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County brings Joe Statler on board to serve as ‘legislative liaison’ in 2020

MORGANTOWN — An agreement approved Wednesday by the Monongalia County Commission will make former Delegate and 2020 House of Delegates candidate Joe Statler a “legislative liaison” for the Commission during the coming legislative session.

Under the agreement, Statler will not be compensated for his time, but will be reimbursed for travel and other expenses.

Statler, a Republican, served in the House of Delegates 51st District from 2014-‘18. In 2018, he finished sixth in a race for five seats. He has filed pre-candidacy paperwork for the upcoming 2020 election.

Commission President Tom Bloom, the lone Democrat on the Commission, could not attend Wednesday’s meeting, but said he recommended bringing Statler on board.

Commissioner Ed Hawkins ran the meeting. He read a statement from Bloom which stated, in part, “I fully support the hiring of Joe Statler as our legislative liaison for the calendar year 2020. I am pleased that the other commissioners agree with me that he would be a key asset for our county when important issues surface in Charleston.”

Commissioner Sean Sikora said the commissioners were at a County Commissioners Association of West Virginia meeting earlier this year when they ran into a lobbyist for Kanawha County.

“The three of us looked at each other and said, ‘Why don’t we have one of those?’ Joe was the obvious person who came to everybody’s attention,” Sikora said.

Sikora went on to say that during his time with the county, Statler has been the most responsive, regardless of whether or not he was holding office.

“This is not about personalities or party affiliation,” Sikora said. “Politicians will make this about politics, but this is nothing other than serving the citizens of this county.”

Statler has been out of office more than a year, a requirement when registering as a lobbyist. Further, Statler said he registered as a lobbyist despite being told by the West Virginia Ethics Commission that didn’t need to under the terms of this agreement.

He said he sees no distinction between this position and what he’s been doing since before his days in Charleston.

“I’ve never stopped lobbying for Monongalia County and this state,” Statler said. “I will tell you that I did lose the last election. I lost a vote, but I didn’t lose my voice.”

He went on to say that the potential elimination and replacement of the state’s inventory tax will likely be the county’s biggest concern in the upcoming session.

The tax, which targets industrial equipment, machinery and inventory, brings millions into county and board of education budgets.

In other Commission news, County Administrator Rennetta McClure said the county recently received a rating of Aa2 from Moody’s Investor Services, “which is excellent.”

Sikora read an excerpt from the county’s report.

“The full value of the county’s tax base, $9.8 billion, is stronger than the U.S. median and has notably increased between 2014 and 2018,” he explained, noting the county’s median family income is also above the national average per the report.

The commission’s next meeting will be held on Thursday, Jan. 2.