This Place Called West Virginia

I’m going to take a slight departure from my normal posts today.  Instead of being about business development or marketing, this post is about my passion – a place called West Virginia. 

For the past four years I have served as the Marketing Director for the City of Wheeling, West Virginia. Wheeling is the only city in West Virginia with such a position and I am extremely fortunate to participate in the progress of this state in such a dynamic way.  Beginning on November 1, I am taking a new role with the Regional Economic Development Partnership in which I will be responsible for attracting and retaining businesses in Ohio, Marshall, and Wetzel counties as well as leading economic development efforts for Downtown Wheeling.

West Virginia is truly and honestly my life's passion.  I spend a lot of time traveling around the Mountain State building relationships in an attempt to strengthen the economy here.  On a recent trip to Lewisburg I had the privilege of working with fifty leaders in our state about education and workforce development.  This post is not about me (ok, so far it has been nauseously about me) but rather about this amazingly wild and wonderful place called West Virginia. 

We often talk about coal and tourism when we discuss this place.  It’s easy to see why.  WV is the 2nd largest coal producer in the U.S. and tourism is, well, a booming industry here.  Coal and tourism are of the utmost importance, but let’s dig deeper.  What does it mean to actually live here? What are the people like?  I am here to tell you the people here are the most remarkably brilliant, driven, talented people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.

I first came to WV in 1996.  I left in 2005.  I am one of the “come back kids” who was fortunate enough to return. Even though I grew up in Ohio, I consider myself to be “from” West Virginia.  While my family may not like those words, I think they understand how connected I am to this place.  Since returning in 2008 I have many amazing experiences but the single most significant one has been my time with Leadership West Virginia.  A proud member of the 20th Anniversary Class of 2011, our impending graduation is bitter-sweet as I will miss seeing my classmates with regularity. 

LWV is hands-down the most substantial thing I have ever done for my career, but moreover, it is the most beneficial thing I have ever done personally.  Professionally, we learned about what it takes to be a great leader and we learned about the economy of WV.  However, it’s the people in the class that have impacted and changed me in ways that is difficult to describe with words.  I take away a little piece of each of them with each session.   We learned that we 
are the sum of the five people with whom we most associate, and if that is true, than I am truly blessed to have had the opportunity to experience these people and call them my friends.  They will never know how much I cherish them and how they have challenged me to be the best version of myself. 

To all of my classmates and Pam, thank you for allowing me to be part of your lives.  It means a lot for a girl from a small steel town in Ohio to be not only accepted, but forever shaped by you and this place called West Virginia. 

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