned to Jackson Kelly in 1991, but has continued to work in health care cases, adoptions, and nonprofit financing projects for hospitals and universities. “There is a reward factor to it that goes far beyond the fact that it’s my job,” she says. She also continues her service to the public, working on Governor Earl Ray Tomblin’s Early Education Task Force and serving on the boards of several organizations, including Arts Monongahela and the Monongalia County Child Advocacy Center.


At 94, Sally Hille of Williamstown has a radio career for the record books. She got her start in 1943 as a student at Ohio University. After graduating she spent the next three decades working for stations up and down the East Coast—WCOL, WHKC, WTOC, WMOA, WBRJ—before retiring in 1979. Retirement didn’t slow her down. She founded the Toy and Doll Museum in Marietta, Ohio, and worked as a tour director in Florida. She never


Debbie Weinstein started working the graveyard shift at the YWCA’s battered women’s shelter in downtown Charleston soon after she and her husband moved to West Virginia in 1983. After about a year, she became director of the organization’s newly opened Sojourner’s Shelter. At the time the facility could only accommodate six homeless women and their children, but over the next nine years Weinstein saw it expand to become the 75-bed facility it is today. She and her family moved to Montana in 1993, where she became executive director of the Missoula YWCA. But it wasn’t long before West Virginia came calling again, and in 1996 Weinstein returned as executive director of the Charleston YWCA. Since then she’s watched the organization grow and expand its services. Her long-term goal, however, is to put herself out of a job. “I would love to see the YWCA shut down our homeless shelter, our elder abuse center, and our battered women’s shelter because these problems do not exist anymore,” she says.

Melissa Watkins has always had a heart for helping. When she was in kindergarten, she befriended a boy from a very poor family and helped him learn his ABCs. “I really have a heart with people who are deemed to be underdogs,” she says. So when she found herself unfulfilled nine years into an accounting career, Watkins decided to make a big change and enrolled in law school. She now works for Steptoe & Johnson PLLC, where she helps nonprofit organizations with tax issues and best practices. Watkins also serves as an advocate for abused children and for the last three years has coordinated the firm’s pro bono work. In her spare time, she teaches a Sunday School class for adults with special needs. She says it all goes back to the way she was raised. “We were taught to help other people, no matter who they were.”

What do prisons and public transit have in common? Suzanne Park. “My life is so weird,” says Park, who is both director of the Moundsville Economic Development Council and director of communications for the West Virginia Public Transit Association. She spent 14 years working for Stone & Thomas department stores, eventually becoming the youngest store manager in the company. Then in the late 1990s a friend hooked her up with a group in Moundsville looking to turn the old West Virginia Penitentiary into a tourist spot. She helped kick off a marketing campaign and, before long, MTV’s Scare Tactics asked to shoot in the spooky old prison. As soon as the episode aired, Park’s phone began to ring. The penitentiary is now one of the state’s top tourist attractions. At her other job, Park works with 18 transit authorities in 31 counties to promote public transit in the state. “Where public transit goes, West Virginia grows,” she says.

Although she was an English major in college, Pat Bibbee has enjoyed design since she was young. “I like to say it’s my vocation but it’s really my avocation; it’s really what I love to do, and I’ve just been fortunate enough to be able to have a career doing what I love,” she says. After she married, Bibbee moved to Cincinnati with her husband, where she helped several friends decorate their first houses. Bibbee took some design classes and then moved back to Charleston, where she began working in a small design studio and learned how a business works. The studio’s owner eventually decided to sell out—and Pat Bibbee Designs was born. A quarter-century later, her design studio is well-respected across the state, with work featured in the West Virginia University Blaney House and the Clay Center for Arts and Sciences. Focus wvfocus.com


Lori McKinney knew there was lots of talents in her small hometown of Princeton—there just wasn’t a space for creativity to flourish. After helping to start the Culturefest World Music & Arts Festival in 2004, McKinney went on to co-found the RiffRaff Arts Collective. The space includes performance rooms, an art gallery, and even lodging for artists who need quiet spaces to create. The collective has been a success, allowing McKinney to take on additional projects like Artists’ Alley, a 22-mural project in Princeton, and Option 22, a band she and her husband founded. She’s not done yet, though. “We’d really like to enhance the creative community and see it grow,” she says.

Mary Pearl Compton served as a delegate in the West Virginia House from 1988 to 2002. She sat on the chamber’s Education Committee and served as chairwoman of the House Health and Human Resources Committee, helping impoverished areas of West Virginia gain access to good education, health care, and employment opportunities. “Even though we were all created equal, there was not much equality going on,” she says. Although things weren’t always easy for Compton—she was one of only a few women in the Legislature—she says her constituents in Monroe and Summers counties always backed her. Nowadays, Compton volunteers her time with several organizations including the Union Presbyterian Church, where she is a trustee and an elder. She’s also on the board of the Monroe County Historical Society and the Greenbrier Historical Society, which deals with the preservation of Jeffersonian buildings in West Virginia.


Focus September/October 2015


You might know Margaret Hambrick because of the work she does to preserve history—she’s the president of the board of the Greenbrier Historical Society—but you might not know that she made history too. When she was just 29 years old, Hambric became the warden of the Federal Correctional Institute in Morgantown, making her the first female warden of a male prison in the federal prison system. “There was a lot of curiosity on the part of the inmates and the staff, but in a relatively short while they figured out that I would do what was necessary and also what was right,” she says. “There was always a mutual respect.” That same set of principles guided Hambrick when she retired and got involved in historic preservation. “I feel an obligation to help the community, because I know I have organization and management skills that can be of use,” she says. Hambrick’s most recent project is to save the crumbling pavilion that was once part of the historic Blue Sulphur Springs resort in Greenbrier County. It’s a massive project that has seen rapid progress thanks to Hambrick. Why’d she decide to focus on historic preservation? “Preservation informs us about our past, and with that information I think we move better into our future,” she says.


A decade and a half ago, Janis Gunel worked at a career and technical school in Monongalia County, and she noticed a pattern: The girls always went down one hallway—toward classes geared toward hospitality and health care jobs—and the boys went down another—to learn to repair or build things. It didn’t seem right since jobs in construction can be so lucrative and reliable, and there’s no good reason women can’t do them. “They’re just jobs that women never think about getting into,” she says. Fast forward a few years and Gunel helped found West Virginia Women Work, a nonprofit that trains women in the construction trades. In the last 15 years the group has trained hundreds of underemployed women and helped them find high-paying construction jobs. “When women go through school no one tells women they can be an electrician. At the unemployment office no one tells them, ‘Hey, you can be an electrician,’” Gunel says. “But they can be.”

“I love to feed people,” says Linda McKinney. And she does, in a big way. McKinney is the director of the Five Loaves and Two Fishes food bank in McDowell County, which feeds somewhere between 1,200 and 1,800 people every month. And it all happens through private donations and volunteer labor—including McKinney and her family. She’s been running Five Loaves and Two Fishes since 2009, when the former director got a terminal health diagnosis and was looking to hand off care of the food bank. He called McKinney and her husband. “The first time he called we turned him down. We told him there was no way we could do it because we were raising a family and working two jobs—the entire thing is on a volunteer basis,” she says. “But the second time he called we said yes. He handed us the keys to the building and a checkbook with $19,000 in the account.” That’s almost exactly the cost of overhead at the food bank for one year. In the years since, McKinney has not just maintained the food bank, but expanded its reach. She launched a community garden in 2013, taking advantage of new gardening methods that make it easier to grow food in McDowell County. Using raised beds and hydroponic tower systems, McKinney uses the garden to grow fresh fruits and vegetables to augment the donated—often nonperishable—food that is stocked in the pantry. The farm-to-pantry system comes with an added benefit: The community gets to take part in the process. “So not only are you going to come to a food bank with your hand out,” McKinney says. “We’re showing you how to use that hand to make things grow.”

