POINT PLEASANT — Voters in the City of Point Pleasant will go to the polls May 10 to not only choose their mayor, city clerk and two council-at-large representatives, but council members from each of the eight city wards.
This year, city Democrats and Republicans have nominated candidates for each of those eight wards. Those candidates were asked to provide the Point Pleasant Register with biographical information and, if they chose, to answer the question, “Why I decided to run for office?”
Incumbents are Elizabeth Jones, ward one; Elaine Hunt, ward five; Rick Simpkins, ward eight. Newcomers are Kathy Gardner, ward one; Jerrie Howard and Bob McMillan, both of ward two; Mary Jane Getty and Gabe Roush, both of ward three; Brandon Sweeney and Leigh Ann Shepard, both of ward four; Lauren Billiter of ward five; Cody Lambert and Olivia Warner of ward six; Brad Deal and Courtney Hall both of ward seven; Ashley Wood of ward eight.
Though candidates are both Democrats and Republicans, this election is nonpartisan and voters can vote for whichever candidate they prefer, regardless of party. Those elected on May 10 take office on July 1 for four-year terms.
Information provided by the candidates is below, beginning with ward one. Candidates are listed in alphabetical order.
Kathy Gardner (D-Point Pleasant) is running for city council in the first ward and has lived in Point Pleasant since 1959, with 36 of those years having been lived in the ward she now wishes to represent. She’s also a phlebotomist with LabCorp of America.
Gardner said: “I am a ‘people person’ and am genuinely interested in what the people of the first ward think about issues going on or would like to see happen in Point Pleasant. I would like to see the city grow and have activities that interest every age. I want to be most proud when we have visitors to our little town.” Gardner also expressed her appreciation for any support.
Elizabeth Ann Jones (R-Point Pleasant) is a lifelong resident of Mason County and is a graduate of Point Pleasant High School. She studied education at Marshall University and has been involved in the youth leadership in the community. She served as the city summer director, County 4-H Leader, and coached cheerleading for many years. She currently holds positions with the Mason County Chamber Board of Directors, the Main Street Committee, Historic Landmark Commission, Municipal Police Commission, and currently holds the seat of city councilwoman of the first ward where she serves on the police committee and the recreation committee. She is the the proprietor of The Four Seasons Florist flower shop on Main Street.
Jones said: “I will continue to work with the citizens to achieve the goals necessary to benefit our community. I will be the voice for our seniors to meet their needs and concerns. I want to see our Krodel Park continue to grow, walking trail, bike trial, new playground and eventually a spray park. Some concerns I’ll continue to work on and support are the tearing down of dilapidated buildings and improving road conditions. As a business owner, I know the concerns and burdens of operating in a small community. I am very proud to have served with the current city administration. We have kept the tax revenues working for us and remain ‘above water’ where so many cities have gone broke. We live in a beautiful city where I am proud to call home. I want our tourists who visit to always have a lasting impression. I am committed to giving back to the community who has given so much to me.”
Jerrie Howard (D-Point Pleasant), has lived on Main Street in ward two for 22 years. She taught at Point Pleasant High School for 34 years, as well as received her bachelor’s degree in English and journalism from Ohio University and master’s from Marshall University. Since her retirement, she’s been an active volunteer in the community. She’s a past president and current member of the Tu-Endie-Wei Garden Club. She also organized and served as president for two years of Point Pleasant in Bloom. She hopes to continue her service to the community as a member of city council.
Howard said: “Point Pleasant is a diamond in the rough. Positive, progressive involvement in the city is essential if we are to reach our potential. Through ownership of the city’s future, we can make Point Pleasant shine. Many problems need to be addressed and overcome. Our decaying infrastructure needs to be replaced with a long-range plan for development and for finances to deal with the problem. More work needs to be done to increase our potential for tourism — because tourism means dollars for the city. We also must attract more businesses to the city — again more dollars. One type of business that would aid in all of these problems is the recreation business. Recreation for all ages needs to be developed. Community involvement, developing businesses, increasing tourism, and providing recreation are some positive steps for the future of our community. Helping to solve these and other problems is the reason I decided to run for the Point Pleasant City Council.”
