Local candidates answer questions submitted by community at public forum

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(Photo by Sarah Richardson)
At Meet the Candidates forum: Greenbrier County Sheriff Bruce Sloan (left), Moderator Mike Kidd, Greenbrier County Commission candidate Tammy Shifflett Tincher, and Greenbrier County Commissioner Woody Hanna.

On Wednesday, Apr. 11, the Greater Greenbrier Chamber of Commerce hosted a Meet the Candidates Forum at Greenbrier Valley Theatre, for candidates running for the Greenbrier County Commission and Greenbrier County Sheriff.

The forum allows for the candidates to answer questions submitted by the public either online or right before the event. Moderator Mike Kidd says the forum, “helps voters make an informed decision.”

In attendance was Bruce Sloan, current sheriff of Greenbrier County, Tammy Shifflett Tincher, candidate running for Greenbrier County Commission, and Woody Hanna, current Greenbrier County Commissioner. Mark Robinson, a candidate running for Greenbrier County Sheriff, declined an invitation to participate in the event.

Participants were allotted three minutes for an introductory statement, 90 seconds to answer each question, and two minutes for a closing statement. Note: candidate answers are not the full and complete reply to each question, but a summary of their answer.

Commissioner Hanna began opening statements by reviewing his past six years served as a county commissioner, as well as his history as a schoolteacher, which he was for 37 years. He said, “I am very proud to serve Greenbrier County, Greenbrier County is very special to me. I’ve never lived anywhere else and I don’t want to live anywhere else.” He believes, “The commission we have today is very supportive of each other. We don’t always agree, but we disagree for the right reasons. We make decisions based on what we think is best for Greenbrier County and its citizens.”

Candidate Tincher followed with her opening statement, saying she has lived in Greenbrier County for 18 years now. She has previously served as director of the North House Museum and now resides in Rainelle. She is making it a priority to represent the west end, saying, “I feel like it was time for me to try to help the western end of the county, and all of Greenbrier County. That is my purpose for running.”

Sheriff Sloan , a resident of Greenbrier County for 31 years, retired from the West Virginia State Police in 2010 and became the director of security at The Greenbrier before becoming Chief Deputy under Jan Cahill in 2013, where he was for four years. “We’ve accomplished a lot in the sheriff’s department,” he said. In January 2016, the county commission appointment him interim sheriff. “I have 30 years experience in law enforcement and I’ve enjoyed it. I feel like it’s my calling.”

The first question presented to the candidates was: What challenges do you see facing our communities?

Sheriff Sloan: “Challenges that are probably no different than what a lot of communities face in America today, the drug epidemic is probably the biggest problem we are facing simply because it affects so many different areas of life and society.”

Candidate Tincher: “I agree with Sheriff Sloan. The drug situation in the county and across the state and country is a major issue, and has had a lot of effect on many issues related to our economy, our government, and our family lifestyle.” “Also, of course, our economic situation and our livelihood. The western end of the county, along with much of the rest of the county, is affected by low employment and lack of business in the area. I think it’s all intertwined.”

Commissioner Hanna: “Certainly I agree with the sheriff and my opponent in regards to drugs being the number one problem, I’ll drop down to number two, which is infrastructure, which is probably the second most important thing that’s important to Greenbrier County. We are working on the Sam Black water project to bring water to Sam Black Church, and another project we want to get started on right away is connecting the water systems of White Sulphur Springs and Lewisburg.” “If we have the supplies connected, we can flow water both ways, and have secure water for Ronceverte, Lewisburg, White Sulphur Springs, Frankford, and Renick.”

Question two was: If you were king for a day, what is the one thing you would change?

Candidate Tincher: “The one thing I would probably try to do is make sure and try to have every opportunity available for an individual who doesn’t have a job, to make sure they get a job.”

Commissioner Hanna: “I don’t know that I would change anything. I think we’ve got a good working relationship, we’ve got a lot of good projects going on, we got good working relationships within the courthouse.”

Sheriff Sloan: “The Greenbrier County Sheriff’s Department is not the largest sheriff’s department in the state, or the smallest. But it’s my goal to make it the best sheriff’s department in the state.”

Question three was: What would you do as County Commissioner to further support activities of arts and culture in Greenbrier County?

