The Voice of West Virginia
LINDSIDE, W.Va. — From 2013-2017, John Mustain led James Monroe High School to three playoff appearances and a record of 27-8 in his last three seasons. After three years away from the program, Mustain returned to Lindside in 2021. He guided the Mavericks to an 8-4 record and a spot in the Class A quarterfinals.
“I really don’t know what drew me back. I don’t really know what took me out to begin with,” Mustain said. “I felt at the time that I was ready to retire. The opportunity existed to come back so I just decided to go ahead and do it. It is something I really enjoy. The whole time I was retired, I still coached little league baseball and little league football in Pearisburg [Virginia].
“We might have exceeded [expectations] a little bit. But I felt like they had the talent and the capability to get that far. I feel that way again this year. Hopefully, we can take it a step or two further.”
In each of the Mavericks’ eight wins last fall, they allowed 16 points or less.
“They learned their positions very well and they learned their keys. We’ve got to get even better with that this year. Defensively, I was real happy with the way things went last year. We’ve got a lot of those kids back. I am hoping to see us take the next step on that as well.”
Mustain looks to build a more efficient offense and he hopes a line that features sophomore Brady Baker can lead the way.
“That’s going to be the tough part. We are going to have several kids on the line that are going to have to go both ways. We’ve got some younger kids that I feel like can come in and at least give them a spell throughout the game when needed. I really feel pretty good about our line on both sides of the ball.”
Despite the graduations of Grant Lively and Cam Thomas, many of the Mavericks’ top skill players from last year are back.
“I feel pretty good about our skill positions. It looks like Layton Dowdy will settle in as quarterback. He is really looking good. Hopefully that will continue to progress throughout the preseason.”
Six of James Monroe’s ten opponents qualified for postseason play in 2021, providing the Mavericks with a number of challenges in their return to the Class A playoffs.
“In years past, we might have a gimmie on our schedule. We don’t have that this year. Everybody on our schedule is going to be tough. You look at how many teams on the schedule made the playoffs last year. And a lot of them return a lot of key people.”
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Police have charged a 17-year-old with first degree murder following a Charleston shooting death.
Charleston police said a juvenile petition has been obtained for who they believe was the shooter in the Friday afternoon shooting of James Hambrick.
Hambrick, 42, of Charleston, was shot in the head at the intersection of Hunt Avenue and 6th Street. He died Sunday at CAMC.
“It was a disturbance type call. He (Hambrick) was arguing with several males, guns were drawn, several shots were fired, and he was struck in the head,” CPD Chief of Detectives Lt. Tony Hazelett previously told MetroNews.
Police were on the scene within seconds of the first report and managed to catch the car which sped from the scene. There was an original charge of wanton endangerment.
The 17-year-old’s name likely won’t be released until the case is transferred to adult status.
Governor Jim Justice said the decision by State Superintendent of Schools Clayton Burch to transfer out of his current role was solely Burch’s decision. Charter School enrollment nears 1500 student in the first year of the schools in West Virginia. The Fairmont Medical Center is coming back to life after it was originally set to close. The State Fair of West Virginia is ready to open up in Greenbrier County. Country music legend Dolly Parton pays a visit to Charleston to celebrate literacy. In Sports, more previews of high school football as practice continues–and Kyle Wiggs will give us an update on WVU’s receiving Corps. Those stories and more in today’s MetroNews This Morning podcast.
FAIRLEA, W.Va. — When the 97th Annual State Fair of West Virginia opens this Thursday in Greenbrier County, visitors can expect some changes.
For the first time, metal detectors will be set up at the front entrance gates in Fairlea.
State Fair CEO Kelly Collins said they’re doing that out of an abundance of caution in response to recent mass shootings nationwide.
“We want to have fun, but want to have safe fun,” Collins said. “We are including metal detectors at the gate. It is an open gate system. You can leave items in your pocket.”
The swine barn will also be off limits after a case of swine flu was detected a few weeks ago at the Jackson County Fair.
Collins said people can still view the pigs, but won’t be allowed to go near them.
“If you want to see the swine, you can still walk past the barn and look in and you can go to a swine show throughout the week,” she said. “If you visit the animals during the fair, we encourage you to wash your hands.”
State Agriculture Commissioner Kent Leonhardt said there have been no new cases reported since they received word of the Jackson County swine flu case on July 29.
“Over the weekend, we haven’t gotten any more reported cases of swine flu, but we’re going to continue with our precautions,” he said on Monday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”
Leonhardt said there will also be no live birds at the poultry barn this year due to a widespread influenza outbreak among 36 states, not including West Virginia.
