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Secretary of state candidates face The Dominion Post Editorial Board

MORGANTOWN — The two contenders for the office of secretary of state met with The Dominion Post Editorial Board recently to field some questions and share their views about the job.

Incumbent Republican Mac Warner faces former Democratic Secretary Natalie Tennant. Warner unseated Tennant in 2016 and she wants to return.

Mac Warner

Warner cited his his 23 years in the military and five years with the U.S. State Department in Afghanistan as giving him valuable experience for the job, doing such things as coordinating elections and working with other secretaries of states, county clerks, and state and federal agnencies.

“I come to work every day energized. I enjoy the job. I enjoy the people who are working with me,” he said.

Tennant said that during her tenure she welcomed businesses, encouraged diversity and respected her employees.

“I’m proud of the work that we accomplished in modernizing the office, in streamlining the office, saving businesses money and saving $3 million and giving it back to the taxpayers

Asked about their top accomplishments, Tennant said she couldn’t cite just one. She referred again to modernizing and streamlining operations for business, elections and administrative law. She launched online voter registration and got automatic voter registration legislation passed in 2016.

“I’m so proud of how I helped small businesses,” she said. Filing reports online grew from 11% to 90%. She initiated a veteran’s waiver to allow them to start a business without a startup fee or annual report fee. She also backed the similar Young Entrepreneurs Investment Act for those 30 and under.

Natalie Tennant

Warner cited launching the One Stop Business Center in Charleston. It was talked about for years before he took office. “The military mindset is mission accomplishment.”

He was given the task by the Legislature, got the governor’s OK and now has a building that houses operations for for four state agencies: WorkForce, Labor, Tax and his department. Expedited service fees pay for the building and employees.

“I think the business one-stop is going to have the most impact over the years,” he said. Now he’s working to get the online portal running by spring 2021.

They were asked what the secretary’s office can do to encourage economic diversification.

Tennant said she will again emphasize decency and dignity in her approach to workers and businesses. “It’s what you want people to see in you. They want to see a welcoming of diversity and a welcoming of business.”

She required employees to sign a non-discrimination policy, she said. She again cited online buisness registration and removing transaction fees, and establishing an online chat.

She wants to expand the veteran’s waiver to military spouses, who see an unemployment rate of 31% because they move often from station to station. “That’s another welcoming of businesses,” she said noting she’s a military spouse of 20 years.

Warner said people see the initials SOS standing for secretary of state but it has another meaning in his office: “See it, Own it, Solve it. They know that they will have my backing when a customer brings to them an issue a problem a concern.

He emphasizes customer service, he said. “One customer at a time, one business at a time, one voter at a time. The focus needs to be on and the attention given to that person’s particular situation at that time and solving it for them.

He also emphasizes expedited service to get tasks done as quickly as possible. That may mean staff working extra hours to meet a customer’s needs. And businesses are willing to pay an expedited service fee up front knowing delays could be costly.

Tweet David Beard@dbeardtdp Email dbeard@dominionpost.com