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Bissett named president of West Virginia Manufacturers Association

CHARLESTON, W.Va. The West Virginia Manufacturers Association is going with a known commodity as its next president.

Bill Bissett

The WVMA Board of Directors has announced it has hired Bill Bissett to replace outgoing president Rebecca McPhail, who recently took another job.

Bissett, who will start on Jan. 2, most recently served as state director for U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito. Before that Bissett led the Huntington Area Chamber of Commerce, the Kentucky Coal Association and held a key position in the administration of Marshall University.

“Bill Bissett absolutely is ready to lead the WVMA into the future,” said WVMA Board President Barbara Buck in a news release. “There are not many people who could step in and run with the tremendous momentum that we have had under Rebecca’s leadership, but Bill is the right person for the job.”

Bissett said being the president of the WVMA is another meaningful opportunity in his career.

“Joining the WVMA is the perfect chance for me to dig in and work with the people who rescued our nation during the pandemic and are building our future – the manufacturers,” Bissett said. “This segment of our economy has boundless potential, and I look forward to helping manufacturers grow and prosper within the Mountain State.”

Capito said the WVMA has made a good choice.

“Bill Bissett has been a great state director and will do well as the new leader of the West Virginia Manufacturers Association,” Capito said. “I have known Bill prior to serving in Congress and always appreciate his insights and ability. I thank Bill for his leadership and service to the people of West Virginia and know he will do great things for the manufacturers.”

McPhail, who will join the American Chemistry Council as vice president of state affairs and political mobilization, praised the hire of her replacement.

“It has been an incredible honor to lead the WVMA, and I could not be happier to know that this organization will be in Bill’s capable hands,” McPhail said. “I look forward to continuing the long-standing partnership with the WVMA as I settle into my new role with the American Chemistry Council.”

Bissett was in the most recent class of the West Virginia Public Relations Hall of Fame.

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MetroNews This Morning 12-5-23

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Tuesday morning edition of MetroNews This Morning is a 15-minute podcast that gets the listener up-to-date on what’s happening across the state of West Virginia.

Anchor Carrie Hodousek has a new update, Kyle Wiggs checks sports including a big win for the WVU women’s basketball team and Hoppy Kercheval has his daily commentary.

Listen to MetroNews This Morning here. 

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WVU Faculty Senate gets transformation update and basics on new budget model

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia University Faculty Senate members received an academic transformation and an introduction to the new budget model to be used moving forward in a meeting Monday on the Morgantown campus.

Maryanne Reed

Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Maryanne Reed said the review of the WVU extension will be delayed until the merger with the Davis College of Agriculture is complete. Work also continues on the merger of the Reed College of Media and the College of Creative Arts. In January, new names and leadership will be made public.

In the next two weeks, Reed said they’ll release details about the transformation of academic support units and libraries.

“We have no intentions of doing a full-scale program review like we did this year,” Reed said. “There might be some additional cuts, but they will be happening in a more targeted way and not through the program review process.”

Associate Provost for Curriculum and Assessment at West Virginia University, Dr. Louis Slimak, has been in ongoing meetings with the leadership on campuses in Beckley and Keyser. Reed explained that the expected reforms will be refinements to improve the student experience.

Mark Gavin

“The process for the regionals will largely be focused on making program improvements that increase student success and strengthen academic rigor and quality,” Reed said.

WVU Associate Provost Mark Gavin said the new budget process decentralizes revenue collection and expenses and will be in place next year. Under the new model, tuition revenue is now allocated 80 percent to the student’s college of instruction and 20 percent to the college where the major is. Expenses are also pushed out to each college.

Additionally, the primary revenue-generating units must support the cost of campus operations. It also establishes a “subvention pool” that will be used to maintain operations that lose money or aspects of the university that do not collect revenue.

“There are some things that are not going to operate at a profit all of the time, and we have to have a way to carry the cost even where we’ve used the resources as best as possible,” Gavin said.

The budget also allows for cost pools from the colleges that will fund the operations of the university as well as provide resources for special projects.

