I am not going to make you wait. I am running for governor of our wonderful state of West Virginia. Because West Virginia is at a crossroads right now. We have the opportunity to move forward like never before, with a new way of thinking and bold leadership. But we do have our challenges, we know that. Our unemployment has risen above the national average for the first time, and the global industry is threatening to pass us by. If our leaders are willing to work hard enough, and smart enough, we cannot just compete in the world, of the 21st century, we will lead it.
All my life, you all know me as Miss Carrie talked about, I’ve risen to challenges, and I do not intend to sit on the sideline now, when my state that I love needs my help. I’ve spent my life in West Virginia and right here in this room are the people who shape the values that I carry with me every day. Those values do start with me with my parents, who I am fortunate enough to have here with me, John and Rosemary Tennant. Thank you two for being here. Many of you know them, it is their dedication that has made me who I am. My dad is a retired principle, my mother is a retired teacher, so when I say that I am a product of the West Virginia school system, and I am all the way around. Raised by teachers, on teachers’ salaries. That’s for sure.
In fact, five of their seven children are teachers. David is also here, but Steve and I are actually the black sheep of the family. He is married to a teacher, so he gets that pass. When I’m governor, and we all fix this education system together, maybe I’ll get that next pass. We’ll see.
I grew up surrounded by teachers, and I can’t imagine it any other way. Not only do you have a wealth of answers, and knowledge at your home, but you also have wisdom too. My parents didn’t just tell me what I needed to know, they taught me how to learn it. They taught me that with enough hard work, I could rise to any occasion. Once a child knows that, they are pretty much unstoppable.
So we as a state can be the same way. If we work hard enough, work smart enough, make the right decisions, and stay true to the values that we hold dear as West Virginians, West Virginia can be unstoppable too. But it won’t be easy, and we all know that, right? It might be tough. But all my life, I have taken on challenges, and I have turned them into opportunities.
Many of you have been there with me, many of you have seen it, many of you have read it in the paper too, especially like 21 years ago at WVU, when some people said I couldn’t put on that mountaineer outfit, or I couldn’t carry that muzzle-loader, but with some good West Virginia determination and back bone, I proved them wrong.
As a broadcast journalist, I was fortunate enough to travel the state and see firsthand, the struggles and hardships, the sacrifices, and rewards in living in West Virginia. But more importantly, it was as a reporter that I learned the importance of accountability, and transparency in our government.
That is why I am so proud of our motto as Secretary of State, that is open and engaging government. That is where accountability and transparency matter. I am proud of the work that we have done to let West Virginians know that this is their government. That’s a new kind of leadership.
As your secretary of state, I knew that we had to make it easier for small business owners to conduct business, and that’s what I’ve done through the many business friendly practices that I’ve implemented in the Secretary of State’s office.
When government helps businesses reduce paperwork, that’s a new kind of leadership. I made sure that they can focus on their product, because that’s what creates jobs. Its small businesses like Colasessano’s that drive our economy, and invest in our expansion. And that’s what we need to have for West Virginia to grow.
I also know the obligation we have to the men and women who put on the uniform, and fight to protect our freedoms, especially our right to vote, especially as our Chief Elections Officer. My dad was in the army during the Korean War, and he was Lieutenant Tennant. Made it easy for them, didn’t they. My husband Eric is a Navy Reservist, who is about to be deployed to Afghanistan. So the rights of our brave military members mean a great deal to me. We all know together as a family and a community, we are a very patriotic state. That we as West Virginians choose to serve as more than just about any other state in the country.
So I made it a goal of mine to cut through the red tape that they face when they are out doing their job, when they want to cast their vote. We tried something. And I led the country and the nation in expanding ballot access to our military voters, serving our country overseas.
I rose to the challenge when asked to administer a special election in a fraction of the time that it normally takes. So you see, I never sat on the sidelines, and I never will. I roll up my sleeves and I get results, that’s a new kind of leadership.
That’s what I intend to do as your governor. I’ll work just as hard for you as I always have, I’ll meet the challenges that we face head on, and I will turn those challenges into opportunities. We need to ensure that small businesses in West Virginia, like the one we are all in here today, have the access to the capital that they need, so they can thrive.
That’s what John and Carrie needed when they wanted to expand from here, to the mall, and to Morgantown, and when they did that, they also brought jobs with it. So I will fight to make sure that West Virginia is the place to do business. To do that, we need to make sure that we’re fostering our jobs now, the jobs of the future. We have the best workers in Marion County, McDowell, to Morgan County, but we also need to look to the initiatives of the future, that can bring those jobs to those workers.
We need to have funding for biosciences, research and development, innovation for long-term technological advancement, and we must make sure that West Virginia industries work for West Virginians, all West Virginians.
We’ll also make sure that we use our natural resources in ways that benefit our state now, and in the future. We can lead the 21st century with an energy policy that sets the pace for how our nation does business. We can create those jobs, right here at home, while doing all of that. This is also about our children. We need to expect high standards from both our students, and our teachers as well.
We need to get our parents, and our communities involved in every aspect of the educational process. Math, science and technology. These are the tools of the future. For my daughter Delaney, I know that math is her favorite subject, and Colasessano’s is her favorite pizza too, but math is her favorite subject, and I help her with that every night. Sometimes, she helps me with it. But that’s what we need to continue to do. We need to ensure that our students are armed with the skills that they need to compete. It’s not just in K-12, whether their enrolled in vocational training, community and technical colleges, or 4-year universities, our students need to know that they can learn the skills that our workforce requires to compete in this 21st century.
That means investing in job training, and making sure that our universities are plugged into the newest endeavors in our state. Now is the time to build on the work of great facilities, like the Marion County Vo Tech Center, and the West Virginia High Technology Consortium. There’s no reason that West Virginia cannot develop a thriving Bioscience industry. There’s no reason that West Virginia cannot attract even more technology jobs. We are not going to let the nay-sayers who have held us back, stand in our way anymore.
I want West Virginia to be a leader, and here’s how. When I was elected Secretary of State, on my first day on the job, I told the employees in the Secretary of State’s office, I said “were going to be the best secretary of state’s office in the country”. That we would lead with ideas, and knowledge and our experience that we have. We would use those ideas to make government work for people. We did just that.
Our office was the first in the country for online voting, for our military and overseas voters. We accomplished that through hard work and new ideas, values that every West Virginian understands. As Governor, I will take that same approach to every problem. Fixing our economy, reforming our education system, and making sure that every person looking for work can finally find a job.
We can use all of those same West Virginian qualities that we all know and live by, hard work, honesty and determination to move our state forward. It is time to stop talking, it is time to start doing. I believe that West Virginia needs a new kind of leadership. I can be that leader.
So today is the beginning of a long road of hard work, and I come back home to get prepared for it. I have the food of my heritage, and I’m filled with the support and encouragement of you. And I thank you for being here with me today, and I thank you for believing in me. But more importantly, I thank you for believing in West Virginia.