By Kyle Lovern
WILLIAMSON – U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D – W.Va.) visited Mingo County on Friday and made a stop at the Williamson Health and Wellness Center (WHWC) shortly before noon. The facility is located in the old Persinger Supply building on Third Avenue and has been newly renovated.
Before Sen. Manchin spoke, local business owner Tim McNamee welcomed the senator and others in attendance.
Afterwards, Jenny Hudson, of the Wellness Center, talked about “building a culture of health” in the community.
Hudson spoke about relocating to Williamson in 2008. She said there have been four different health initiatives in the community. Those are healthy eating, active living and recreation, entrepreneurism and clinical care. Hudson gave examples of each and pointed out several individuals who have helped with each of these enterprises.
She briefly talked about the community gardens in East End, the active participants of the Tug Valley Road Runners Club and many other health related issues.
Hudson was followed by Leasha Johnson, of the Mingo County Redevelopment Authority, who talked about the impact the facility had on the regional economy. Johnson also talked about some of the other economic development growth and plans for the region.
Manchin began by saying that he had many fond memories of visiting Mingo County over the years as Secretary of State, Governor and U.S. Senator.
The senator, whom is a native of Farmington, W.Va., a small coal mining community like Williamson, praised the work done by the Williamson Health and Wellness Center. Manchin mentioned the leadership and vision of Dr. Dino Beckett, who has been a driving force behind many of the programs that have been implemented. Beckett was out of town and was not able to attend Friday’s event.
Manchin mentioned the need for bi-partisan cooperation in the senate and how he works well with Republican Shelly Moore-Capito.
Manchin touched on several different topics, including coal as a global energy source. He also addressed the crowd about the need to fight the prescription drug epidemic in Appalachia. “We all need to fight this problem,” Manchin said.
The popular senator also talked about the need to improve college student loans and the way they are approved and distributed. He said college graduates should not have to face huge debt for trying to get an education.
Manchin also communicated about the need to diversify the economy in West Virginia so that the state does not have to completely depend on the slumping coal industry.
Manchin toured the local health center, which has received several thousands of dollars in federal grant money. In conclusion, Manchin stated, “how do we help you – help yourself.” He said the Wellness Center and related activities are one way this can come to fruition.
Before his visit to Williamson, Manchin first dropped by Mingo Central High School on the King Coal Highway.
After he left Williamson, Manchin was scheduled for stops in Logan and Madison.
Manchin is the senior United States Senator from West Virginia. He previously served as the Governor of West Virginia from 2005 to 2010 and the Secretary of State from 2001 to 2005.
He won the special election in November 2010 to fill the seat of Senator Robert Byrd, the longest serving U.S. Senator, who died in office. Manchin was elected to a full term in office in November 2012. Manchin became the state’s senior Senator when Jay Rockefeller retired in 2015.
(Kyle Lovern is the Editor for the Williamson Daily News. He can be contacted at [email protected] or at 304-235-4242, ext. 2277 or on Twitter @KyleLovern.)