There are a lot of people who would love to see West Virginia’s farming economy grow. Elizabeth Spellman is trying to make it happen, as the executive director of the West Virginia Food & Farm Coalition. “We’re kind of the voice of the growing food movement in West Virginia,” she says. “There’s definitely a heritage here of self-sustaining small farms, but we’re working on directing it and growing it.” And despite the hills and mountains that sometimes make West Virginia difficult to farm, Spellman thinks there’s a lot of opportunity for small farms in the state—and that the growth of small farms could lead to flourishing towns and cities. “We’re blessed because a lot of our farms are family farms,” she says. “It’s not a model of big farms set up to grow for commodity markets. It’s a model that’s about serving communities.”

The United Way is a titan in the nonprofit sector—it’s the world’s largest privately funded nonprofit and worldwide has more than 2.6 million volunteers and 9.6 million donors. Every year, its efforts help more than 50 million people. And in our little corner of the world, at least, Margaret Ann O’Neal is at the helm. Since she became executive director of the United Way of Southern West Virginia in 2008, just after a stint at Hospice of Southern West Virginia during which she helped raise more than $2 million to complete the Bowers Hospice House, the United Way has opened baby pantries in several southern counties, begun initiatives to help prevent and remedy substance abuse problems, and worked to reduce teen pregnancies. This year, its fundraising goal is $850,000—the largest one yet. Focus wvfocus.com


It’s been a whirlwind year for West Virginia University women’s soccer Coach Nikki Izzo-Brown. Before a busy summer of recruiting, jetting from a local soccer complex fundraiser in Charleston to Finland and Iceland and then back to Morgantown, she was off to Canada for the FIFA Women’s World Cup. There, in a momentous career highlight, she watched two of her young Mountaineers compete for Canada’s national team in the highest level of competition in the soccer world. For a person as competitive as Izzo-Brown, this was a moment to reflect on a career that catapulted her from an office in a first-aid room in 1995 to sitting with champions in 2015. A star college soccer player, Izzo-Brown earned All-American status at the University of Rochester in New York. After graduating in 1993,


Focus September/October 2015

Izzo-Brown used her soccer career to launch her graduate education, serving first as assistant head coach at West Virginia Wesleyan while earning an MBA before going on to become Wesleyan’s head coach in 1994. When WVU developed a women’s soccer program to adhere to federal Title IX rules, she was called to Morgantown. It was 1995. Izzo-Brown was 24 years old, and it wasn’t long before she realized WVU had prepared very little for the new program. She didn’t even have an office. She spent her first months in a repurposed first-aid office in the WVU Coliseum with the school's tennis coach. Her players shared Mountaineer Field with the football team under Don Nehlen, who told her the women’s soccer team was distracting his football players. But nothing fazed her. She spent nights at the office making recruiting calls and going over schedules. “I’ve wanted everyone to understand that just because you’re female, or male, doesn’t mean you work less,” she says. “And sometimes you actually have to work harder to gain respect.” Her goal is to motivate players and bring out the best in them. “What motivates me is seeing an athlete after her four years, knowing that I maximized her potential.” And maximize potential she has. In 19 seasons, Izzo-Brown has coached dozens of players who went on to become All-Americans, Academic All-Americans, professional players, and more. WVU Women’s Soccer boasts title after title and five tournament championships. The program is the only WVU sport to win multiple Big East Tournament titles, and earned the school its first Big 12 championship in 2012. But Izzo-Brown’s work isn’t only focused on the college level. In 1995, soccer was virtually unheard of in West Virginia. “That was really overwhelming for me, especially coming from upstate New York where, for years, we were playing and we had these opportunities,” she says. In part it’s the success of Izzo-Brown’s program that has launched an interest in women’s soccer in West Virginia. High schools now have dedicated women’s teams, and independent travel teams have also sprung up around the state. Izzo-Brown was instrumental in the creation of the state’s first Olympic Development Program for girls’ youth soccer, a program that pools the country’s best young players to groom them for national teams. “Soccer’s always given me so much,” she says. “Any opportunity I have to give back, I do.”


Maryland native Jacqueline Proctor is the epitome of “blooming where you’re planted.” She spent 23 years working in television, ending as a high-ranking executive at ABC. She left that world in 2005, moving with her husband to Huntington for his degree work at Marshall University. She was hired as general manager of the Huntington Symphony Orchestra, then after a year became director of arts for the state Division of Culture and History. Before long she was the agency’s deputy commissioner. When Governor Earl Ray Tomblin took office in 2010, he asked Proctor to join his administration as communications director. From there she became deputy commissioner of the state Department of Tourism before taking on her current assignment, deputy commissioner of the state West Virginia Bureau of Senior Services. Proctor says the management skills she learned in the corporate world allow her to adapt to any situation. What’s next? “You never know,” she says.


Capitol Street is the place to be in downtown Charleston: music venues, cool boutiques, quirky restaurants. But one could make the argument that without Taylor Books, Capitol Street as we know it would not exist. We have Ann Saville to thank for that. Born and raised in London at the height of World War II, Saville moved to the United States with her husband, Paul, a physician in training, for a fellowship at Cornell University in New York. The couple then spent 11 years in Omaha, Nebraska before moving their family—now with five children in tow—to Morgantown in 1974. They arrived in Charleston a year later, where Paul set up a rheumatology practice. Although Saville worked as a nurse in London, she left the occupation once she became a mother. When she reached Charleston she went back to school, earned a bachelor’s degree in

psychology, and did some work on a master’s degree. Then she found her true calling. A longtime lover of books and bookstores, Saville realized Charleston had no independent bookseller for new titles. Even in the days before online retailers like Amazon dominated the market, opening a bookstore was a risky proposition. Saville decided to minimize her risk by selling her home in Charleston’s suburbs and buying a space downtown that could serve as both a bookstore and an apartment for her and Paul. She looked at several properties before finally settling on a building at 226 Capitol Street. The structure was in severe disrepair but Saville saw potential. That was 20 years ago. Now, it’s difficult to imagine downtown Charleston without Taylor Books—its creaky wooden floors and pressed tin ceilings, its walls of black bookshelves, and its signature maroon coffee cups. For Saville, the shop is an exercise in community-building. The store sees a steady stream of regular customers, from young professionals to retired people who sometimes visit multiple times a day. The store is building a community outside its walls, too. In the 20 years since it opened, other businesses have sprung up around Taylor Books. Saville says the more, the merrier. Each new attraction has only helped build her business. That’s one reason she opened another downtown business in 2013, the Charleston Brewing Company. While the microbrewery has more than doubled its capacity since it opened, Saville says the beers are so popular the business is having trouble keeping up with demand. Although she recently turned 80, Saville shows no signs of stopping. Her legacy is already in the books, however. Once Saville stopped in a bookstore while visiting her brother in Canterbury, England. He led her to the travel section and pulled down a Lonely Planet guide to the United States. Each state only received a few pages in the book. She remembers that West Virginia’s entry began with a mention of the gold-domed Capitol building in Charleston. “And then it said, ‘The true cultural heart of the city is Taylor Books.’”

