By RACHEL DOVE-BALDWIN
WILLIAMSON - “Mingo County has been, and continues to be, blessed by the vision of former Mingo County Redevelopment Authority Director, Mike Whitt,” said County Commission President John Mark Hubbard, at a special dedication ceremony held inside the county courthouse on Tuesday.
Whitt passed away a few months ago after fighting a courageous battle with cancer.
“Mike had such an amazing way of bringing people together,” remarked Hubbard. “He could get your ear in a way that only he could get your ear.
“We are seeing the reality of Mike’s tireless efforts and years of dedication come to pass for our county, and this trend will continue for generations yet to come.”
Whitt’s family, including his wife Regina, daughters Mary Ann and Katrina, granddaughter Brieanne and brothers Pierce and Mark were joined by a multitude of friends and professional associates of the former director and House of Delegates member, to share their memories of what he and his hard work meant to them, the county and the state.
Steve Kominar, who also served Mingo County in the West Virginia House of Delegates and was appointed to fill the director’s position with the Redevelopment Authority following the death of Whitt, spoke to the family during the dedication ceremony and relayed how important he was to everyone seated in the commission chambers.
“God blesses us with the right people being in the right place at just the right time,” began Kominar, “and that’s exactly what occurred when Mike became the 1st Director of the Redevelopment Authority.
“Mike’s presence throughout the past years as a warrior for Mingo County will never be forgotten or taken for granted. He is responsible for many accomplishments not only in just the county, but in the entire state.”
Leasha Johnson, Assistant Director for the Redevelopment Authority, served as Whitt’s right arm during his years as director, and experienced difficulty controlling her emotions as she spoke at the ceremony.
“It’s no secret to anyone in this room that Mike was like a father to me,” stated Johnson. “Even after several have come and gone, I still have a hard time talking about him without crying. Not a single day goes by that I don’t think of him.
“I can stand here today and say to each of you that Mingo County is a better place today, and for all the tomorrows that will be seen by our children and grandchildren, because of the hard work and dedication of Mike Whitt.
“No one will ever fill his shoes, and I will never stop missing him.
“Professionally as a leader and personally as a friend, there are few that equal him.”
“Mike taught me an awful lot,” stated County Commissioner Greg “Hootie” Smith. “I would love to be just a fraction of the public servant that Mike was. It’s extremely rare to see the high caliber of work ethics in a person that were witnessed on a daily basis in Mike.
“He went toe to toe with governors, senators, it didn’t bother Mike what a person’s title was,” said Smith. “If he had an opinion contrary to theirs he didn’t mix words, he got his opinion heard loud and clear.
“He raised the bar, he set standards that we all need to strive to follow.”
Hubbard spoke directly with the family members of Whitt that were in attendance, telling them that as much as they know he loved the county, it was always known that his love for them exceeded any other.
“His dream was to make this a better place to live and to work for his children and his grandchildren,” said Hubbard. “You guys are the reason he worked as hard as he did. He wanted a better life for eah of you.”
Hubbard stated that as the years pass and someone visits an office within the courthouse and views the marble bench that has been placed in the hallway that bears the name and image of Whitt and asks the question, “Who was Mike Whitt?” he is hopeful that someone will step forward and say, ‘Have a seat, and I’ll tell you the story about the great man named Mike Whitt’”.
The bench was unveiled by Regina Whitt, widow of the deceased, along with Commissioner David Baisden. In a fitting tribute, Whitt’s little granddaughter, Brieanne, was the first person to sit on the marble tribute, and she lovingly touched the engraved picture of her grandfather chiseled into the bench – and smiled.