Julia Roberts Goad
The word ‘visionary’ is not used often. Yet it is a word heard over and again at a ceremony dedicating the King Coal Highway to a Mingo County native son: Mike Whitt.
The ceremony took place on a mountain, close to one of the many projects Whitt made possible during his tenure as executive director of the Mingo County Redevelopment Authority, Mingo Central High School.
Dignitaries traveled from across the state and Washington D.C. to honor Whitt and to pay their respect to his widow, Regina, his children and grandchild.
“All men dream,” Mingo County Commission John Mark Hubbard said. “But not all men’s dreams are equal. Mike Whitt was a facilitator; he could create a vision and then follow through. He saw what should be and could be, what was attainable for this county. He was never shy about taking risks.”
Representatives from the offices of Governor Earl Ray Tomblin, Senator Jay Rockefeller and Congressman Nick Joe Rahall brought regards from those men.
“Mike was a frequent visitor to my office,” Sen. Rockefeller said. “When we didn’t see eye-to-eye, he called me out on it. In that way, he gained my respect.”
“Mike would not have liked this ceremony,” Steve Kominar, current Executive Director of MCRA said. “But it is proof of how well respected he was, he brought people together.”
Congressman Nick Joe Rahall’s remarks echoed the sentiment that Whitt never wanted attention or sought credit.
“I can just hear him now,” Rahall’s letter said. “‘I’m telling you congressman, if we give someone else the name recognition, we can get them to donate enough additional labor, equipment and materials to build three more miles of highway.’”
Senator Joe Manchin spoke about Whitt’s work ethic.
“If I had ten Mike Whitts in Washington, think what this country would be like,” Sen. Manchin said. “Mike didn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. I would tell him, ‘Mike, I have 54 other counties to think about.’ He just said, ‘Yea, but they are not working as hard as we are.’”
“I knew as governor I had to get West Virginians believing in West Virginia again,” Manchin went on to say. “And I always use Southern West Virginia as the high water mark. No one can fill Mike’s shoes, but we can follow his path.”
MCC President Hubbard said the Whitt Memorial Highway is helping Mingo County grow.
“This highway wasn’t created for people to exit Mingo County,” Hubbard said. “Mike created this for people who have left to come home, and to bring people to our county.”