Georgette George was born and raised in Charleston but, like so many bright young people, left the state for college, and then went to work at Hewlett-Packard. But two decades ago, even though she was in the midst of a highly successful career out of state, George found she missed the state and her family and decided to come home and join the family business. Now, she’s the president of the Monarch Family of Hotels, which operates three successful hotels in Charleston, and she tries to treat each one of her employees like they’re family too. That decision paid off big time when she found out she had breast cancer a few years ago. “The amount of support was remarkable,” she says. “That’s what’s nice about a community—it’s wonderful to be a part of a village like that. I’m so happy to be home I can’t see straight.” Focus wvfocus.com


When Saira Blair won the 59th District seat in the House of Delegates in 2014, unseating an incumbent in the Republican primary and then beating her Democratic opponent by more than 30 percent, it was an impressive victory by any standard. Her methods were impressive, too. She hand-wrote thousands of letters to voters and circulated her cell phone number so constituents could reach her. But the win wasn’t just impressive, it was historic: At just 18 years old, she became the youngest elected state lawmaker in the country. She says she ran for office so she could help West Virginia convince young people to stay in-state after college graduation.


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Michelle Toman’s phone has been ringing for decades. “I haven’t always been a suicide prevention advocate, but I became one on a rainy April night about 21 years ago. I lost my younger brother to suicide,” she says. Since then, Toman has given talks to teenagers, gone on overnight walks to raise awareness for suicide prevention, and has even been called in the middle of the night to help with a suicide intervention, something many first responders are not trained to handle. In 2015, she successfully lobbied the state Legislature to pass Jamie’s Law, requiring suicide prevention courses be taught in state high schools. Suicide prevention is everyone’s responsibility. “We need to be kinder than necessary. (Like) that old quote, ‘Everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle that we know nothing about,’” she says. “We just need to do better.”

Jenny Allen only moved to Shepherdstown in 2003, but she’s fully invested in her adopted hometown and home state. “I’m certainly very proud of this area. I’m proud of the state,” she says. Allen, who holds a bachelor’s in writing and a master’s in journalism, has been involved with Shepherd University’s Contemporary American Theater Festival for nine years, spending four years as its vice president, and has served as the vice chairwoman for Shepherd University’s Create the Future campaign, helping to raise $26 million for the university. She is also in the middle of her fifth year as vice-chairwoman of the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission, the agency that oversees public colleges and universities in the state. She says it’s important to secure affordable, high-quality higher education for all West Virginians.


Joan Stamp is helping the women of Wheeling help women. Five years ago she and some friends started the Women’s Giving Circle. Members buy into the group for $500, and that money feeds an endowment and grant fund. Then the group takes applications from nonprofits needing financial help—groups focused on helping girls and women— and members vote to allocate funding. “It’s worked beautifully,” Stamp says. In its first five years the group has given away more than $100,000 and grown from less than 20 members to more than 130. And that’s hardly Stamp’s only philanthropic activity: She’s volunteered to sit on a truly staggering number of boards and lent herself to a wide variety of activities. “I love doing it,” she says. “I believe in giving back.” All that is in addition to her successful jewelry business, BeadJeweled. Her work is sold at outlets around the state, including The Greenbrier Resort.


Sallie See’s great-grandfather started the Hampshire Review in the 1890s. The newspaper, now one of the oldest in the state, is still very much a family operation. See grew up in the newsroom then stepped away from the business for a long time, spending 30 years as an elementary school teacher. But when the paper needed a new editor in 2005, Sallie retired from the classroom to take the helm. “It’s been instilled in us, it’s a family business. We just didn’t want to see it sold to a corporation,” she says. And while other publications have struggled, the Review is doing well, with a steady circulation and an active Internet presence. “We do stories on what’s important to the people of Hampshire County,” See says.

Joyce Allen isn’t afraid to admit she’s got a strong personality, and rightly so: She’s proven herself an effective leader in every area she’s dabbled in. After being widowed at a young age, Allen went back to college. “My parents always emphasized education—for all ten of us (children).” She originally intended to finish her schooling as a hospital dietician, but after working with a child who couldn’t read, Allen decided to change tracks. She ended up graduating with a master’s degree in reading, starting a lifelong obsession with education. Allen’s been on Davis & Elkins College’s Board of Trustees for 20 years and on West Virginia University’s College of Creative Arts Visiting Committee for and the advisory board for WVU’s Blaney House since the positions were created. She’s active at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, which offers an inexpensive variety of courses to students over 50. “I think it’s important as an adult to continue learning,” she says. Allen has also served in leadership roles in her church, served as a delegate at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, participates in Rotary Club in Elkins, and is on the Board of Directors at United Way, in addition to participating in many other clubs. “I spread myself pretty thin,” she admits, “and then I play tennis once a week!”

Tammy Dolly has lived in Elkins since she was two. At 13 she’d already found her passion: the floral business. She worked in a flower shop in Elkins until she left for the University of Pittsburgh, where she studied marketing and interior design. She eventually resettled in Elkins and opened up her own floral shop in 1996. But three decades later, Dolly found herself craving a change of pace. After being invited to participate in a Christmas-themed market, Dolly knew just what she wanted to do—create a marketplace with lots of different vendors in a single space. “I wanted everything mixed together. Just a big mixed bag of wonderful,” she says. Dolly’s Delmonte Market is now a hit with residents and tourists alike, offering food, art, and antiques. Focus wvfocus.com



6 Things

Bryn Perrot says customers come first, even for artists.

Tips on preparing your business for the unthinkable.

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Be part of the conversation. Comment on followers’ photos. Include relevant hashtags in every post. You can even use apps like “Repost for Instagram” to share followers’ photos on your timeline. Just get permission first. Don’t overshare. Sharing too many photos on Instagram is a good way to turn your followers against you. To avoid flooding their feeds, try to post only once a day. If you must share photos more often, try to spread the posts throughout the day.


73 million active users

Where It’s At

Freshen up your online marketing with these social networks. These days, businesses create Facebook pages before they have working phone lines. But while Facebook is the largest social network, it is hardly the only game in town. In fact, demographic studies show younger people are losing interest in Zuckerberg's behemoth. Businesses have to branch out. Here’s a look at three popular social media and how you can use them to your advantage.


300 million active users It’s all about the images. Your Instagram profile lives and dies by the photos you share. Focus on “action shots.” If you’re a manufacturer or retailer, share images of your products in use. If you’re a service company, get action shots of employees hard at work.

Post something worth keeping. Where other social networks are all about the fresh and new, Pinterest is designed so users can return to their favorite “pins” again and again. Whether it’s a funny meme, inspirational quote, or helpful infographic, try to create something memorable—and make sure your branding is front and center. Keep it organized. On your profile, individual pins are organized into “boards.” Some users pin everything to the same board but it’s best to have many boards, organized by topic. Users can unfollow boards that don’t interest them, reducing the likelihood they’ll unfollow your account entirely. Check your links. Make sure, when users click an image, the link leads to a working page on your website. You don’t want to send potential customers to a dead end.


100 million active users Embrace the story. Although it was built as a messaging app, Snapchat also allows for the creation of “stories”—short slideshows of photos and videos. It’s a feature no other social network offers and a great way of engaging followers. Everything’s temporary. Snapchat is the anti-Pinterest. Your posts disappear after a set amount of time. Businesses can use this feature to offer followers “sneak peaks” of new products, or to promote flash sales. Let your hair down. Because Snapchat is most popular with teenagers and young adults, it is the most casual of all the popular social networks. It’s O.K. to have a little fun with your posts. Followers will appreciate it. Focus wvfocus.com


Lessons Learned


LET IT RISE An entrepreneur proves it sometimes pays to wait.


