Suzanne Stewart
Staff Writer

Each year, the West Virginia Office of Minority Affairs hits the road and travels to six counties to host a Listening Tour where directors of state agencies can hear the concerns of West Virginia citizens.

On Thursday, September 20, the Listening Tour will stop in Marlinton to host two discussions – at Marlinton Senior Center at 11:30 a.m. and at McClintic Library at 6 p.m.

Minority Affairs director Dr. William White said the tour is a way to allow concerned citizens a chance to meet with agencies from Charleston in the comfort of their own counties.

“There are no questions that are off limits,” White said. “We’re interested in what is happening with women and minorities in that area and what we can do in the Governor’s office and in the state government in order to resolve any issues that may be out there.”

In addition to White, who will represent the Minority Affairs office, representatives from other agencies will also be present, including the Department of Agriculture, Women’s Commission, the Governor’s Office for Constituent Services and more.

If an individual has a concern or question for an agency which is not present, White said he will make sure to go through the proper channels to have the concern heard.

“We do listen, and we take what they have,” White said. “We come back and sit in the office, and compare notes. If we can resolve issues right there, we do, or we turn it over to the area or the agency in the state government that can resolve those issues. On top of that, we follow up with those agencies. Our goal is to be part of the arm that goes out into the community to hear what the people want and are concerned about so we can bring it back to Charleston and do something about it.”

While the focus of the event may be on minorities and women’s concerns, White said people from all walks of life are welcome and are encouraged to take part in the meetings.

“This is not just about minority issues,” he said. “We want to hear from everybody. That’s generally what happens. We get people from all different backgrounds coming into our area. One of the things we did in Huntington was – we had people who were judges in the opioid court and their biggest issue was, ‘what can you guys do to help us? We’re dying here in Huntington,’ and we passed the word to Department of Health and Human Resources and guess what? They are working with Huntington, and Huntington is turning around. They’re doing good things.

“I’m not going to say it’s all because of us, because it’s not,” White continued. “It takes all of these inputs to make things happen.”

White added that sometimes the issues shared at the meetings cannot be handled by the state agencies, but instead are either local or federal issues. In that case, they again contact the appropriate individuals and pass on the information provided by citizens.

“Some people don’t realize that the state doesn’t do everything for you,” he said. “You have your county commission, you have your city government, and I think there are things they can do. We try to communicate as much as possible with the entities that are in government. If it’s a federal issue, we will send it on to our senators and representatives. Again, they need to know what the people are concerned about.”