“It would allow leadership to make targeted investments to stand up an initiative for a couple of years while it gets funding to secure sustainability,” Gavin said. “But this is what allows leadership to make directional moves.”

Reed told senate members that performance aspects of the new budget model will be available to staff and faculty. The information will be available to recognize and avert financial difficulties before they become similar to the most recent budget crisis.

“We can make changes in real time in response to trends, so we don’t have to make wholesale changes the way we did this year, which we knew was so disruptive,” Reed said. “The idea is we want to stay on top of trends.”

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The political left’s uphill battle in West Virginia

Joe Manchin’s decision not to run for re-election to the United States Senate has cleared the way for other Democrats to get in the race. One of the entries is Zach Shrewsbury,* a Marine Corps veteran who leans to the far left of the political spectrum.

When I asked him on Talkline Monday if he is a socialist, he said, “Sure, that’s perfectly fine with me.” Frankly, I appreciate Shrewsbury’s candor. At least you know where he stands. Many of his positions align with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who describes himself as a democratic socialist.

Sanders energized the left wing of Democratic Party in West Virginia and across the country in 2016. He captured the West Virginia Democratic Presidential Primary with 51 percent of the vote, compared with just 36 percent for Hillary Clinton.

However, six of the eight Democratic Super Delegates to the national convention cast their lot with Clinton instead of Sanders, and that angered those liberal Democrats who felt the state party was beholden to the status quo.

However, the left has not been able to recreate the Sanders-level enthusiasm for state candidates. Here are a few examples:

–In the 2020 U.S. Senate race, liberal Democrat Paula Jean Swearengin received only 27 percent of the vote, while Republican Shelley Moore Capito claimed 70 percent.

–The 2020 2nd District Congressional race saw liberal Democrat Cathy Kunkel get 37 percent, compared with Republican incumbent Alex Mooney’s 63 percent.

–In the race for that 2nd District seat in 2022, liberal Democrat Barry Wendell received 34 percent, while Mooney collected 63 percent.

–Liberal Democrat Steven Smith ran an aggressive grassroots campaign for Governor with significant small dollar contributions in 2020. He came close to Ben Salango, who won the nomination with 39 percent of the vote. Smith finished second at 34 percent in a five-way race.

So, why can’t liberal Democrats win… or even get close?

The biggest reason is that there are not enough voters who identify with the positions of the far left. Pew Research from this year found that just 16 percent of West Virginia adults say they are liberal, while 47 percent say they are conservative, and 30 percent say they are moderate.

Candidates who self-identify as liberal, or even socialist in the case of Shrewsbury, often start out with a passionate group of supporters who are committed to the positions of the left. However, the history of recent elections demonstrates it is hard for these candidates to expand their base. They end up stuck in the 30 percent range.

That leaves the field open for another, more moderate Democrat, to get in the race. One of the names being floated is Wheeling Mayor Glenn Elliott. His second term ends in June 2024, and he is prohibited from running for another term.

Elliott told me people have encouraged him to run. He has made no final decision, but said he is giving it “full consideration.”

Maybe others are thinking about getting in the race as well, although any candidate serious about running knows it will be an uphill battle.

Back to Shrewsbury. An introductory piece on his campaign website reads, “West Virginians always deserved better than they got in Joe Manchin.” Clearly there is a far left wing of the Democratic Party in West Virginia that believes that and has never been happy with Manchin’s more moderate positions.

But those same voters must acknowledge that Manchin was able to do something that no far left candidate has been able to do in the state in recent elections—win a race.

*(Editor’s note: An earlier version spelled Zach Shrewsbury’s name incorrectly.)


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Search continues on one-year anniversary in case of missing Wood County woman

PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — Monday, Dec. 4 marks the one-year anniversary since the disappearance of Wood County woman Gretchen Fleming.

Matthew Board

Fleming, a native of Vienna, was last seen alive leaving the My Way Lounge & Restaurant on Juliana Street in downtown Parkersburg during the early morning hours of Dec. 4, 2022. She was reported missing a week after that once family members said they could not find her.

