By Kyle Lovern
WILLIAMSON – Although there were many negative comments on social media about her visit to southern West Virginia, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton came to Mingo County on Monday, one of the most economically depressed areas in the country.
Clinton was at the Williamson Health and Wellness Center, opting for a smaller venue to meet voters, instead of a larger location like the Williamson Fieldhouse. Williamson was dubbed the “Heart of the Billion Dollar Coal Industry” in the 1960s and coal has been the lifeblood for the region for years.
Clinton had received critical remarks for her recent comments about the coal industry. There was a large contingent on the street chanting and protesting the presidential candidate’s visit to coal country.
The coal mining industry has struggled the last eight years and thousands of coal miners have lost their jobs due to the closing of mine operations. This has had a domino effect on the economy. More layoffs with the local railroad, mine supply and mine machine companies, retail merchants and even the education system due to loss of coal severance tax money.
Clinton dubbed her tour “Breaking Down Barriers” and addressed the lack of jobs and the struggling economy during her visit. The 2-day sweep through Appalachia was a driving tour through Kentucky and West Virginia, which culminates on Tuesday May 3 in the Southeastern Ohio border region with a speech on jobs and the economy.
Clinton said, “I want you to keep imagining a tomorrow where instead of building walls, we are breaking down barriers. We are making it more likely that Americans will be part of a prosperous, inclusive, decent society.”
On this tour, Clinton met with voters, heard their stories, and discussed how she proposed she will fight to raise incomes and expand opportunities for them and their families as president.
U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) introduced Clinton, the former Secretary of State, as she sat down at the roundtable with 12 local individuals representing various organizations.
Manchin, the former governor of the Mountain State, talked about how Clinton and she husband, former president Bill Clinton, were longtime friends.
“West Virginia has a friend in Hillary Clinton,” Manchin stressed. He said he has nothing against Bernie Sanders, but he endorses Clinton for the democratic nomination and says she will be best for W.Va.
“We trust each other,” Manchin said of Clinton.
Several topics were brought up during the discussion including the coal industry, health care, drug addiction, internet service in W.Va. and trying to diversify the economy.
Dr. Dino Beckett, CEO of the Williamson Health and Wellness Center (WHWC), gave a quick rundown of the community and some of the things his organization has been doing. “We wanted to showcase a lot of the good things going on in Mingo County.
Before she came to the first floor for the roundtable discussion, Clinton toured the second floor clinic and one of the examination rooms. She quickly met some of Beckett’s staff and was then ushered downstairs.
Beckett told Clinton that the WHWC has an operating budget of $5 million and has provided 40 new jobs. He said this was part of an effort to revitalize downtown Williamson.
Clinton is the first presidential candidate to visit Williamson, an old town dependent on the railroad and coal industries, since John F. Kennedy campaigned in the Mingo and Logan Counties back in 1960.
(Editor’s Note: The Williamson Daily News will have more stories this week on Clinton’s visit and some of the discussions she had with local individuals in the private, closed-door meeting held in Williamson. The WDN was the only local media that covered the event from inside the venue.)
(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.)