“We do fear there may be some birds in the migratory that are up north. You just never know where it’s going to pop up and that can be devastating to our poultry industry, so out of an abundance of caution we called live birds off this year,” he said.
Fair officials and the state Department of Agriculture will be performing regular checks on the animals throughout the barn.
The West Virginia State Fair will start August 11th and it will run until the 20th. @KentforWV provides the latest details on the popular event to @HoppyKercheval. WATCH: https://t.co/yCFQ3nDJuy pic.twitter.com/9EXn9tAJWg
— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) August 8, 2022
Collins said it’s important to keep livestock exhibits in place.
“State fairs and fairs across the country really started because of agriculture,” she said. “In 1921, when we started as the Greenbrier County Fair, it was not only for the local economy, but to show the agriculture community and what it does for our area.”
There will be music, food and carnival rides. Collins said they’re expecting a large crowd over the 10-day period.
“We’ve got two sold out concerts already and the fair hasn’t even started,” she said. “Some people haven’t been able to go on vacation to whatever it may be, so we’re hoping that those folks are able to come down and have an end-of-summer celebration with us.”
The 2022 concert lineup features two sold-out performances this year by Cody Johnson and special guest Randall King this Thursday, as well as Zach Bryan and special guest Charles Wesley Godwin on Aug. 18.
There will be more than 50 food vendors across the property.
Some COVID-19 precautions will remain in place, Collins said.
“We’re going to continue to have all the hand sanitation stations and hand washing stations across the property.” she said. “We have a great partnership with our public health officials and they’ll be on grounds helping us if we need anything.”
There will be several special offers throughout the fair including First Energy’s Magic Monday on Aug. 15, Senior Citizen’s Day on Aug. 16, the Early Bird Special sponsored by Diversified Energy featuring $1 admission from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Aug. 17 and Military Discount Day the same day. Children ages 10 and under will once again get in free all day, every day.
Gates open Thursday at 9 a.m. with carnival rides at 11 a.m.
The fair runs Aug. 11-20 in Fairlea.
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The in-house races for leadership positions in the two chambers of the West Virginia Legislature are typically affairs kept behind closed doors. The lobbying for votes within the party is usually in hushed tones that produce promises of support that may or may not materialize.
However, this year’s race for Speaker of the West Virginia House of Delegates has spilled out into the open. Delegate Brandon Steele (R, Raleigh) publicly announced earlier this week on WJLS’s “Radio Roundtable” show with Fred Persinger II that he is challenging current Speaker Roger Hanshaw (R, Clay).
The election will occur after the November General Election.
Interestingly, Steele is currently a key member of Hanshaw’s leadership team, since he serves as chairman of the Government Organization Committee, but he is displeased with the direction at the top.
“I believe our progress is stalled under the current leadership and a new direction and new focus is necessary,” Steele said.
Steele, who is only in his second two-year term, is one of the more outspoken members of the most conservative wing of House Republicans. He believes the Republican supermajorities should be more effective at passing legislation reflective of the conservative values of voters who sent them to Charleston.
The Beckley lawyer cites the recent special session as an example of when lawmakers could not agree on an abortion bill or tax cuts, and during the regular session the Legislature did not approve a bill prohibiting the instruction of Critical Race Theory in schools or legislation banning mask mandates.
Steele is not alone, but it is unclear if he can gather enough support to unseat the current speaker. Hanshaw is generally well-liked and respected by most members of his caucus for his intelligence, steady hand and calm demeanor.
However, he is more interested in economic issues than social causes, which creates trouble within the GOP caucus. Hanshaw has often found himself at odds with fellow House Republicans over bills that he felt were too far out on the fringe.
Hanshaw is not commenting on the power struggle, but I am told he is determined to keep his position. That means marshalling his leadership team to solidify his support.
The power struggle within the House Republicans is a result of electoral success. The views and objectives of the members were fairly consistent when the GOP had only a handful of members. Plus, the minority party was more about blocking or changing legislation, rather than originating and passing significant policies.
But now the Republicans hold 78 of the 100 seats, with more gains likely in November. The caucus is more diverse and the leadership’s effort to guide the group can be like herding cats. Discontent is inevitable.
Steele already believes he has enough support to make it a close race. However, there is a significant difference between a delegate who is disgruntled and a member who is willing to take a chance on supporting a sea change that would lead to a top-to-bottom restructuring of the House leadership and committees.
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RALEIGH COUNTY, W.Va. — The Raleigh County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a fatal wreck that happened Monday in the community of Bolt.