Commissioner Hanna: “During the five years that we have set the amount of money to be spent out of the Arts and Rec. fund, we have maintained $450,000 in that fund each year.” “We have continued to fund at the level that’s been set in the past, which I think is the most that has ever been appropriated. We have also started a recreational facility called the Sportsplex. We’ve bought 143 acres on Harper Road, and we’re going to develop that into a place that you’ll be proud of. A place that folks will want to come and play ball. It will also be a park that the citizens can use.”

Candidate Tincher: “Having been director of the North House Museum and having been involved in fundraising and different activities that support the arts, I served on the Board of Directors at Carnegie Hall for many years, one of the greatest things that I think our county is made up of is all of our arts and culture organizations. Our history is one of the greatest things that makes up this county.” “Our continued funding and support of all of those entities, large entities down to small entities, over the time period that I’ve been at the museum until now, so many organizations have been created that are assets to our community. Most definitely I would want to make sure that the continued support of those organizations is provided, so we don’t lose that.”

Question four was: What is your vision for the future of Greenbrier County, and how can the Greenbrier County Commission help to bring this about?

Candidate Tincher: “Again, I go back to the wide array of all of the things that our county has available. Whether it be arts and culture or agriculture, whether it be the scenic beauty and all of our outdoor activities that we have available to us, to me, that is the greatest thing that our area has. I want to make sure that each one of those items are provided and protected so we can continue to prosper and make our county something impressive throughout the state and the country.”

Commissioner Hanna: “Of course, we want to complete the Sportsplex and have it available for both locals and visitors. This will be a tourism attraction for the county. We want to continue to develop water systems, continue the infrastructure, complete the system to Sam Black, we want to provide good jobs. We just sponsored a grant to secure funding to put an entrance to the West Virginia Great Barrel Company, which is going to provide over 100 jobs here in Greenbrier County. Their sister company in Monroe Company is already providing several jobs. We are going to assist these companies and of course, we want to bring companies in that provide good jobs and also maintain the atmosphere and cleanliness of this county.”

Question five: What is your opinion of the Sportsplex?

Candidate Tincher: “I agree that the opportunity to have a Sportsplex in the county is great, but I have quite a few concerns. I think that a lot of the county may be misled that this is going to be something that is able to be utilized 100 percent by the county 100 percent of the time, and I’m not sure that’s the case. Just for the fact it would be utilized by travel teams and different events. I’m concerned about the location. Concerned about the proposal of the length of time that it will take. I don’t disagree that we need to have something different to bring people into our county, and that’s definitely something people all the time for, sports and athletic events.”

Commissioner Hanna, responding to Candidate Tincher’s concerns: “First of all, the location came about because the Boone family had appropriated 40 acres and given it to the county. The county then purchased another 103 acres. So the location was dictated by this land gift to the county. I’ve had concerned raised about the road down to that facility, all I have to say is if you have concerns about roads, come and go home with me and we’ll drive around Friar’s Hill and I’ll show you concerns about roads. That road will be improved as needed, we’ve already talked to the state and they’ve done some improvements already, and as traffic increases they will improve it more. We do not plan to rob any of the other organizations, we intend to continue to fund all the organizations we have in the past, and simply put money toward the Sportsplex as it’s available.”

Question six: What do you think is the most important skill about being sheriff?

Sheriff Sloan: “The most important skill is probably the ability to relate to people, listen to their concerns, just the ability to improvise and come up with solutions to the problems that they have.”

Question seven: Will you continue to support budgeted financing for the Greenbrier Humane Society to operate the animal shelter?

Commissioner Hanna: “Yes. I was on the commission when we broke ground for the new animal shelter, I was the commissioner that went to the Board of Education and secured ground for that shelter, and have been fully committed to continuing the funding for the shelter ever since.”

Candidate Tincher: “Yes. I do feel like it is a very important asset to our county. I understand that the biggest purpose is that we do provide that funding to make sure that organization can provide for the needs of the shelter.” “I am an animal person, I have a dog from the animal shelter, and I fully agree with what we need to do to provide management for that.”

Questions eight: Lewisburg has added LGBT protection to the Do Not Discriminate Ordinance, do you support this, and would you support this kind of ordinance county-wide?

Candidate Tincher: “I really do not have a position at this time for that question. It is something that I was not a resident of Lewisburg when that issue arose. In my opinion, each individual has their own individual rights, so for me, as far as any legalities or regulations, it is really not something that I’ve thought that far ahead about.”