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rin Bowe wanted to get back into the food business, but she wanted to do it on her own terms. She’s a trained chef and spent more than two years working at The Greenbrier before taking time off to raise her daughters. But she didn’t want to go back to the world of restaurant kitchens with their hot, hard work and bad hours. “The lifestyle is hard, especially as a woman with a family,” she says. While still trying to figure out what to do, Bowe began messing around with cake decorating, and posted photos of her work to Facebook. Before long she was booked solid with orders. It would have been natural, at this point, for Bowe to invest her money in a bakery. But she decided on a slower route. She found a large, seldom-used, commercial-quality kitchen at the nearby Emmanuel United Methodist Church. The congregation agreed to rent her the facility, so in 2011 Bowe started using the church kitchen to fill her cake orders and make treats to sell at a local farmers’ market. Looking for something to set her fledgling business apart from all the other stands at the farmers’ market, Bowe bought a camping trailer on Craigslist for $900 and converted it into a “bakery showcase on wheels," hiring a guy to install a large glass window in one side so customers could walk up, see what they wanted, and order. After two years of peddling her baked goods at farmers’ markets, Bowe finally saw an opportunity to move into a storefront without wheels. Someone donated a vacant storefront in downtown White Sulphur Springs to Emmanuel United Methodist, and the church agreed to sell the property to Bowe, owner-financed. Since she had spent years building a faithful group of regular customers, Bowe knew when she opened her bakery, B Sweet Confectionery, in 2013 the public would buy what she was selling. “I would recommend that to anyone,” she says. “If you spend a little time building up that customer base, it really helps. It takes a little of the stress out of it." And since she kept overhead costs very low in the early days, she was able to save money and build a good-sized nest egg. Bowe opened the bakery with almost no


debt. “All the equipment, everything I have in here, is paid for. That cuts out a lot of heartache once you get started,” she says. When the inevitable off week—or off month—would occur, Bowe didn’t have to worry about making big loan payments. “That’s advice people don’t want to hear, I think. Wait a couple years and save money. Nobody wants to hear that. But it helps,” she says. She takes a similar slow-going strategy

to finding employees. She isn’t afraid to wait until a good candidate comes along. That happened recently, when she found herself a few hands short. “I held out to find good help. Instead of hiring somebody right off, I busted my behind for three weeks until I found the right person.” Bowe admits there’s some self-delusion involved in starting any business—if she’d known how difficult it would be, she might not have tried it. “I’ve cried many nights, thinking, ‘What have I done?’ We were so


busy, I didn’t have good help then. I would come in in the morning at 4 a.m. and work until 10 p.m.” But with some careful planning, she’s been able to survive the hard times and see her business grow. “When I want to do something, I do it. I just figure out a way to do it,” she says. Sometimes that means jumping headlong into a challenge, but Bowe has also proven there’s nothing wrong with slowing down and waiting for the right opportunity. Focus wvfocus.com



COOL KID In Morgantown, Bryn Perrott has stumbled onto an artistic career with a life of its own.


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ryn Perrott has that kind of effortless cool everyone else—or at least those of us who preoccupy ourselves with such vain concerns—can only aspire to. It doesn’t work for us because we’re trying too hard, we’re self-conscious, we make it look like work. Bryn doesn’t do that. She just has great taste and makes cool stuff. If she’s working very hard at any of it, you can’t tell. The same could be said of her career. She’s arguably one of the most successful young artists in the state right now, but it feels like she fell into it practically without trying. It’s not that she doesn’t work hard— she does—it’s just that most of her efforts go directly into making art. The sales and promotion part, where artists so often struggle, has come almost on its own. Perrott grew up in Morgantown and studied printmaking at West Virginia University. Back then the major seemed like an obvious choice—she’d done some printmaking in high school and liked it, and she’d long considered herself an artist above anything else—but now she realizes how little she considered what the degree would eventually do for her. “I didn’t think very far ahead,” she says. “I think I was like, college is going to be four years to not have to think anything out.” When she graduated she wasn’t quite sure what to do with herself and started working retail jobs around town. “At that



point I was like, I’m just going to have to work crappy jobs and make art when I want to,” she says. “I didn’t think I’d ever make any money from art.” Right around that time she began experimenting with the medium she works in now. Basically, Bryn starts with a slab of flat wood painted black on one side, then carves into it to form images. The process is similar to what she would do if she were making a wood block for printmaking, except then she’d carve the block first, then slather it with ink and make prints. But after Bryn graduated from WVU she didn’t have access to the university’s art studios with their elaborate, expensive printmaking equipment—so she decided to just make carved blocks for their own sake. She had taken a common medium and given it a novel twist. “I did them partially because they’re interesting and not that many people do them, and partially because I couldn’t print them,” she says. She still finds it difficult to find

a descriptive term for her work. “I call them relief carvings, or you could call them woodcuts because that’s kind of what it is,” she says. “It’s really hard to explain to anybody without a physical piece with you.” One other thing about Bryn: She collects tattoos the way some people collect oil paintings. She’s covered in them, and they’re beautiful and colorful and eye-catching. One of those postgraduate retail jobs was at Wild Zero Studios, a tattoo shop in Morgantown. Her art is hugely influenced by tattoo imagery and culture—think skulls and mummies and naked ladies. Working those images into her art was a natural thing for Bryn to do. She spends a lot of time hanging out with people in the tattoo world, thinking and talking about skin art, plus her black and white relief method lends itself really well to tattoo-like images. And it turns out the world of serious tattoo artists is filled with people who really love and appreciate good art. “Tattooers spend


money on art, at least the good ones,” Bryn says. “They expect money for their tattoos, so they expect to spend money on other people’s art too.” Bryn started taking photos of her work and posting them to Instagram— she’s known on there as “deerjerk”—and pretty soon attracted a following that is loyal, laudatory, and huge. She has more than 44,000 followers and counting. “Instagram is the reason I have a job,” Bryn says. Ask her how that happened, though, and she just shrugs. “I think I was on it pretty early when it was still small.” Bryn doesn’t say it herself, but it’s also undoubtedly true that her work is just so unique—and so good—that it attracts a lot of attention. Either way, Instagram has played a huge role in the growth of her career. “I’ve found incredible people to be connected with,” she says. “The visual community really likes Instagram—we all rejoice at the limited amount of writing you have to do. Focus wvfocus.com



Tips from Bryn Perrott Do whatever it takes. Even commissions. “I might not be as good if I didn’t have to push myself so much. Doing the amount of commissions that I had to do allowed me to practice—and I was asked to do things that I wouldn’t do otherwise. I think when I was younger I would have been like, ‘I’m not going to be somebody’s puppet,’ but when you’re an adult you get over that, and that’s important. Money shouldn’t always be the driving factor but it’s certainly important to make it.” Consider the customer. “I have to remember to make a lot of similar things sometimes. You think that everyone wants to be an individual, but really everybody wants the same thing. They want to be part of the group, or to have the one thing that is most representative of what you do as a whole. So I try to give them that.” Be optimistic. “You can’t bank on anything. I’ve been making it work, but it’s only been a few years. Maybe in another year I won’t be able to. But if that doesn’t work out I’ll think of another way to be creative and make money.”

You don’t have to be a poet—you just post an image and put a few words at the bottom of it.” Bryn’s followers are quick to snap up just about anything she posts for sale. She can hardly keep work in stock for her website because it sells out so quickly. She also accepts commissions and has so many orders she’s constantly backlogged by at least several months. And while many artists bridle at the thought of following customers’ orders, Bryn embraces the challenge of doing commissions. “It’s great to do whatever you want, but it’s also interesting to try to make a really weird image work,” she says. “I had a commission once where this guy said, ‘I want you to do a portrait of my miniature doberman, and his name is Dracula. It would be great if he were wearing a Dracula cape.’ I had a really fun time making that work as an image.” Overall, Bryn’s philosophy for art is a lot like her philosophy for social media—and also for life. “If you sell yourself too hard I think people are turned off by that,” she says. “If you just do what you want to do it works better. It’s sort of about being vulnerable—you can’t try to be too cool for everything because cool kind of sucks. If you just talk about cats all the time because that’s what you want to do, people will connect with that.”