There have been mass search efforts for Fleming over the course of this year. Parkersburg Police Chief Matthew Board said they are not letting up in their search for Fleming.

“This is not a circumstance where it’s been put on a shelf or forgotten about,” Chief Board said. “It’s being actively pursued as it was from the beginning.”

Fleming recently moved back to the area to live with her grandparents from North Carolina. She was 27 at the time of her disappearance. Fleming will turn 29 on Christmas Eve this year.

Board spoke to the anniversary Monday. He offered a reminder to people in the community and those that are concerned with finding Fleming that the Parkersburg Police Department and detectives in the case are continuing to let the evidence that they have collected move them forward. Board said they have been in contact with multiple other law enforcement agencies ever since last December.

“A change in the strategy at this point would be acting on nothing more than impulse or emotion to try and basically shove a square peg into a round hole,” said the chief.

Chief Board said they remain hopeful in the case. Investigators remain in contact with the family at least a few times each week.

“They’re a tremendous family and we are keeping that line of communication open. They are a family in need and we recognize that.” Board said.

“The bottom line is we have to focus on the integrity of the case,” said Board.

A reward of at least $100,000 is being offered to anyone who provides information about the case that leads to an arrest. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Parkersburg Police Department at 304-424-8444 or through their Facebook page.

“I would really like to see this weigh on someone’s heart if they feel like they have information that we need to know,” Board said.

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Police search for armed robbery suspect out of Huntington

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — The Huntington Police Department is asking for help from the public in identifying and locating a suspect wanted for armed robbery.

Police said the armed robbery took place at around 9 a.m. Monday at the Annie’s gambling parlor located at 804 Washington Avenue in Huntington.

The suspect, an unknown white male, went into the parlor, produced a firearm and demanded money. Police said he fled the scene with an undisclosed amount of cash. He was last seen on foot heading South on W. 8th Street.

Anyone with information pertaining to the incident is asked to call the Huntington Police Department’s Criminal Investigation Bureau at 304-696-4470, Ext. 1083. People can also call 911 or the Police Department’s Anonymous Tip Line at 304-696-4444.

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Man pleads no contest in murder case involving girlfriend’s young son

FAIRMONT, W.Va. — A suspect connected to a 2021 murder case involving his girlfriend’s 4-year-old son has entered a plea agreement.

During his trial Monday, Walter Richardson, 36, pleaded no contest. With that plea, the charge of child abuse by a parent or guardian resulting in death was dismissed, however, Richardson still faces life in prison for the first-degree murder charge.

Court documents state that on March 4, 2021, Richardson took the child to the hospital for the abuse in Fairmont. His charges were then upgraded to first-degree murder and child abuse resulting in death after the child died on March 8, 2021.

Richardson requested there to be no jury in his trial and that was granted by the judge. It’s expected that Judge David Janes will look at evidence in the case on Tuesday to determine whether Richardson’s life sentence will be with or without mercy.

The child’s mother, Ashlee Allen, was sentenced back in January for charges of child neglect with injury, gross child neglect creating risk of injury or death, and gross child neglect resulting in death. Allen knew the abuse by Richardson was taking place but did not report it.

Two former CPS workers, who also failed to report abuse in the case, pleaded no contest back in January 2022. Breeana Bizub and Tabetha Phillips-Friend agreeing to pay restitution.

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A Movement of Unity, Determination, and Inclusivity

Situated in the heart of West Virginia, there exists a profound force that extends beyond the conventional realms of sports, cultivating a sense of unity and belonging. Highlighted in the latest episode of West Virginia Enriched, Special Olympics West Virginia stands as a remarkable initiative, offering a compelling testament to the enduring power of determination, unity, and unwavering support.

Special Olympics West Virginia encapsulates the true spirit of sportsmanship, emphasizing that it is more than the pursuit of medals; it revolves around teamwork, shared practices, and collective competition. The immeasurable joy and fulfillment derived from these shared experiences empower athletes, fostering confidence and self-worth through their joint pursuit of victory.

