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NAME: Anna Lewis
CANDIDATE FOR: West Virginia House of Delegates District 16 (Covers parts of Cabell and Lincoln counties)
CAMPAIGN WEBSITE: Electannalewis.com
HOME CITY: Huntington
HOME COUNTY: Cabell
EDUCATION: Huntington High School, Marshall University.
CURRENT OFFICE OR OCCUPATION: Real estate sales agent.
OTHER WORK HISTORY: Stay-at-home mom, Awlet Children’s Clothing handmade clothes.
CIVIC ORGANIZATIONS: Altizer Elementary PSO; Huntington East Middle School LSIC; Cabell Huntington Health Harm Reduction Board.
FAMILY: Jesse Lewis, husband; 2 sons and 1 daughter.
PERSONAL STATEMENT: Education. Community. Economy. In that order.
Questions from the West Virginia League of Women Voters:
1. With the decline in the extraction industries in West Virginia, what do you think should be done to diversify the state’s economy?
Growing tourism, increasing non-energy/chemical manufacturing of goods, and expanding our agricultural industries to include hemp and cannabis. Communities should aggressively create funding mechanisms/opportunities/support for small businesses (i.e.public banking). Small businesses create higher wages through competition, longer more sustainable employment (when supported), and have a more positive impact on their community members. If WV supplements, it should be to small businesses.
2. Do you support recent weakening of EPA regulations concerning air and water quality? Why or why not?
For some reason, West Virginia’s people have been given the choice between having a healthy environment or having a job. People continue to die from it. It doesn’t have to be this way. If a company can’t make a product without poisoning the people working/living in the surrounding area, then that company should be considered unviable. Sustainability is everything.
3. What role do you see for state government in reversing West Virginia’s population decline?
Our culture is as responsible for our decline as our government. But for now, our government should work on initiatives that create bonds between our children and our communities. Focus on repairing the damage done to our public schools, increase opportunities for secondary schooling, increase local funding for small businesses and manufacturers, and facilitate localized health and wellness care.
Additional questions from The Herald-Dispatch:
4. The state’s foster care system struggles to care for the 7,000 plus children who are now in it. Some action has been taken in recent months, but what further action do you think might be necessary?
WE. NEED. MORE. More highly trained employees including social workers, counselors, and caregivers. More CPS workers who are trained to evaluate family situations, more wrap around services that were supposed to be implemented the last two years. More in depth involvement of those workers in dysfunctional families. The state can help, first by acknowledging it, and then by funding it without excuses.
5. There have been several attempts to reduce taxes on business in the state, including one failed in this past legislative session. Is it wise to keep pursuing tax breaks for business, at the possible expense of residential taxpayers? Do you think the state’s tax structure needs an overhaul?
Cutting business taxes for a state with a steady decline in working residents only ensures that money needed for our roads, schools, and needed public services will also steadily decline. Our businesses already pay a better tax rate than our neighboring states, and all neighboring states have better performing economies. Our tax structure is not the problem.
6. Do you think the educational reform bill passed in 2019 is working/will be effective?
The bill was not reformation. Real reformation would address the tremendous need for trauma sensitive education and employment, the effects of cutting the arts and physical education, the decline of parental involvement, the overhead of unneeded administrative positions, the need for smaller student/teacher ratios, and the overuse of state testing statistics.
7. How would you describe efforts so far to add more support staff in the state’s schools to help children in troubled homes?
Lacking. I would describe it as lacking. Two counselors and a social worker in schools of 700 students will not make an impact. And it won’t be for lack of trying by those counselors and social workers.
8. What can the state government do to improve workforce development in West Virginia?
Every area of WV is different. Our people have different needs, but most of what has come out of the legislature the last two to four years has been industry specific. My opinion is that counties/municipalities should be leading their own initiatives to incorporate at least one diverse industry, with state government support through funding or deregulation.
9. West Virginia has been especially hard hit by the opioid abuse epidemic. What do you see as the role of the legislature in addressing this crisis?
The legislature’s role should be supportive and reflective. Counties are combating future harm, creating recovery initiatives, and building healthier environments, and need continued financial support and in some cases manpower. However, the most important thing the state could do would be to use its power to pinpoint (many faceted) issues that led to the crisis to prevent future occurrences.
10. How would you improve the state’s access to broadband internet?
I’d make it a utility, and use state funds to expand it. Clearly, waiting for private industry to do it is a waste of our time.
NEW QUESTIONS FOR THE GENERAL ELECTION
11. How would you prioritize using the funds provided to WV by the CARES Act and other COVID-19 relief funds?
A special session should have been called so that representatives for each district could have acquired what they needed most. Personally, I believe that money should have been used to ensure safe, small, controllable class sizes through new hires and space rental, to increase quality child care, and to expand internet access.
12. What changes in current election laws would you favor to make voting safer and more accessible?
I would love to see e-voting become mainstream, with similar security of e-filing tax returns. But for now, expanding secure mail-in ballot voting and an increase in poll locations would be helpful in increasing participation.
13. Lack of broadband access limits employment and educational opportunities in many parts of West Virginia. What should be done to make broadband available statewide?
Make the internet a public utility. It's as necessary as electricity now, especially in terms of economic growth. Then the state and municipalities could prioritize and fund expansion.
14. Given COVID-19, how do you propose we protect our students, teachers and school service personnel while at the same time providing equal access to a quality education across the state?
Hiring more educators and personnel to keep classes small and manageable according to guidelines would have allowed for a five-day schedule with controllable contact and quarantine situations.
15. What experience, training or education do you have that would make you an effective state legislator?
My experiences in banking, business, real estate, school volunteerism, coaching sports, community organizing, and most importantly, being a mother have taught me to ask experts for guidance, to be a proactive problem solver, and empathy. I need to legislate for safer neighborhoods, better education, and a future for our children HERE at home.