MORGANTOWN — In what West Virginia First Foundation Settlement Administrator John Jenkins described as a “very close” vote, Jonathan Board was unofficially tapped to represent Region 4 during a Thursday morning meeting hosted by the Monongalia County Commission.
Board will join five other regional directors and five appointments from Gov. Jim Justice on the 11-member West Virginia First Foundation tasked with distributing hundreds of millions in opiate settlement dollars statewide.
It was estimated that 90-100 people attended the meeting, convened in the Mon County Center. Of that number, there were voting delegates representing 28 of the 76 invited government bodies (counties and municipalities) within Region 4’s 13-county footprint.
Nominated by the city of Elkins, Board is the vice president of external affairs and strategic initiatives for Vandalia Health and the former interim executive director of Morgantown Community Resources, the facilitator and landlord for social services hub Hazel’s House of Hope.
Prior to that, he spent five years as executive vice president of Axios International, where he represented national and international clientele across numerous fields and industries in Charleston and Washington, D.C.
“Very humbling,” Board said when asked about the selection process. “I know so many qualified people here. Truly I’m privileged to be counted among them and look forward to working with them as we move forward.”
Looking at the straight vote count, Monongalia County Commission nominee Jonathan Dower ended up with 10 votes compared to eight for Board and six for Westover Police Chief Joe Adams. Dr. Robert Snuffer (Lewis County) received three votes and Fairmont Police Lt. Mike Keller received one. Lou Ortenzio (Harrison County) was also a nominee.
Each was given an opportunity to speak and answer questions from the floor.
Once Jenkins calculated the results using a weighted voting system based on the previously negotiated settlement percentages for each government body, Board was unofficially named the Region 4 director.
While Jenkins wouldn’t share the unofficial results of his tally on Thursday, the vote totals are to be certified within one week.
The delegation was far more unified in unanimously supporting a motion from Star City Mayor Sharon Doyle asking that the bylaws of the West Virginia First Foundation include adherence to the WV Open Meetings Act.
Board said he will champion that cause.
“Transparency is a must. This isn’t a problem that affects one of us or two of us. It affects all of us. So to tighten up and get real quiet in a board is a bad idea. This money is the people’s money, and we have a duty to disperse it to the people,” Board said. “We can’t pick winners and losers, because we’ll all lose. The winners have to be the people of the state of West Virginia.”
West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey explained that as approximately $1 billion in opiate settlement dollars are collected over the next 15 years, the foundation will oversee the distribution of 72.5% of that money.
Board joins regional appointees Dr. Michael Kelly (Region 6); Dr. Matthew Christiansen (5); Tom Joyce (3) and Timothy Czaja (2). The Region 1 selection meeting was slated for Thursday evening.
Morrisey said the West Virginia First Foundation represents the first and only initiative with statewide buy-in and adequate funding to attack the state’s drug epidemic from the supply, demand and educational perspectives.
“The drug plague has devastated our state,” Morrisey said, adding “Today is the day the healing can truly begin.”