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Don’t complain too much. “There are days that I complain about having to work all the time and you’re allowed to complain. But it’s rare to be able to make money in art doing something that is even within the realm of what you want to do. So few people get to do that.”



When we fix problems in society at large, the changes often begin in higher education. Here are some ideas to help women rise to top jobs at our colleges and universities.


omen have made significant strides in the number of leadership positions they hold at colleges and universities across the country over the past 30 years and they have made strides in West Virginia, too. A female holds the top job—president—at about onethird of West Virginia’s higher education institutions. Nationally only 26 percent of college and university presidents are female, according to the American Council on Education, and that number hasn’t changed in the past decade. West Virginia is doing slightly better than the national average, but there is room for improvement at both the state and national levels. This is not a “pipeline issue.” Traditionally, presidents have come from the ranks of provost or from vice president for academic affairs—and women make up about 38 percent of chief academic affairs officers in the U.S. So why are there so few women in senior leadership positions at colleges and universities? There is not one specific reason, but several factors at play: » Some women don’t want the job due to work/family conflicts; » There is a lack of women on boards that hire presidents or senior-level leaders; » Societal gender norms play against women. If we look at the first reason, some women consciously choose not to apply


Focus September/October 2015

for the higher-ranking jobs. Structurally, organizations are designed to meet the needs of “traditional” families, where husbands work and wives takes care of the home and children. Today, women find themselves in a bind of balancing the duties at home with work outside the home. These women value time with family and may opt out of the rigorous time obligations that come with seniorlevel positions. Second, many boards that hire presidents of universities are mostly comprised of men. Only about 30 percent of board members are women, according to the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges. And it is well documented that career opportunities increase for in-group members—see, for example, the book Women and Leadership in Higher Education. It is certainly no surprise that many of us have an affinity for people who are most like us. If a hiring board is composed mostly of men, it is more likely that men will be seen more favorably for the job. Finally, while studies demonstrate that men and women use similar leadership skills, societal gender roles play a large part in whether we deem those skills to be effective or not. We expect men to be assertive and decisive—skills we liken to good leadership. But if a woman is assertive, she may be deemed “bossy” even though she is using the same leadership skills as


Lisa DeFrank-Cole is associate professor and director of Leadership Studies at West Virginia University. Her research interests include the topics of women and leadership. She currently serves as the 2015 chair of the Women and Leadership Affinity Group in the International Leadership Association. her male counterparts. In our culture, we expect women to be more nurturing and kind toward others. If they are not, they are acting outside of perceived gender norms. Therefore, they may be judged more harshly and be seen less desirable as leaders. Why is this important? What difference does it make to have more women in leadership roles? According to Deborah Rhode and other scholars, women bring different perspectives to the table than men, are more collaborative in their leadership approach, and empower employees to act on issues of importance—to name just a few positive attributes of female leaders. So how can we improve the number of women in presidencies or senior positions? Clearly, encouraging more women to apply for these jobs is the first step. Mentoring and sponsoring women to become senior leaders is a tried and true method. Adding more flexible work hours and office arrangements may enable women—and men—to better integrate family and professional obligations. Next, we must ensure boards of governors and search committees have equal numbers of men and women. Then, boards will not assess leadership effectiveness based on perceived gender norms, but on the quality of results. This could go a long way to more equitably evaluating senior leaders. Higher education has seen more women advancing in leadership than have other sectors, such as business or government, but we clearly have more work to do.


Higher Education

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MANAGING A MULTI-GENERATIONAL WORKPLACE Each generation of workers comes with different strengths and challenges, and managers should know how to balance them to build a stronger team.


Focus September/October 2015

sacrifice for the job, observe the rules, and find satisfaction in a job well done. Traditionalists are interested in staying connected through working longer. Prestige, position, and perks motivate Baby Boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964. Although many are nearing retirement, they are planning to be in the workforce a little longer than originally expected—often a result of retirement account balances, not personal desire. Boomers are clever, resourceful, competitive, and achievement-oriented, but many find it difficult to adjust to trends such as working from home and flexible schedules. Generation X includes those born between 1965 and 1980, a group that values freedom and responsibility. They are ambitious but wish to complete tasks on their own terms. They are less committed to one employer, comfortable with various technologies, and appreciate relaxed and fun work atmospheres. They work to live rather than live to work. Millennials, born between 1981 and 2000, are the youngest generation in the current workplace. This generation seeks work-life balance and is confident, ambitious, and achievement-oriented. Its members expect quick decision-making, seek reassurance, appreciate guidance and mentoring, and value teamwork and involvement. They multitask with ease and crave meaningful work. The next generation, the so-called Generation I born between 2001 and

Lydotta Taylor is president and CEO of The EdVenture Group, a Morgantownbased independent nonprofit organization providing innovative solutions for the education world as well as consulting services and professional development for businesses and communities. She was a member of West Virginia Focus’s 2014 Wonder Women.

2015, will begin joining the workplace in 2020. This generation is the first born into the digital age and its members are proving to be very creative. They desire and crave immediate feedback more than generations before them. It is too soon to identify workplace characteristics, but we can expect technology to play a significant role in many ways.



ver the last five years, I’ve spent a lot of time researching and speaking on the impact of multiple generations in the workplace. As recently as July, I spoke with the 2015 Leadership West Virginia class on this topic and our conversation confirmed that, regardless of one’s age or experience in leadership, generational differences affect all aspects of the workplace. The diversity in today’s workplace is one of the most important trends for leaders to embrace. By 2020, leaders will potentially see up to five generations in the workplace—an all-time high—with almost half of the employees from the Millennial generation. There is a growing opportunity to capitalize on this trend and create a strong culture that allows all employees and organizations to prosper and grow. Before we talk about how to manage a multi-generational workplace, let’s look at each of the generations and some of their defining characteristics. Most of us do not fit exactly in our date-defined generation—you will find as you self-evaluate and observe your co-workers that we all tend to display many of the characteristics from our defined generation, and we also gain traits from others. But there are some general observations we can make. The first of the five generations we observe in the workplace today is the Traditionalists, born between 1924 and 1945. They work hard, respect experience,



For a leader, an awareness of the differences the generations bring to the workplace is an opportunity to create a workplace culture that brings out the best in everyone and creates companies that are powerful and effective in today’s economy. This has always been true, but the uniqueness of this workplace requires a more thoughtful approach from leadership. I have found the following four tips to be helpful in leading multiple generations. Each tip requires the leader to focus on diversifying to best connect with all employees. Organizations that embrace this approach will find employees from all generations are more engaged and often more committed.


Diversify the organization’s compensation options, incentives, and benefits. Leaders may find that Baby Boomers want part-time options with medical benefits, Gen X looks for company-matched 401(k) options, and Millennials like more flexible work schedules. Leaders need to look closely at the possibilities, then provide and create a menu of options that will engage each generation.


Diversify your communication strategies. This relies heavily on technology. Boomers may prefer inperson meetings and Gen X emails and electronic corporate updates. Millennials may prefer instant messages, webinars, or walking staff meetings. Leaders need to allow room for a variety of communication methods to best meet the needs of all employees.


Diversify your mentoring programs. I like providing mentoring opportunities in reverse order. Typically we think of a Boomer mentoring a Millennial. Consider a reverse strategy: Allow your Millennials to mentor Boomers on new software or social media tools. You will find the Millennial is more valued by the Boomer and in turn the Millennial will learn from the Boomer. In addition, group mentoring can be very effective and structured to meet the style of your organization. For example, provide mentoring through group meeting opportunities, using selected employees to serve as speakers, or try a more general conversation structure. Another option is to use online mentoring, or social learning. This option provides mentoring through online tools and communication. Employees can text or email mentors for advice on situations that arise. They may also seek advice on presentations or how to handle specific meeting items. This way, tech-savvy Millennials can seek the guidance of mentor on an as-needed basis, from the comfort of their computers.


