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NAME: Dr. Sydnee Smirl McElroy
CANDIDATE FOR: W.Va. House of Delegates 26th District (southcentral Cabell County)
CAMPAIGN WEBSITE: mcelroyforwv.com
HOME CITY: Huntington
HOME COUNTY: Cabell
CURRENT OFFICE OR OCCUPATION: Family physician.
OTHER WORK HISTORY: Current roles: Family Physician at Marshall Health, Assistant Professor, Dept. of Family and Community Health at the JCESOM at Marshall University, section chief of Family Medicine at Cabell Huntington Hospital. Co-host of medical history podcast “Sawbones.”
CIVIC ORGANIZATIONS: Volunteer medical director at Harmony House, Harmony House board of directors, Yeager Scholars board of directors, Cabell-Huntington Health Dept. harm advisory board.
FAMILY: husband, Justin McElroy; daughters, Charlie and Cooper McElroy.
PERSONAL STATEMENT: I’m a mom, physician and lifelong West Virginian, running to serve my neighbors in the state I love. As a family doctor, I’ve heard firsthand the problems that keep people in my district awake at night. Too many of our neighbors can’t afford their medicines and struggle to find good paying jobs. Our teachers are forced to leave the state because their salaries aren’t competitive. There still aren’t enough resources for those struggling with opioid addiction and the families that love them. I couldn’t solve all these problems in the exam room, but I can help fix them in Charleston.
1. Do you agree with the Legislature's recent action to allow nuclear power plants in West Virginia, and why or why not?
I believe diversification of energy sources, and the jobs they'll create, is key to the future of West Virginia. As we investigate nuclear energy, I would urge we do so cautiously, keeping the safety of our citizens and environment as our top priority.
2. What is your stance on the full legalization of recreational cannabis?
I support the legalization of recreational marijuana. I believe it is important for the economic future of West Virginia that we fairly regulate and tax the sale of cannabis, so that we're on equal footing with the surrounding states that have already done so.
3. What should be done to diversify the state's economy and prevent population loss?
We need to make it easier to start and grow small businesses in West Virginia. We need to draw more green energy job creators to the state. We also need to ensure safe and healthy working conditions, provide robust benefits, support families with childcare and paid family leave and offer competitive wages.
4. The state’s foster care system struggles to care for the thousands of children who are now in it. What further action do you think might be necessary?
First, we need to hire more social workers and provide them with better pay and more support for the incredibly difficult work they do. Second, we need to break the cycles of addiction, poverty and trauma that continue to overload our foster care system, moving toward a future where more West Virginia families are reunited.
5. How can West Virginia attract and keep qualified educators?
West Virginia teachers have recently guided our children through some of the most difficult years imaginable. More than ever we should all realize that our teachers deserve a permanent fix for PEIA, providing them with strong benefits, competitive salaries, a stable retirement fund and the freedom to use their expertise to teach our children unencumbered by political interference.
6. Do you support amending state law to provide anti-discrimination protections for West Virginia's LGBTQ community?
Yes. West Virginia has always been a place where we love our neighbors and celebrate individual freedom. Ensuring fair treatment for the LGBTQ community in this state reflects the compassion and respect that underlies West Virginia values.
7. How would you describe efforts so far to add more support staff in the state’s schools to help children in troubled homes?
We have not done nearly enough to support West Virginia children and families who have experienced trauma and much of that burden has fallen to our overworked, underpaid teachers. We need more support in the classroom as well as more social workers, counselors and mental health care professionals in our schools.
8. What can the state government do to improve workforce development in West Virginia?
We need to continue to invest in job retraining programs to ensure that West Virginia workers are prepared for new and emerging industries. We also must ensure our work environments are safe and inclusive, and provide families with strong benefits and flexible childcare options.
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?
Our legislature has proven through failed attempts to address this crisis that we cannot incarcerate our way out of a medical problem. We need to further expand recovery options and evidence-based treatment methods for substance use disorder. We know the tools that work, we just need to invest in them.
10. Who is more qualified to handle education policy issues, legislators or county board of education members?
We cannot continue to allow the education of our state’s children to be reduced to another political football. We need to trust the guidance of our teachers and school boards when it comes to educational policy.
Additional questions for the general election
11. When the Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade, it triggered a West Virginia law dating from the 1800s that restricts abortions. Now the state legislature has a chance to refine that law. How would you like to see this law shaped for West Virginia? Would you support a statewide referendum on the question?
I believe in healthcare freedom and autonomy. All medical decisions should be private and involve only a patient and their doctor. I would support legislation protecting freedom of choice and I oppose the total ban that was passed. A statewide referendum may be preferable, but ultimately your individual medical freedom should not depend on the votes or views of others.
12. What should be done to diversify the state's economy and prevent population loss?
We need to invest in our local small businesses and entrepreneurs as well as engage forward-thinking industries like those in green energy. This will also require workforce education, training and transitioning programs. However, only by building up our communities with improved infrastructure, broadband access and well-funded public schools can we hope to attract and keep people in our state.
13. Many counties in West Virginia cannot fill teaching positions with certified teachers, particularly in math and science, which are critical subjects to ensure West Virginia students are prepared and competitive. What would you do to attract qualified teachers to West Virginia?
This is a key issue for WV. We must increase teacher pay so that it is competitive with surrounding states, ensure robust and stable benefits with PEIA and retirement and provide supportive services in schools like social workers, counselors and nurses. We are asking our teachers to do far too much with far too little and that balance must shift.
14. Do you support amending state law to provide anti-discrimination protections for West Virginia's LGBTQ community?
Yes, all West Virginians deserve an equal opportunity to live, learn, work and thrive in our state. An anti-discrimination law would help ensure that this is possible and send the message that all are welcome here. This is not only good for attracting people and businesses to WV, it is also consistent with our values.