By Mac Warner, Secretary of State
The Nov. 8 general election was a call to action: the people of West Virginia no longer wanted “business as usual.”
Rather, people voted for transparency, efficiency, frugal government, and continual focus on our economy. In short, they want government to produce an environment friendly to business and job creation. This article is a brief update to you, letting you know my office is already at work, making changes to improve the business climate in West Virginia
First, we have already assembled a staff of professional people who embrace change, change responsive to the customers we serve – county clerks, business owners, city clerks & recorders, entrepreneurs, and the public at large. Noting a desire from the public for expanded hours, we’re now open at 7:30 a.m. and won’t close until 5 p.m. – or until the last customer has finished in person, however late that may be.
Second, we’re moving everything we can to “online.” Given the budget crisis this State is facing, every aspect of government must modernize, become more efficient, and reduce costs wherever possible. Going paperless and working through the internet is not only faster, easier and cheaper, it’s working “at the speed of business.” We seek your input as to how to do things better, and we invite your suggestions. If you have a problem with any aspect of the Secretary of State’s office, I want to know about it.
Third, to affect this transformation and modernization, we are putting six Field Representatives into all regions of West Virginia. It is the duty of these Field Representatives to assist new businesses register and get on line, to work side-by-side with county clerks to improve our office’s assistance as they do their work within their respective counties, and to reach out to voters and candidates, assisting with registration, election questions, and associated issues. The Field Reps will serve as “mobile Secretary of State offices,” providing instant communication between citizens/businesses and our office as needed.
Fourth, working within budget, we will modernize our in-house operations, especially in regards to our interface with the public via our website. The website will undergo constant updating to become as user-friendly as possible, all the while providing state-of-the-art security. Our Information Technology Director, Dave Tackett, has already attended a “Tech Talk” in Washington, D.C. to stay abreast of the latest cyber-threats and updates. Maintaining election and business security is his utmost duty and focus. Mr. Tackett is also developing an updated and user-friendly website that provides the public with 24-hour access to the forms, filings and information they need to be successful.
Fifth, Matthew Gallagher in our office is now in charge of our “one-stop shop” to assist businesses and business owners. Matthew is working with our IT Department to construct a user-friendly website, and streamline the business registration and annual reporting process.
Finally, know that we’re listening. We’re listening to you, the citizens and business owners of West Virginia, we’re listening to the Governor and West Virginia Legislature, and we’re listening to the dedicated employees who have years of experience running our state government. Let me provide a quick example. While passing through the office last week, I stopped to chat with Jackie Grose and Kim Hill who work in our Business and Licensing Division. They mentioned inefficiencies they saw in our process, and asked if we could streamline our process by digitizing data, and moving information electronically versus “snail mail.” Within hours, our General Counsel Steve Connolly and I met with Delegate John O’Neal to discuss the associated Code change that would be needed to effect such a change, and we’re hopeful the Code can be corrected this session to allow this to happen. Should it occur, the State will save postage fees, the information will be transferred to the Circuit Clerks faster, and time will be saved by not having to re-package envelopes, transport hard copies to the Post Office, and deal with volumes of paper.
Please know that we value every customer who calls our Office. We will do the very best to assist every caller and respond to every inquiry in a timely, accurate and consistent manner. Hearing from you is the way we stay in touch with what is happening and what is needed to improve West Virginia. Hearing your ideas, implementing your suggestions, and listening to your concerns is how we make government more frugal, efficient, and responsive. Please, get in touch, stay in touch, and let’s work together to make the most of our wonderful State.