According to authorities, Randall Z. Bower was driving a utility terrain vehicle when he stopped at the intersection of state Route 99 and Bolt Road. As Bower was turning left onto state Route 99, an oncoming Nissan Rogue struck the UTV. Bower was ejected from the vehicle; he was not wearing a seat belt at the time.
First responders administered first aid at the scene before transporting Bower to Raleigh General Hospital. Bower died from his injuries.
Authorities have not released the name of the other driver. Their condition is also not known.
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Country music icon Dolly Parton took part in an event in Charleston on Tuesday celebrating her program focused on childhood literacy.
The gathering at the Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences centered on Parton’s Imagination Library, which provides children under the age of 5 with free books. The program is now available in all of West Virginia’s 55 counties through the West Virginia Department of Education and Marshall University’s June Harless Center.
According to Tarabeth Heineman, the executive director of the June Harless Center, West Virginia children have received more than 3.7 million books through the program since its launch in West Virginia in 2007. Around 94,000 children are enrolled in the program.
“Right now, 50% of all eligible children are enrolled and receiving Imagination Library books, which are delivered each month to their home and specialized with their names,” Heineman explained. “There’s no better way to make books exciting and to show children that someone is thinking of them.”
The Imagination Library began in 1995. During an interview with Marshall University President Brad Smith, Parton said she created the program with her father.
“He never had the chance to go to school. He was from a big, old family like us,” she said. “When he was young, they lived so far back, they had to actually go work on the farm in order to feed everybody else. The schoolhouse was miles away. At least, it felt like it, I’m sure.”
Parton said her father was embarrassed by not knowing how to read or write.
“I thought, ‘I have the opportunity to do something good here,” she added.
Parton continued, “My dad got to live long enough to see it come to fruition. He was so proud.”
According to Imagination Library, more than two million children in five counties receive books through the program.
“If they can learn to read early, then can be self-educated, if they need to be,” she said. “But you got to learn to read.”
Gov. Jim Justice issued a proclamation designating Tuesday as Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library Day. Parton took part in a similar event in Columbus, Ohio ahead of her visit to West Virginia’s capital city.
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FAIRMONT, W.Va. — The Fairmont Medical Center, WVU Medicine is coming back to life a little at a time.
West Virginia University Hospitals President Michael Grace said the opening of the new main entrance recently kicks off the multi-year plan for improvements, upgrades and additions.
“That campus is a branch campus of Ruby Memorial Hospital,” Grace said. “So, we could have more beds or different services that meet community needs.”
Grace said during an appearance on WAJR’s “Talk of the Town” Tuesday that over the next three years they plan to add beds and specialized services as improvements continue. Grace said remodeling the aged building has been a time consuming challenge.
“We will have 72 beds when the skilled nursing unit is completed,” Grace said. “Hopefully, by this time next year that will be done.”
A pulmonary clinic and a sleep lab for outpatient sleep studies are on the way and soon inpatient dialysis services are expected to be added.
“Because you want to make sure you’re offering a robust amount of different types of services including in patient beds,” Grace said. “But, we also do need to think about more operating rooms or should we have more procedure rooms, because we have a finite amount of space.”
When Alecto Healthcare Services LLC announced closure of the facility in early 2021, WVU Medicine announced a $110 million investment into the building within weeks. Grace said in addition to medical services, the renovation plans include major infrastructure items, the most significant is a new HVAC system.
“Most importantly, it’s to make sure the good people of Marion County and Fairmont have convenient access to care, specialized care, and some of it is only available locally through WVU Medicine,” Grace said.
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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — From a production standpoint, three of West Virginia’s top five wide receivers and four of its six leading pass catchers from last season are no longer around.
Fortunately for first-year WVU wideouts coach Tony Washington, redshirt juniors Bryce Ford-Wheaton and Sam James are back, giving the Mountaineers a pair of proven players who provide steady veteran influence at that position.
Still, Washington knows his group needs to be able to count on far more than just Ford-Wheaton and James as West Virginia breaks in a new system under offensive coordinator Graham Harrell.
At the forefront of the list of wideouts WVU is hoping to see take a big step forward is sophomore Kaden Prather.
“Kaden Prather has a lot of peak performances and now the big thing for him is to stack them on top of each other,” Washington said. “When he’s confident, he’s as good as anybody we have in that room.”
One of the more decorated members of the Mountaineers’ 2021 recruiting class, Prather enrolled early and went on to contribute sparingly as a true freshman, catching 12 passes for 175 yards. All but three receptions and 46 yards came over West Virginia’s last three regular season games, with Prather assuming an expanded role toward the latter part of his first college season.