Robert McMillan (R-Point Pleasant) is the owner of Mid-Atlantic Construction Company based in Point Pleasant, serving the area for over 25 years. Bob attended West Liberty University, and is an Army veteran, having served in Vietnam. He previously worked for AEP Mechanical Engineering Division during construction of three major plants and served as senior vice president of various construction companies thereafter. McMillan belongs to Mason County Community Foundation Board of Directors, Economic Development Authority Advisory Board, VFW, American Legion, Moose Lodge, Minturn 19 Masonic Lodge, Beni Kedem Shriners, Scottish Rite, and Jesters. Bob and his wife are members of the Nazarene Church, they have two children and four grandchildren.
McMillan said: “My decision to seek election of the city council ward two was based on joining a team of proven leadership and that I could contribute and complement that leadership with my business knowledge, skills, and service to the area over many years. I want to help move this city forward and make it a better place to live, work and worship to benefit my children and grandchildren as well as all citizens of the community and that begins with everyone taking and showing pride with their property, their actions and respect for others. This is called ‘Community Team Work.’ I humbly ask for your support.”
Mary Jane Getty (R-Point Pleasant) resides at 2007 Mount Vernon Avenue and is a graduate of Point Pleasant High School. A 50-year resident of ward three, she holds a B.A. degree in journalism and educational media from Marshall University. She has a master’s degree in school guidance and counseling and is certified as a technology integration specialist. Retired from the Mason County Board of Education after 38 years as a school librarian and teacher, she is currently an adjunct professor at Marshall University (MOVC). She is a member of the Point Pleasant Presbyterian Church and volunteers with various local organizations.
Getty said: “I take great pride in being able to say I am from Point Pleasant, West Virginia. A strong loyalty and of sense of responsibility to community to help ‘make the best, better’ is the primary thought behind my decision to run for city council. I have been blessed with the ability to really listen to people’s ideas and concerns and to see the big picture. I believe these traits are assets when making decisions that affect the entire city. If elected as your ward three representative, I pledge to bring your concerns to the city council. We live in a wonderful town and I will work to continue to help the area move forward. I will do my part to help keep it inviting, safe and growing. I want to see our young people return here to raise their families.”
Gabe Roush (D-Point Pleasant) is an employee of Holzer, and works both in the orthopedic department and as the athletic trainer at River Valley High School. He’s a 2008 graduate of Wahama, and received a B.S. in athletic training from WVU in 2012. He then worked a season with the Denver Broncos before deciding to return home to West Virginia. He currently serves as the parliamentarian of the West Virginia Athletic Trainers’ Association and chair of the Point Pleasant Bike Trail Project Committee. He’s been a Son of the American Legion Post 140 and Bend Area CARE member for six years.
Roush said: “Upon moving back to Mason County in 2013, I fell in love with Point Pleasant nearly as quickly as I did my wife. After living in cities such as Morgantown and Denver, I was able to see the untapped potential that our town holds. However, I felt this growth was being hindered by what seems to be a chronic sense of contentment and complacency. Our town could be anything we want it to be; however, we’re met with the ‘this is the way it’s always been, so why change’ mentality. Point Pleasant will never grow without thinking outside of the box and considering new concepts and fresh perspectives. How are we to attract and keep our younger generations to carry on our city’s legacy without considering their opinions and ideas? This year, 2016, could be the turning point for our hometown, and I’m hungry to help make the change.”
Leigh Ann Shepard (R-Point Pleasant) is a graduate of PPJ/SHS. She obtained a bachelor of arts degree from Marshall University and a master of science degree from WVU. She is currently employed as a vice president-branch manager/commercial lender for Farmers Bank. She is the secretary of the Point Pleasant Rotary Club and the treasurer for the Point Pleasant Lions Club. She’s also a member of the Mason County Community Foundation Marketing Committee, the MGM Marshall Big Green Committee and the Mason County Outdoor Youth Expo Committee. Leigh Ann and her husband are the project coordinators for the Krodel Park Playground project.
Shepard said: “Living, working and volunteering in the City of Point Pleasant has provided me with a good understanding of the needs of our community. Point Pleasant, like many other small cities, faces many challenges. Some of these include improving the infrastructure, maintaining safe neighborhoods, creating options for a healthy lifestyle and attracting tourism. The biggest task of city council is determining how to meet the needs of the residents while remaining fiscally responsible. I have always been passionate about improving our community and will continue to dedicate my efforts to make Point Pleasant a great place to live, work, raise families and visit. It would be honor to represent the fourth ward on the city council of Point Pleasant.”