The transformative journey of Peggie Molnar, an individual diagnosed with Down syndrome, serves as a poignant example within the realm of Special Olympics West Virginia. Her story reflects the principles of inclusivity and self-belief, propelling her to advocate on Capitol Hill and pursue higher education. Programs like West Virginia Country Roses, supported by Huntington, provide avenues for individuals with disabilities to live independently and pursue their aspirations.

The impact of Special Olympics West Virginia extends beyond the athletes themselves, resonating with volunteers and supporters who, touched by the unwavering determination of these extraordinary individuals, find profound fulfillment in their involvement. The inclusive approach embraced by Special Olympics West Virginia creates an environment where each person plays a crucial role.

West Virginia Enriched, in collaboration with Huntington, extends an invitation to witness the transformative power of Special Olympics West Virginia. Take a few moments to be inspired and become part of a collective effort to make a meaningful difference. It’s more than just a story; it’s a movement of hope, inclusivity, and triumph, underscoring the belief that every individual deserves an opportunity to shine.

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WVU runs away from No. 25 Penn State, 83-65

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — If all goes well in Mark Kellogg’s first season as WVU head coach, Monday’s 83-65 win over Penn State will be a bullet point but not the headline in their season. The Mountaineers improved to 8-0 with a comprehensive victory over the No. 25 Lady Lions.

“I told them in the locker room that I hope this isn’t the win we talk about late in the year. I hope it is not the only Top 25 win that we have,” Kellogg said. “I hope there’s a lot more coming down the line but this is certainly something to build off of just because of the quality of Penn State and the operation they have.

“I thought our effort and our energy was phenomenal from the jump. I had seen spurts of that throughout the season, but we just hadn’t put it all together.”

“We knew we could do it,” WVU sophomore guard Jordan Harrison said. “It was just getting an opportunity to. It is definitely a confidence booster.”

The Mountaineers took a lead they would not relinquish with a 12-0 run in the closing minutes of the first half. WVU led 41-31 at halftime and they extended that cushion to 16 points midway through the third quarter.

Penn State (7-2) crept within 7 points a minute into the fourth quarter by opening the frame with back-to-back baskets. However, the Mountaineers went on a 14-4 burst and they held a double-digit advantage the rest of the way.

With a consistent pressure defense, the Mountaineers collected 18 steals and forced 26 PSU turnovers which the Mountaineers converted into 31 points.

“To turn them over 26 times — we held their two leading scorers to eight combined points. One of them didn’t score so it was a great job by everybody on the defensive end,” Kellogg said.

“I didn’t know if we could turn Penn State over like we had been turning some of the other teams over. But we wanted to stay with it.”

Five Mountaineers scored in double digits. JJ Quinerly led the way with 22 points. Kyah Watson added 15 points and she pulled down a team-best 8 rebounds. Harrison filled up the stat sheet with 14 points, 9 assists, 6 steals and 4 rebounds. Lauren Fields (12) and Tavy Diggs (10) also scored in double figures.

“This is game eight for us. That is so early in a tenure. But we have some veteran kids that have some big wins and played in big moments.”

The Mountaineers have three home games remaining in their non-conference schedule prior to a holiday break. WVU will host Delaware State, Wright State and Niagara prior to the start of Big 12 play.

“If we want to be great, we have to be consistent,” Kellogg said. “We have to prepare the same way, which we will do as coaches.”

“We made a goal at the beginning of the season to be undefeated in non-conference,” Fields said. “We can’t just be looking for Christmas break. We’ve got to come out and finish those three games undefeated.”

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Stratford, Noonan squarely focused on present ahead of Friday’s national semifinal

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — When No. 5 West Virginia takes on No. 9 Clemson in a national semifinal as part of the College Cup at 6 p.m. Friday, there will be no mistaking which men’s soccer program has the richer tradition.

The Mountaineers (17-2-4) have the better seed, but are in the Final Four for a first time. The Tigers (13-3-5) are making their 10th College Cup appearance, and their last was in one of the program’s three National Championship seasons in 2021.

