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NAME: Jeanette M. Rowsey

CANDIDATE FOR: West Virginia House of Delegates District 17 (parts of Cabell and Wayne counties)

PARTY: Democrat


HOME CITY: Huntington


AGE: 61

EDUCATION: Barboursville H.S., 1977; bachelor of arts degree in psychology/journalism from Marshall University, 1982

CURRENT OFFICE OR OCCUPATION: Jeanette Rowsey Consulting (sole-proprietor), providing strategic communications, training and facilitation. Accredited by Public Relations Society of America; Professional Development Provider certified by WV STARS Policy Advisory Council.

OTHER WORK HISTORY: Statewide Project Coordinator— Strengthening Families West Virginia (through TEAM for WV Children): Author/Publisher—The Lost Village of Barboursville; Public Relations & Strategy Specialist—West Virginia Children’s Mental Health System of Care (through Prestera Center); Corporate & Institutional Sales Representative—Borders Books Huntington Mall; Public Relations Director—American Red Cross Tri-State Blood Services Region; Mental Health Prevention Specialist—Woodland Centers.

CIVIC ORGANIZATIONS: Barboursville Rotary Club; Huntington Area League of Women Voters; Treasurer of Pea Ridge United Methodist Women; Coordinator of Greater Barboursville Community Outreach; Board Secretary of The Carter G. Woodson Memorial Foundation, Inc., Trustee of Cabell County Public Library; Board Member of Cabell County Democratic Women’s Club.

FAMILY: Married 37 years to Chuck Minsker, mother to Justin Minsker (m. Bristel Minsker) of Texas, and Evan Minsker (m. Morgan Barrie) of Wisconsin. Grandmother to Wilhelmina “Willa” and Abigail “Abi.” Adoptive dog-mom to Radar through the Huntington Cabell Wayne Animal Shelter.

PERSONAL STATEMENT: I have devoted my career and volunteer life to the well-being of our children and vulnerable West Virginians. Especially now, children, women, small businesses—and all who shoulder the burden of this pandemic and its economic fallout—need strong advocates in Charleston. From the fight for affordable insulin to supporting teachers and meeting local food needs, I’ve put in the hard work. I will first consider the impact on children in every legislative decision, listen respectfully and learn from all parties impacted by an issue, and respond year-round to my constituents in Cabell and Wayne counties.

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?

Improving and expanding high speed internet access should be the most urgent priority. Fix our roads, protect and promote our great outdoors, invest in education. Incentivize local agriculture, tourism, manufacturing and innovation by leveling the playing field for homegrown businesses and those who revitalize existing properties. Invest in business-growing non-profit enterprises such as Huntington’s RCBI and Coalfield Development.

2. Do you support recent weakening of EPA regulations concerning air and water quality? Why or why not?

No. I was taught by my parents to “leave a place better than you found it.” Extraction industries and absentee landowners too often failed to meet this standard of citizenship, leaving a legacy of depleted, poisoned communities. Elected leaders owe it to current and future generations to rely on science, not industry lobbyists, when setting air and water quality standards.

3. What role do you see for state government in reversing West Virginia’s population decline?

Young adults who get a career foothold will more likely stay and put down roots. State government can start by raising wages and/or relieving student debt for employees who provide vital state-funded human services—this would doubly help by reversing our addiction epidemic. Cultivate good employers that draw from regional career-education and college “talent pools.”

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?

The foster care system is a huge (and necessary) “Band-Aid” that cannot in itself address the underlying struggles of poverty, trauma and addiction many families have endured. We need serious investment in community-based services, including a quality, well-compensated workforce. Our state can CHOOSE to perpetuate the cycle, OR dedicate ourselves to raising children up out of poverty and despair.

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?

When my cashier at Family Dollar pays a higher effective tax rate than Jim Justice, overhaul is overdue. A political pact never to raise ANY tax resulted in a legislature that tied its own hands. Refusing to make adjustments (for instance, revisiting a corporate tax giveaway that failed in its promise to create jobs) is fiscally irresponsible and hurts residents.

6. Do you think the educational reform bill passed in 2019 is working/will be effective?

The sweeping “Omnibus” bill that tied teacher raises and student support to experiments in school privatization was unnecessarily political. I’m not sure how effectiveness can be truly measured over time. I disagree with taking our tax dollars from public schools, which must serve all children, to fund for-profit schools that can select their students.

7. How would you describe efforts so far to add more support staff in the state’s schools to help children in troubled homes?

I would be hard-pressed to answer at this point. The intrusion of COVID-19 has changed the capacity of schools to respond to children’s needs, and compounded hardships in more homes. As we navigate the future, I will actively listen to school social workers, nurses, teachers and staff who have gone above and beyond to help their students.

8. What can the state government do to improve workforce development in West Virginia?

Support career exploration and introduction to relevant skills in middle school. Reduce bureaucratic “silos” between K-12 academic and career-technical programs, higher education, agencies and employers. Also, properly fund Rehabilitation Services and embrace its mission. West Virginians with disabilities have among the lowest workforce participation rates in the country. Barriers, stigma and low expectations must be deemed unacceptable!

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?

We’ve seen promising approaches to fighting the epidemic in Huntington. These efforts informed the state’s comprehensive “2020-22 Substance Use Response Plan.” It’s a sound plan that the legislature needs to fully fund and immediately implement. To pay for it (borrowing an idea from Senator Manchin) the state could charge pharmaceutical companies a few cents for each milligram of opioids prescribed.

10. How would you improve the state’s access to broadband internet?

First steps: I would monitor the roll-out of HB4015 passed this year, along with the continuing work of the State Broadband Council and federal efforts to increase competition and expand high speed internet. Prioritizing counties where the “digital divide” most severely impacts businesses, libraries, students, patients and families—we must require transparency and accountability by contractors and internet service providers.


11. How would you prioritize using the funds provided to WV by the CARES Act and other COVID-19 relief funds?

Money should not be sitting in a “slush fund” while people suffer. Meet needs of our cities, counties, school systems and health departments for services and equipment to contain the virus. Shore up “safety net” programs providing food and shelter. Help business owners who in good faith took on COVID-related debts to protect their employees, renters and the public.

12. What changes in current election laws would you favor to make voting safer and more accessible?

In consultation with county clerks, I would favor expanding our absentee voting system to a “no excuses’ absentee ballot. The COVID-19 experience has tested West Virginia’s capability to process absentee ballots and should provide a number of “lessons learned” to ensure free, fair and safe elections. Single parents/caregivers and low-income voters without public transportation should not be disenfranchised.

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?

As we have seen statewide—and in the City of Huntington’s efforts to provide high-speed internet—for-profit providers of broadband service haven’t yet provided a good return on investment. Like rural electrification in the 1930s, internet service should be treated as a public utility. We must revisit the status of previous legislation, root out corporate corruption and get moving.

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?

A clear, consistent and credible government response is key. Every county, school, teacher and parent should not be forced to navigate the wreckage of a failed national and state COVID response. Free, widely available testing and robust contact tracing are foundational. We must look to science and get behind practices used by states that have successfully moved to in-person learning.

15. What experience, training or education do you have that would make you an effective state legislator?

The services I offer through my consulting business require me to be an effective organizer, facilitator, communicator, researcher and problem-solver. Twenty years’ experience using these skills to support best practices and collaboration among our state’s child welfare, mental health, education, early child care, prevention and other “systems” has provided unique knowledge and insights that would serve the Legislature well.

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