Brandon Sweeney (D-Point Pleasant) is a Woodmen Life representative as well as a former contracted data collector for the assessor’s office and former city pool manager. A Point Pleasant High School graduate, he received a bachelor of science degree in information technology from CTU. He is a Mason County Toys for Kids board member, community cantata member/soloist, on the Battle Days pageant committee, former Mason County Soccer League coach, co-founder/co- coordinator Light of Christmas tree project, and Democratic chairman for city election. He attends New Hope Bible Baptist Church and Point Pleasant Presbyterian Church.
Sweeney said: “I believe Point Pleasant is a great city with the potential for growth and that is why I want to serve as your city councilman from the fourth ward. When people visit the community they say how nice the people are and it’s time the city is a reflection of the people who live here. My wife, Brandy Barkey Sweeney, and I, decided a long time ago to stay in Point Pleasant and it was an excellent decision. We have three very important reasons to make this the best hometown possible and we call them Braydon, Bryson, and Braylon, our three small children. I cannot wait to serve as your city councilman and make the changes that will help Point Pleasant move in the direction of growth in the areas of business, recreation, and communications. Don’t be a weenie, vote for Sweeney.”
Lauren Caldwell Billiter (D-Point Pleasant) is a Mason County native, as well as the daughter of Jerry and Suzi Caldwell. A graduate of Point Pleasant High School Class of 2005, she also has two degrees from Marshall University including an associates in hospitality management and a bachelors in marketing. She worked at Marshall University in the international program with people from all over the world. Since graduating college and getting married, she moved back to Point Pleasant with her husband, Levi Billiter, and has been working in the Mason County Circuit Court Clerk’s office since 2014.
Billiter said: “Although I have only lived ‘in town’ for one year, I consider myself a native of Point Pleasant. I attended North Point Elementary and graduated from PPHS. I have been in the town working, shopping, driving, walking, and now living on Lincoln Avenue. I know the beauty of Point Pleasant: the parks, the historical areas, the riverfront, and the friendly, hardworking people. I have also seen the ugly: the dilapidated abandoned buildings, the potholes and the criminals (I work in the court system). I have talked with neighbors in my ward and know their concerns. I am running for my neighbors. To help them. To help Point Pleasant. Although I am running as a democrat, I am a candidate for city council not for just the Democrats but also for Republicans. I am running for the betterment of my city. Our city. I think we can do more to make Point Pleasant a better, more beautiful city. Yes. We can.”
Elaine Hunt (R-Point Pleasant) is a graduate of Marshall University with a bachelor of arts degree and a graduate of Cabell Huntington School of Laboratory Technicians and St. Mary’s Hospital for Paramedic Training. For 42 years, she was an active volunteer as a paramedic and EMT instructor for RESA III and CPR instructor for the American Heart Association. Vice president of the Ambulance Authority Board, she’s a retired chemist from AKZO with 21 years of service, works for the Mason County Board of Education, is a member of the Point Pleasant Order of Eastern Star and charted member of the Point Pleasant EMS. She attends Jackson Avenue Baptist Church.
Hunt said: “I decided to run for the office of city council because I have the experience, ability, and pride in the city of Point Pleasant to work for the agreed upon goals of efficient and energetic government that exercises fiscal responsibility yet providing the best possible services and recreational opportunities in a community that continues the initiative of beautification. Experience counts. I have had the opportunity to serve 25 years on the city council. That opportunity has allowed me to develop expertise in fiscal management, municipal procedures and processes and the skills to develop and interpret grants and allocations. My serving on the National and Community Service Board allowed me additional insights into ideas and opportunities. I am currently serving on several committees for the city and am looking forward to representing the citizens of the fifth ward for another four years.”
Cody Lambert (D-Point Pleasant) is running for city council in the sixth ward. He’s is a lifelong resident of the area and would love the opportunity to serve his community. He is an ordained preacher at Faith Valley Community Church in Gallipolis. He’s passionate about Point Pleasant and would like to work to see the city grow. He would like to implement youth programs, create a system to keep voters informed, and try to bring the city together.
Lambert said: “Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote; ‘to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.’”
Olivia Burdette Warner (R-Point Pleasant) is a 2009 graduate of PPHS. After graduation, she says she was blessed to be able to spend a few very important years at home with her daughter, Layla. In 2012, she married her husband, Brandon. Her participation as a contributing member of society include positions with Sider’s Jewelers, Tom Tom’s Nursery, and Ohio Valley Bank. For the past several years, she has held one of the designer positions at Four Season Florist on Main Street. Olivia enjoys being a parent volunteer at Point Pleasant Primary School. She is a lifelong member of Good Shepherd UMC.