“Clemson are ahead of us as far as its tradition and the capacity to create the platform where they have sustained their success,” fourth-year WVU head coach Dan Stratford said. “We’re an aspiring program that wants to get to ten College Cups and have that type of tradition here as well.“

West Virginia’s past doesn’t measure up to the Tigers, but the Mountaineers’ resume this season speaks for itself.

WVU has already set a single season program record for victories and navigated a quality non-league and Sun Belt Conference schedule to finish unbeaten in 12 home matches and 8-2-1 in all others. Now it has the chance to showcase the program on a national stage in a match that will air on ESPNU inside Lynn Family Stadium.

Clemson Coach Mike Noonan during the second half of action, round of 32 NCAA Men’s Soccer Championships with Charlotte, at Historic Riggs Field in Clemson, S.C. Sunday, November 19, 2023. Clemson won 3-0 and advance to the sweet 16.

“Any team that’s only lost twice in that conference says a lot,” Clemson head coach Mike Noonan said. “They’ve beaten Marshall and had great rivalries with them. They’re not going to be phased by much. They’ve played in front of big crowds. It’s a senior team, so they have the pieces in place as well. We expect a great game.”

The Mountaineers will play their first Final Four match away from home for the first time this postseason. 

To reach this stage, West Virginia capitalized on a first-round bye, before defeating Louisville (1-0), Vermont (2-1) and Loyola Marymount (3-1). 

Clemson, unbeaten over its last 12 matches, has yet to allow a goal in the NCAA Tournament after securing an Atlantic Coast Conference Championship. The Tigers opened their postseason with a 3-0 win over Charlotte and have since blanked New Hampshire on the road 1-0 and eliminated Stanford, 2-0.

“We’re still working through the process of determining where exactly their strengths and weaknesses are and what exactly our plan will be, but first impressions are they’re a very well-rounded side,” Stratford said. “At this stage, you’re going to have to play the rest of the best in the country and Clemson certainly looks like that.”

Two of the top offenses in college soccer will be on display during the first semifinal in Louisville. 

Clemson leads the country with 57 goals over its 21 matches, while West Virginia’s 47 goals are No. 5 among 202 Division 1 programs.

The Mountaineers possess two of the more productive point scorers throughout college soccer in forwards Marcus Caldeira and Yutaro Tsukada.

Both players have scored 12 goals and the duo has combined for 12 assists, nine of which have come from Tsukada.

That, more than previous College Cup appearances, is what’s on Noonan’s mind.

“We don’t really focus on the opponent when it comes to how many times they’ve been there or not been there. We’re focused on the opponent for the quality of team that they are,” Noonan said. “The same for ourselves. At the end of the day, what I tell the players is there’s 22 players, a ball and a referee. No matter where you’re playing, that’s going to consist in the game. We have to play well and take our moments and prevent them from taking theirs.”

— — — — —

Mountaineer midfielder Luke McCormick was forced to leave last Saturday’s win over Loyola Marymount early in the second half with an ankle injury.

A fifth-year native of Derby, England, McCormick accounted for one of the Mountaineers’ two first-half goals against the Lions to give him seven for the season. 

He’s played in 22 of the team’s 23 matches and started 19. It remains to be seen if either of those numbers increases Friday against Clemson, though Stratford spoke in a somewhat optimistic manner regarding McCormick’s chances of giving it a go.

“He was far more mobile today. X-ray clean and MRI came back relatively clean. It’s a bit of an ankle sprain,” Stratford said. “He’s working overtime to make sure we’re reducing swelling and pain. Today was a more encouraging sign as far as the mobility and capacity. Definitely day to day at this point, hard to say whether it’s 50/50 or swinging either way right now, but I know he was in good spirits today and a little more encouraged after what was obviously a challenging second half and that aspect of the weekend. 

“A player that’s been with the program longer than I have and one of the last two players that I inherited from the 2019 group and so influential to this group and so influential with his play, anytime you see him walk back toward the bench on crutches and in a boot, it’s certainly concerning.”

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