Commissioner Hanna: “I have been a teacher for 37 years, and I have always made it my goal to treat everyone the same, equal, fair, and as commissioner I would do the same.”

Question nine: “Sheriff Sloan, if reelected, what would your priorities be for your upcoming term?

Sheriff Sloan: “My priorities would be, again, to continue to improve on the sheriff’s department and the advancement of personnel with training and qualifications. Concentrate on the opioid epidemic and the drug issues that we have in the county, and just try to improve the safety of the community and the county.”

Question ten: Do you feel like you have the tools that you need to continue progress?

Sheriff Sloan: “I really do. We are very fortunate in Greenbrier County that the county commission has funded the sheriff’s department adequately. We have the finances to do the things that we need to.”

Question eleven: Would or should or can the Greenbrier County Commission impose some type of property tax on the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline’s equipment while it is here in Greenbrier County?

Commissioner Hanna: “That would be up to the Assessor’s office. I do know that they have to secure a building permit, based on the amount of investment they are putting in the ground. But as far as equipment I think it depends on how long it’s here, but that’s a question for the Assessor.”

Candidate Tincher: “I really have no idea the timeframe for the construction that will occur, how long it will be, unfortunately, I’m not that familiar with the tax laws and requirements for the county or the state. If it is something allowable, I believe it could be an income source for the county, but then again, we may be getting into an issue of if you’re taxing equipment for MVP, you have to tax equipment for other businesses. So I’m not certain that would be kosher.”

Question twelve: What is your opinion of the proposed (and now apparently imminent) Mountain Valley Pipeline that stretches across Greenbrier County and into other counties?

Candidate Tincher: “I personally am neither for nor against, I know that may be a little wishy-washy, but I feel like infrastructure is something that is needed. This may not be the most perfect infrastructure, but the opportunity for future taxes and income from this project may be beneficial to our county and state. In all respects, I certainly think that every opportunity needs to be taken in order to respect our nature and our county, our properties, and I hope that is a top priority for both the state and the entities that are involved in the construction.”

Commissioner Hanna: “I’m opposed to the pipeline. It’s different than most people’s opposition to pipelines. For years, we have shipped the pulp wood out of West Virginia to other places and they make paper and add value to our wood. We ship the coal out of our state, for years, and other folks make money and created jobs with that coal. We spend most of our tax dollars on education and what do we do? Our children have to leave the state to get a good paying job. We have exported all of our resources, including our children, and we’re going to export our gas now. My idea is I’m against pipelines. Make those companies come here, provide jobs, and increase the value of that product.”

Question thirteen: What effect, if any, do you see the Bayer-Monsanto merger having on area farms and, if negative, what can be done to mitigate those effects?

Commissioner Hanna: “Any time that these large companies combine, they have more control. They also make their products pricy, they are able to control the patents on them and so forth. That’s probably more of a concern in crop production county like Indiana, Illinois, Ohio even, than in mostly pasture land like we have here in Greenbrier County.”

Candidate Tincher: “Unfortunately, I am not familiar with this issue.”

After answering the submitted questions, each candidate had to opportunity to present a closing statement.

Sheriff Sloan ended the forum stating, “I enjoy being sheriff of Greenbrier County, I enjoyed being Chief Deputy of the sheriff’s department, and I enjoyed my career in the state police. It’s something I have wanted to do since I was a youth, and I enjoy helping people and law enforcement was a way I saw to do that. I’ve been very fortunate and very blessed, I think I’ve done a good job throughout my career and want to continue to do that. I think it’s important for a community, a county, to have confidence in their sheriff’s department and law enforcement, and I want the citizens of Greenbrier County to have that confidence in their law enforcement.”

Candidate Tincher stated, “It’s a pleasure to have the opportunity to run for county commission. I’m not a politician, and I’m really just wanting to represent the people and to be positive and make sure that the right direction and right decisions are made for our county and its residents.”

Commissioner Hanna ended the forum with his statement, “I think my 37 years as a teacher has taught me how to work with people, how to be patient, and I think I’m approachable. I think any member of the public that has contacted me about their concerns has found me very approachable, I try to be honest and fair, and I pledge to continue that if you decide to reelect me as your commissioner.”

Another Meet the Candidates forum will be held at Greenbrier Valley Theatre on Wednesday, April 18, at 5:30 p.m. with candidates for both the State Senate and House of Delegates. The event is open to the public.