The two candidates seeking the open county commission seat in Mingo County are making their case to voters ahead of the Nov. 3 general election.
Incumbent Democrat Greg “Hootie” Smith of Williamson is attempting to retain his seat against Republican challenger Gavin Smith of Gilbert. An email and a phone call was made to Gavin Smith to be included in this article, but he had yet to respond as of press time.
Greg Smith, who is finishing up his third term as a county commissioner after first being elected in 2002, told the Williamson Daily News prior to the primary election that he is seeking a fourth term because he thinks his experience and education can continue to be a help during the tough times that are following the downturn of the coal industry.
“It’s not just been Mingo County, the whole state has had its challenges with the economy,” Greg Smith said. “With the coal industry going down, it’s been devastating for the whole economy in the state of West Virginia, especially in the coalfields. One of the reasons I decided to run for election is that I think I can be helpful with my education and experience because these tough times require tough decisions.”
Greg Smith also said the county has been able to maintain balanced budgets and stay in the black.
He said the county has built up a $1.1 million rainy day fund, and they have secured $2.3 million worth of economic development money, which he hopes will be used to leverage federal and state funds to try to diversify the economy.
“We are bringing in more and more people here in the area through the Hatfield and McCoy Trails, and our county’s heritage — through the Hatfield McCoy Feud, the Mine Wars, the town of Matewan — we’ve got a lot of heritage, and we are really a tourism jewel,” Greg Smith said. “But people want other things to do while they are riding the trails, and I’m hoping that we can invest this $2.3 million wisely and leverage it for other funds to bring those attractions.”
Greg Smith is a lifelong native of Mingo County, graduating from Williamson High School and then Marshall University with a bachelor’s degree in accounting. He went to law school at Capital University Law School in Columbus, Ohio, and began officially practicing law in 1996.
He started his own business in 1998 and has previously served as assistant prosecuting attorney in Mingo County and attorney for the City of Williamson.
In the primary election, Greg Smith defeated challenger Johnny Nick Hager 2,253 to 1,452. Gavin Smith ran unopposed on the Republican ticket and amassed 1,091 total votes.
The county commission works to maintain and oversee the management of the county, which can include internal police and fiscal affairs; maintain and construct waterworks, sewage disposal plans and sidewalks; levy for the operation of fire prevention, manage the county budget; authority to construct and maintain county transportation, parking and other public facilities; award grants from levy dollars; establish emergency communications towers and phone systems; and managing elections within the county.
Three county commissioners serve staggered six-year terms, and the current salary for a commissioner in Mingo County is $41,395. The current Mingo County commissioners are Greg Smith and Democrats Dianne Hannah and Thomas Taylor.
The general election is set for Tuesday, Nov. 3, and polling places will be open despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Early voting is offered Oct. 21-31.