Use your leadership position to bring the generations together. Too often a focus on generational leadership will divide generations in the workplace even more. Leaders should focus specifically on bridging the gaps and building the cohesive workplace culture that appreciates differences and embraces the diversity. This thinking starts at the top and you truly set the stage for finding value in each generation.

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MOTHER OF INVENTION Mom-turned-entrepreneur Isabella Yosuico is building a business while making children stronger.


sabella Yosuico was on a treadmill when an idea tugged at her. Like many children with Down syndrome, her son Isaac suffered from poor muscle tone, or hypotonia. She wondered what she could do to help him build up his arms and legs. “I had my wrist and ankle weights that I


Focus September/October 2015

sometimes wore when I was running, and I thought, ‘Well, why don’t I just do that? Why don’t I just make some wrist and ankle weights for him?’” She fashioned a tiny pair of weights from a scrap of fleece and some sand from her children’s sandbox. The next time Yosuico took Isaac for a check-up with Dr.

Mary Jane Baniak, his physical therapist, Baniak reacted with enthusiasm at the mini-weights. “She said, ‘You should try to sell them. They’d be really helpful to a lot of different kids.’ That’s how the journey began,” Yosuico says. With Baniak’s help, Yosuico had identified a market gap. Hypotonia doesn’t just affect children with Down syndrome—poor muscle tone is common to many other genetic disorders, and can even occur in otherwise-healthy children if they are born prematurely. Yet there were no commercially available weights small enough for these children. Parents like Yoscuico wanted a way to help their children gently increase muscle tone, but finding weights lighter than a pound was impossible. So in May 2014, the Berkeley Springs mother launched her company MightyTykes. The company offers three sizes of arm and ankle weights: one-eighth pound, one-fourth pound, and one-half pound. The colorful bands are waterproof, nontoxic, and made of polyurethane laminate, a material commonly used in diaper covers. They range in price from about $21 to $23, or $60 for a set of all three sizes. All parts are manufactured in the United States. Yosuico’s background in marketing and communications came in handy when launching the company, as did administrative experience that taught her business planning and budgeting. She eventually had to ask for some help, however. “It’s one thing to sew something in your basement— it’s totally another to come up with something that’s commercially viable,” she says. “I did reach a point where I was beyond my experience.” She contacted the U.S. Small Business Administration, which referred her to experts. She got a business coach, who helped refine her business plan. Yosuico also got help from Debby Phelps, founder of Phelps Design + Development LLC in Maryland, who specializes in product development. Phelps helped Yosuico in sourcing materials, manufacturing, and product design. After receiving economic development funding from the state, the next step


How We Did It



“To see that the weights are being used at one of the most prestigious facilities in the world, that’s a pretty sobering and inspiring thought. It’s really incredible.” Isabella Yosuico

for MightyTykes was getting the word out. Yosuico started by sending mailers and samples to institutions around the country. She experimented with print and online advertising, but says it wasn’t ideal due to the cost. Instead, she prefers using social media like Facebook and Google advertising. The MightyTykes Facebook page currently has more than 4,500 likes. “We’ve tried everything and now we’re sort of coursecorrecting and veering in on the strategies that seem to bear the most fruit,” says Yosuico. As word spread, MightyTykes quickly became a hit. The Associated Press picked up a story about the company, adding to its popularity. One of MightyTykes’ prototypes even found its way to the children’s hospital at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. Yosuico says she only found out after a mother whose child had been exercising with the weights asked to buy a pair. “To see that the weights are being used at one of the most prestigious facilities in the world, that’s a pretty sobering and inspiring thought. It’s really incredible,” she says. Only a little over a year after it launched, MightyTykes is close to being profitable. “Our sales have tripled since we started,” Yosuico says. However, she says money was and continues to be the biggest challenge in starting her business. To entrepreneurial hopefuls, Yosuico’s advice is simple: Do your homework. She says it is important to be honest with yourself about what you do and don’t know. “I have run into a lot of entrepreneurs of every kind ... and they don’t do any homework. They just have an idea and maybe they have a little money, and they just do it,” she says. “And they don’t check to see, what’s the market? What are the costs involved? What’s my pricing need to be to cover my cost? What kinds of resources am I going to need? Do I have access to a labor pool that’s going to support my business? What don’t I know how to do?" It’s easy to get caught up with an idea and not bother taking the time to think it through, but Yosuico says that’s a recipe for failure. “If you don’t know something, don’t guess at what you don’t know. Find somebody who does know and get facts about it.” Focus wvfocus.com


LIVING THE LIFE UNPLANNED Careful planning isn’t the only way to a successful career— sometimes, it’s all about improvisation.


doubt many can say their success came exactly as planned. However, I am certain that some, like me, found success through luck, hard work, and a few conventional and unconventional life rules. In college, I had no idea what to do with the rest of my life. I was a communications major with a lack of focus. I took Italian as a foreign language and studied in Italy my senior year. At the end of the program, while sitting at a café in Rome, I recognized


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the man sitting next to me. He was Ray Murray, a Philadelphia television host. Feeling surprisingly bold, I said hello and he proceeded to tell me about Banyan Productions, the new television production company he had started. At that moment, I decided I wanted to work in television. Never would I have guessed that saying hello would launch my career. When I returned home, I followed up. Nothing came of it. After graduation, I followed up. Nothing came of it. I began

calling Banyan every week in hopes of an opening. Nothing came of it. After months of futile calls, the receptionist unexpectedly told me that she was promoted and that the company was interviewing. Three hours later I was in the Banyan office for an interview. I got the job before I left the building— possibly to keep me from harassing the new receptionist. I was beyond elated. I always hoped, but never imagined, my persistence would pay off. I had made it into television! Although I was answering phones, I was in. And I loved Banyan. It was a start-up, so there were many opportunities to fill a gap or find a niche. I worked late, did the jobs people shunned and, surprisingly, moved from the reception desk to producing television shows. Many times I was doing things I had never done before and had no idea how to do. I learned quickly how to fake it first and figure it out later. The risk of being revealed as unqualified was outweighed by the love I had for visual storytelling and simply being a part of Banyan. But as my love for telling stories grew, I started to get restless. I had dreams of living in New York City, but couldn’t imagine how to make it. A Banyan friend encouraged me to follow my dream to New York City, and she also helped me land a job at Fox. I was working on a national, prime time newsmagazine show, and I was entirely out of my league. But I kept up the hard work and persistence and followed my love for telling stories. While New York City may be the center of the universe, the television production family is small. Over the next ten years, I worked for many companies and networks—MTV, VH1, Discovery, Style, MSNBC, and TLC—doing shows across the country. I absolutely loved what I was doing, but it was not easy. Impossible deadlines and all-nighters were the norm. It was exhilarating and exhausting. Over the years I met several working mothers in television. I thought that was my future. I never imagined being a stayat-home mom. Ever. Through the chaos of my career, I married my college sweetheart. Predictably enough, I became pregnant while working on TLC’s “A Baby Story,” and we had our first child.