Warner said as a child, she watched her father serve as city clerk and saw the positive changes he was able to bring to the community. Being a civil-minded person, Olivia wants to do her part to make Point Pleasant as wonderful as everyone knows it can potentially be. Her top goal would be to create recreational activities for the kids of all ages in this area. Thereby, reducing the negative influences in our world today, she said. By creating these recreational activities, it also could provide jobs for people who so desperately need them, she added. With the increasing crime rates, public safety has to be a top priority, also, she said. She will strive to do whatever it takes to keep law enforcement working safety and efficiently. “I would like to represent you on our city council,” she said. “My love and devotion for our city is unwavering. My concern is for the growth and betterment of Point Pleasant, and its people.”
Brad Deal (D-Point Pleasant) is a lifelong resident of Point Pleasant and the son of David and Donna (Sayre) Deal. He’s a 2005 graduate of Point Pleasant High School and earned a AAS in hospitality management/ hotel lodging and culinary arts from Marshall Community and Technical College and a regent bachelor of arts from Marshall University. Brad is currently employed as a long term substitute teacher for the Mason County Board of Education, owner/chef of Brad Deal Catering and part-time employee of Deal Funeral Home. Brad is a former member of the Mason County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.
Deal said: “As a small business owner and my passion to serve the community, I would like to be a voice on the city council for the residents of the seventh ward. I want to keep our youth involved in our city. By investing in our youth this will invite them to want to live in Point Pleasant. The youth are the future of the community. I will continue to support the growth and development of our city and support any projects that are already in the final stages. I will be available to take any ideas or concerns to help make Point Pleasant a better place for those families who are working in the city, as well as those who are visiting our community. I am dedicated, passionate and dependable. I want to bring new leadership for a brighter future for the city of Point Pleasant.”
Courtney Hall (R-Point Pleasant) is the wife of Jimmy Hall and mother of two boys, Cole and Clay, ages 3 and 5, respectively. She works for American Income Life Insurance Company and is a member of Office and Professional Employees International Union.
Hall said: “My decision to seek a seat on the city council is a result of my growing concerns for our city and town in which my children are being raised. If elected, I would like to work with the mayor and city inspector to seek opportunities to improve some of the deteriorating properties. I will review the city ordinances and find avenues in which to promote property owner improvements and facilitate small business incentives. The growth of our city has a direct impact upon the growth and opportunities for our children. Like any other mother, I want to see our city and our children prosper, and I will work tirelessly to achieve that goal.”
Rick Simpkins (R-Point Pleasant) graduated from PPHS in 1975. He attended Rio Grande College for two years before entering the workforce. He has been employed for 29 years at ICL-IP America, formerly known as AKZO or Stauffer. He has been a proud union member for all of those years, and is currently a member of the United Steelworkers Local 859L and the Point Pleasant Presbyterian Church. He’s also been a member of the Mason County Toys for Kids Association for over 30 years. He is the “Voice of the Big Blacks” on WBYG and Q94FM.
Simpkins said: “I decided to run for this office because I love my hometown. I have served the citizens of the eighth ward for the past four years and I would love the opportunity to serve them again. This administration accomplished much the last four years and there are many things that are on the table that I would love to see completed. I grew up in Point Pleasant as did my children. I now have six grandchildren with a seventh on the way, and I want to help make my town one that they can be proud to call home.”
Ashley Wood (D-Point Pleasant) is the daughter of Bob and Gale Taylor, and has been married to Jimmie Wood Jr. for 16 years. The couple have a son, Jimmie Wood III (14) and a daughter, Taylor (9). She’s the administrative assistant at Trinity UM Church, where she is also a member. In addition, she’s a member of the Order of the Eastern Star 75 and on the Mason County Democrat Executive Committee. She’s very active in scouting, where she’s Cubmaster for Pack 258 and assistant adviser for Crew 258. She also assists with the Youth Group at TUMC.
Wood said: “I am very active with the youth in our community and I decided to run for city council, to try to bring my ideas for youth centered activates to our city. I am very proud of our town and I get discouraged when I hear kids say they can’t wait to get out of here. I understand their frustration, there is not much opportunities for them here. I want to work hard to change that, I think we can make Point Pleasant a place where the kids can have fun and be safe. Most importantly make it a place where they can see themselves raising their families in the future.”
Reach Beth Sergent at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BSergentWrites.