Romney’s top aide draws from W.Va. roots
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Childhood summers spent in small town West Virginia are among the guiding influences of the national campaign manager for Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney.
Beth Myers traces her roots to parents born and raised in the Mountain State. Romney’s top adviser since his days as Massachusetts’s governor, she fondly recalls running around with cousins at the Roane County farm of her mother’s family.
“We’d hang out by the (Spencer city) pool, and go to the Robey Theatre and watch movies,” Myers told The Associated Press. “It doesn’t get any better than that.”
And though she has otherwise lived outside West Virginia, Myers said the state has always figured in Romney’s campaign strategy.
The GOP contender visited twice last year, most recently at the West Virginia State Fair in August. He’s also attracted the most delegates — 207, by the latest count — of any candidate in advance of Tuesday’s state GOP presidential convention.
“We’re very pleased with that,” Myers said.
Delegate Bob Ashley, R-Roane and a Romney supporter, said the campaign’s West Virginia connection seems unknown even to Myers’ family’s neighbors and friends.
“People are shocked when I tell them. The story just hasn’t gotten out there,” Ashley said. “As I tell people, if he becomes president, someone with those roots to West Virginia is going to have a major office in the White House.”
Now married and with children, the former Beth Barnes said her father’s family hails from the Northern Panhandle. He was raised on a farm outside Follansbee, with her grandfather working at a Wheeling glass factory.
Her mother was part of the Dodd family of Spencer, and Myers said she still has cousins there who host clan reunions every three years. Myers spent every summer at their farm until around the time she turned 15.
Memories include stopping at the since-closed Queen Diner every Sunday after services at nearby St. John’s United Methodist Church. She also recalls watching the cows in the field where Roane General Hospital now stands, and remembers the old high school where several cousins taught.
“It’s absolutely an idyllic place to be,” said Myers, 50.
Her mother’s family also helped expose her to politics. Her grandfather was Chester “C.C.” Dodd Sr., a successful contractor, oil and gas producer and ally of former Gov. Arch Moore.
Born in North Carolina and raised in Ohio and New York, Myers continued the Republican lineage by campaigning for Ronald Reagan in 1980. She had moved to Boston by then, for college, and said her family’s experience in Democrat-dominated West Virginia helped her there.
“I certainly know what it’s like to be an underdog,” Myers said. “Being a Republican in Massachusetts is much like being a Republican in West Virginia.”
Myers later worked on other campaigns and causes. At one point, she served as an aide to storied former White House political strategist Karl Rove. She was Romney’s gubernatorial chief of staff for four years before becoming his campaign’s national manager.
Romney invoked Myers’ name and title last month during a back-and-forth with a reporter over the role played by lobbyists in his campaign. The exchange was captured on film, and became something of an Internet hit.
Myers said her West Virginia connection has stuck with her throughout. She was baptized at the same Spencer church as her mother. Myers continued that tradition with her own daughter, now 17.
“The state is a really special place,” Myers said.