Work-Life Balance



“Over the years I met several working mothers in television. I thought that was my future. I never imagined being a stay-at-home mom. Ever.” Liza G. Heiskell

After he was born, something changed. I went back to work, but my heart wasn’t in it. I was emotional and, frankly, a little confused. I was very fortunate to have a choice, and my instincts told me to take a break from working. I followed my instincts and took a break. A very big break. I stopped working, we moved from the suburbs of New York City to Morgantown, West Virginia, and had another child. In the blink of an eye, one year turned into seven. While I readily admit I was fortunate to have a decision to make about working, it doesn’t mean that it was easy. There were many soul-searching times and “what if” moments about my career. Many of my New York City colleagues did not take breaks and are now executive producers, creating shows for national networks. For me, however, the “what ifs” lost to the “spend time with kids.” So, rather than dwell, I moved forward and only occasionally glanced back at the decision. But as the kids grew older, I grew restless again. Now I am the owner of two businesses. In 2013, I partnered with a girlfriend, Emily Kurth, and started Coco & June, a furniture rejuvenation company. We sell our products online (cocoandjune.com) and at The Beauty Bar, a salon and store in Morgantown. However, I still longed to tell stories, and in 2014 I saw an opportunity in the Morgantown market. Technology is changing at an ever-increasing pace, and video production in particular has changed drastically since my New York City days. I have followed it enough over the years to figure it out by completing small personal video projects. With a little help, I started Park Street Productions (parkstreetproductions.com), a company specializing in creating videos for small business websites and social media. The projects are rolling in and I recently debuted an extended video for the United Way’s 2016 campaign. The new school year has started and, like millions of other moms, I will try to figure out a way to be both a good mom and a good business owner. This wasn’t my “plan,” but I can’t think of anything else I’d rather do. Focus wvfocus.com


6 Things



and fry them.” A restoration company can keep employees safe and preserve important property by drying and decontaminating it.


Think about scale. “A smaller restoration company can handle a smaller-scale situation,” Contraguerro says. “When you get into multiple stories, large areas, or unique items like gym floors or chem labs, that really takes a company with specialized equipment.”



Quick recovery from disaster comes down to preparation— and that includes having a restoration company on call.


hen your company faces a disaster—whether it’s fire, flood, a tornado, or vandalism—the biggest cost is not the loss of supplies, equipment, or product, says Josh Contraguerro, vice president for marketing at Panhandle Cleaning and Restoration in Wheeling. It’s not the restoration company’s bill, either. “The biggest cost is shutting the door to your customers—turning them away to your competition.” Time is money, especially during disaster recovery. Panhandle Cleaning works from West Virginia, Ohio, Maryland, and beyond. With 150 employees, it's among the larger disaster recovery companies in the United States. It’s a one-stop shop, offering services from drying out and boarding up to insurance claims assessments and reconstruction, all with the aim of getting families and companies


Focus September/October 2015

back to normal as quickly as possible. Here, Contraguerro offers tips for recovery—and, at least as important, preparedness.



Use good sense. When an incident results in standing water, don’t walk through it if there’s still power to the building. “Even just a few inches of water may have electric current running through it,” Contraguerro says.


Some threats are unseen. Bacteria in a flooded stream, for example. “People will take their muddy files to an area that wasn’t flooded, to dry them out—but they just took the contamination with them,” Contraguerro says. Electronics exposed to floodwaters or fire extinguishers pose another hazard. “If they’re wet, you want to leave them off, not power them on


Designate someone. “We strongly recommend that companies have designated people on every shift who know the building floor plan and the emergency shut-offs for water, power, and gas, so they can take control of things that, in emergencies, can cause even more catastrophic damage,” he says. “If a water line breaks on the seventh floor and it runs for 45 minutes instead of five minutes, that’s a lot of damage that could easily have been stopped.”


Consider professional back-up. Identifying a restoration company in advance is part of disaster preparedness, Contraguerro says. “Spend a week and invite a different company each day to give you a presentation so you know what they offer.” Chosen before disaster strikes, a restoration company can schedule a walk-through with management to become familiar with your facility’s layout and your company’s unique needs. The payoff in an emergency is priceless. “When something happens at two in the morning, don’t leave it up to whoever has the prettiest phone book ad or pops up first on Google.”



Cultivate facility awareness. If your facility is surrounded by trees that could fall on the roof, don’t store important items in an attic. Keep space heaters away from curtains and don’t overload outlets. Let taps drip if pipes are prone to freezing on the coldest winter nights. If your building is in the path of runoff or near a stream that sometimes floods, don’t store documents near the basement floor. And have someone check the basement after a rain event, Contraguerro says. “You don’t want to realize later there was two inches of water and there’s mold everywhere.”

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EVERYBODY IN When it’s sink or swim, pooled shipping can be a small-business lifesaver.

“It allows you to leverage your buying power and receive the kind of rates a Fortune 500 company gets.” Jennifer Pauley, account executive, Worldwide Express


wning a small business has its rewards and challenges—and both usually involve money. There’s great freedom in making a living as one’s own boss, but initial startup costs and maintenance can bleed even the deepest pocketbooks dry. And the biggest challenges sometimes don’t look so big at first. An entrepreneur may have a great product and a list of clients just waiting to spend money, only to realize shipping costs will make the business uncompetitive. The cost of shipping could be passed on to the customer, but that can sometimes break a deal. With no way to move products, the business is paralyzed. This challenge is particularly difficult for artists and craftspeople, who often ship heavy or oddly shaped items. Whether by UPS or FedEx, shipping favors the rich. Large companies like Walmart or Amazon, which ship vast quantities of merchandise, get better overall rates than artisans who may send only one or two items a week. “It’s all volume-related,” says Jennifer Pauley, a Charleston-based account executive for Worldwide Express, a national freight shipping company.


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“Sometimes small businesses don’t have enough to take advantage of better rates.” One way to compete with the big guys is to use a pooled shipping service like Worldwide Express. Shipments from different sources can be combined, so small businesses can take advantage of reduced freight rates. “By doing that, it allows you to leverage your buying power and receive the kind of rates a Fortune 500 company gets,” Pauley says. The approach has become popular with small businesses and artists. Here’s why: While it may cost $75 to ship a single box over 150 pounds, shipping multiple boxes packed on a pallet costs only $130. “It adds up,” Pauley says. What’s more, a package might technically weigh only a few pounds, but shipping prices are determined by “dimensional weight,” an estimated weight calculated using the length, width, and height of a parcel. Without pooled shipping rates, transporting these oddly-shaped items might be too costly for some small businesses. And pooled shipping doesn’t just save businesses money on outgoing parcels. “A lot of a businesses’ shipping costs is on inbound,” Pauley says. When a business partners with Worldwide Express, it is assigned a freight number that can be used to negotiate better shipping prices on incoming items, too. “You don’t have to go it alone,” she says. “In fact, going it alone gets expensive. It can be scary, and there’s a lot of moving parts, but there are people out there who can help.”

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Embrace your store’s uniqueness.



Black Fri


Big boxes are uniformly designed to herd customers through a maze of aisles in order to maximize profits. Dan Carlisle, manager of Taylor Books, says it is important for small businesses to capitalize on their unique characters. With a wide selection of new and used books as well as a café and lounge, Taylor Books offers a relaxing atmosphere that welcomes customers. “It’s all about having that atmosphere,” Carlisle said.

Evaluate staffing needs leading up to the big day.

Small Business Saturday


Businesses offer tips to prepare for the other Thanksgiving shopping holiday, Small Business Saturday.


et the horde have Black Friday. Saturday still belongs to the little guy. Started by American Express in 2010, Small Business Saturday encourages people to support small, local businesses after splurging on discounted electronics from department stores the previous day. After receiving seldom-seen bipartisan support out of Washington, including a stamp of approval from President Barack Obama, Small Business Saturday became even more popular in 2012, attracting more than 70 million shoppers. Last year, an estimated $14.3 billion was spent locally on Small Business Saturday, according to national surveys. “A small business can get nationwide attention, advertising, and public relations support,” says Nicole Reyhle, a spokeswoman for Small Business Saturday. “It really kicks off the holiday shopping season.”


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If your business wants to get in on the Small Business Saturday action, we’ve collected some tips from West Virginia small businesses to get you started.

Promote the event through social media, email and word-of-mouth.

Every 140-character tweet or picture posted to Facebook is an advertisement. That’s why Sam Lowe, owner of Sullivan’s Records in Charleston, doesn’t spend money for traditional advertising—he finds it easier to communicate with customers directly. Lowe does offer a cautionary tip to small businesses that use Facebook to promote an event, however. “You have to pay now for anyone to see your post.” Posts on business pages only reach a small fraction of followers—Facebook now requires businesses to pay to boost their posts’ reach. “Otherwise no one will see it,” Lowe says. For more information on using social media to promote your business, check out page 73 in this issue.

As the holiday shopping season begins, some stores need additional staffing to accommodate the increase in sales. The same is doubly true for shopping holidays like Black Friday and Small Business Saturday. “Normally, we wouldn’t need extra staff, but it’s become such a big shopping weekend, we’ll probably have to call more workers in,” says Susie Agee, general manager of Glenn’s Sporting Goods in Huntington. When bringing in temporary workers, Agee says it’s important to thoroughly brief temporary workers. Let them know what they need to do and what they should expect. And be sure your temps know all about special deals so they can pass that information to customers.

Register with American Express for Small Business Saturday.

Traci Higginbotham, co-owner of Art Emporium in Charleston, said signing up with the credit card company automatically enters one’s store into its online database of participating stores. The website, shopsmall.com, is a hub of information for customers, with each participating store listed and searchable by name or category. “It’s like free advertising,” she says. Registering carries other perks, too. Businesses can get resources like tote bags, stickers and custom advertisements, says Small Business Saturday spokeswoman Reyhle. The website also has a list of event ideas that can be used to spark interest in the event. “Some stores have done scavenger hunts,” she says. “There are a lot of ways you can rally the community together.”


A WOMAN’S WORTH While it’s important to fight the gender wage gap, women also must invest in themselves.


omen often wrestle with the notion of self-worth. Is it tied to climbing the corporate ladder, keeping the perfect home for a family, or juggling everything in between? How we define success is as unique as each of us, but a common thread is that many women experience an effective discounting in more ways than one and may not even realize it. Perhaps a good first step is educating ourselves and developing goals. There’s been a lot of media focus lately on equal pay for women, who historically have earned less than their male counterparts. Women earn 84 percent of what men do each year on average, according to a Pew Research Center survey released in April 2015. The survey points to several factors contributing to the disparity, including scaled-back work hours and time off to care for children and other family members. The gap is not as pronounced in the younger generation of women, of whom 93 percent earn as much as the opposite sex. It is unclear whether the trend is changing or the numbers simply are representative of a generation having fewer children and waiting until later in life to start families. Along with the wage gap comes lower relative accumulated Social Security benefits. Nearly 30 percent of women ages 65 and older rely on Social Security as virtually their only source of income in retirement, according to a February 2015 report from the National Women’s Law Center. The average


Focus September/October 2015

Social Security benefit for women in this age group is $13,500 per year, some 23 percent less than the $17,600 annual benefit their male counterparts receive. There is a similar gap in Social Security Disability Insurance, with a $12,132 average annual benefit for disabled women versus a $15,252 benefit for men. The disparities don’t stop there. Results of the BlackRock Global Investor Pulse Survey released in March 2015 also point to a significant savings “gender gap.” Just 53 percent of U.S. women have begun saving for retirement, as opposed to 65 percent of men. Of those who have started saving, the $34,900 average balance for women is less than half of the $76,800 for men. For American women ages 55 to 64, the median accumulated retirement savings is $81,300, while the median for men of the same age group is $118,400. Women also assume less relative investment risk, with cash representing a greater proportion of their portfolios. But that’s not the only way women are failing to plan for the future: 57 percent of U.S. women have some sort of life insurance coverage, compared to 61 percent of men, according to recent studies by Life Insurance and Market Research Association, an association that provides insurance research. Among those who own individual life insurance, the average amount of coverage for women is $129,800, while the average for men is $187,100. On a more positive note, women trail men in another important financial marker: debt. Experian, a global


Michelle Wittekind is a vice president and regional manager at United Bank. She is a graduate of Marietta College and a member of the American Society of Pension Professionals and Actuaries.

information services group, points out that women carry 4 percent less average debt than men, utilize less available credit on average, and generally have slightly higher credit scores. Women also hold lower average mortgages and are less likely to make late mortgage payments. These statistics should be a call to awareness—if not action—for most women. It is imperative that we examine our individual situations and demand more of ourselves when it comes to setting and sticking to financial goals. What we can do is initiate changes to shape societal views of a woman’s worth. We must invest in our futures and ourselves. Education and technical skills are keys to greater earnings potential. We need to start saving for retirement as early as possible and consider paying for it the same way we would any other bill—not as a luxury, but a necessity. Although we cannot be replaced, we can take steps to protect and provide for our loved ones through adequate insurance coverage. We also can stay on track when it comes to managing debt responsibly. It’s hard to fathom a family relying on a small life insurance policy to fill the void from losing a wife and mother. It’s also unconscionable to leave others with the burden of long-term care in our retirement years, especially given our high life expectancy. Whatever our sense of self-worth, we know we cannot rely solely on Social Security to make ends meet. Let’s rely on the most capable people we know—ourselves.



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Kelly Collins POWER POINTS

West Virginia State Fair CEO talks fair planning, tourism, and more. WRITTEN BY MAIA BRUMAGE

YOU COULD CALL IT FATE. Kelly Collins, a native of Greenbrier County, fondly recalls attending numerous state fairs as a child. “I grew up showing livestock here and just being involved in the fair in one way or another,” she says. She started working for the State Fair of West Virginia in 2012 after graduating from West Virginia University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master's in integrated marketing communications. Collins was appointed CEO of the fair in March 2015, just the latest accomplishment in a long line of successes for the 28-year-old, who interned with the New York Jets and worked for a marketing firm. You could call it fate, but that would ignore all Collins' hard work. Now she tells us how she got here, what it’s been like, and her hopes for the state.

» I’m a local girl. I’ve been involved with the fair since I was very small. After college I started working for a marketing firm, and then moved over to the (State Fair of West Virginia) Entries Department as Agriculture Competitions Manager when the job became available about four years ago. And then this year we had the opening for CEO and I went through the interview process and was awarded the job.

» Coming from the tourism industry, I would love to see the tourism industry supported. Those of us who live in wild and wonderful West Virginia know how


Focus September/October 2015

lucky we are and that tourism is such an important part of our economic impact. I would also love to see a push to the service industry from an educational standpoint.

» I feel like people from outside the state

sometimes see the poverty-stricken side. My former boss, Marlene (Pierson-Jolliffe), was huge on that and started a canned food drive, where you bring food to the gate and we send all of it to local food banks. We want to make sure every kid in the state has something to eat, especially during the time of the year they’re not in school and might not get a hot lunch. That’s something that’s

always in the back of your mind, for those that are less fortunate to make sure they have something.

» I’m from West Virginia, so to have my dream job in my home state is a great feeling. I’ve been in the place where you’re getting ready to graduate in a couple weeks and you’re worried about what kind of job you’re going to get. I’d love to keep kids in state and to make sure there are jobs for them so that they know they can stay in the place they absolutely want to stay. I know a lot of people have to leave the state. I got really lucky to be able to work where I am right now.


» I kind of jumped in and started as CEO in the middle of fair planning. Pretty much as soon as the previous year is over we start looking toward the future, so it was a really busy time booking the concerts and making sure our ticketing vendors were set up as well as looking at our non-fair events. That’s an area that we really want to grow on the fairground, so it’s been some strategic planning into how to get that side of our business growing more.

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