Washington was still with Coastal Carolina then, where he held the same title he does in Morgantown. Since his hiring at WVU in February, Washington has taken notice to Prather’s advanced skill set. At times, the receivers coach believes it almost works against the 6-foot-4, 211-pound native of Montgomery Village, Md., who Washington wants to see simplify things.
“He’s so talented and things come easy to him sometimes,” Washington said. “He makes the game harder than it needs to be. For him, it’s really understanding I have all this ability and talent, but I can’t use everything I know on every single route. Sometimes it takes this or that.”
Since participating in his second spring at West Virginia, Prather has displayed the maturation that Mountaineer coaches hope to see more of moving forward, according to Washington.
“He’s starting to understand I can do this here or do that there. I’m seeing the wheels turn and he’s asking questions that he wouldn’t necessarily have asked in the spring,” Washington said. “He’s playing faster. He’s catching the ball well, especially the past couple days. If he keeps stacking up the way he’s doing, he’s going to be phenomenal.”
With his stature, Prather is likely to join Ford-Wheaton (6-3, 224) as the Mountaineers’ primary targets at outside receiver.
Yet with Winston Wright Jr. — who led WVU in catches, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns a year ago — having transferred to Florida State, and fellow former wideouts Sean Ryan and Isaiah Esdale transferring to Rutgers and Rice, respectively, there’s a need for more than Prather to increase production.
Both Ford-Wheaton and James, who each caught 42 passes for better than 500 yards last season, will be looked at to provide more to a passing game that will feature a new starting quarterback.
“They’ve gotten a lot better with details and understanding the playbook now that it’s being installed for the second or third time,” Washington said. “Really starting to understand the ins and outs, getting better at their technique and building upon what we built in the spring. Of course there’s always that period where you’re trying to get to know each other, trying to get to know what works for them, what I like and what they like and find the best working relationship. Now we’ve grown a bond where those guys trust me and believe in what I’m coaching.”
WVU has added a pair of junior college players to its receiving room in Jeremiah Aaron and Cortez Braham. While unproven at this level, Washington believes both have a chance to become factors as they transition to Division I.
“At the JUCO level, Cortez and Jeremiah were probably the two best athletes on their team, and here, they’re not necessarily going to be the best athletes every time they line up,” Washington said. “So it’s having that technique and doing the little things right every single time. They get extra work, go to extra meetings and they really want to learn. They ask questions. It’s been really good to see.”
Reese Smith, a sophomore with 23 receptions for 252 yards over his first two seasons at WVU, is also back. He and Preston Fox, who impressed in the spring to the point of earning a scholarship, add much-needed depth to a position group seeking to make more big plays in both Harrell and Washington’s first year with the Mountaineers.
“You have to be a magician and make everything look the same,” Washington said. “Be an illusionist to get that [defensive back] to play even. When he’s playing even, now he’s starting to guess and he may sit on something. That’s when you get the big plays. If you’re fast, you’re fast, but when you’re not fast, it’s going to be technique that gets you the separation you need.”
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice said during his Tuesday media briefing that neither he nor anyone in his administration told state School Superintendent Clayton Burch that he should transfer jobs to become the new superintendent for the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and Blind in Romney.
“No way. No way,” Justice said in response to a question from Gazette-Mail reporter Ryan Quinn. “I really thought Clayton Burch was doing a great job and I have no reason to feel any differently in any way.”
Burch’s request for transfer is on the state Board of Education’s Wednesday meeting agenda. The board is expected to vote on the request. The board could also choose a new state School Superintendent.
Justice said he was as surprised as anyone when he first heard the report about Burch’s request.
“No way on this planet that anybody representing me or anybody that I knew about it in any way had anything to do with this,” Justice said.
Justice was with Burch at an event at Peterstown Middle School in Monroe County last Friday when the board meeting agenda item was noticed. He said Burch didn’t mention it. Justice found out about it from a MetroNews report after the event was over.
Burch hasn’t commented publicly since the reports of his transfer surfaced. There has been speculation that the move is linked to his father’s health. West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee said he respects Burch’s decision.
“I know Clayton has some family obligations to his dad and he wants to be close to him,” Lee said this week on MetroNews “Talkline.” “I haven’t talked to Clayton yet but I know that’s a concern. You want to take care of your parents.”
Justice said Burch has done a good job as state superintendent and he wishes him well.
“I’m a believer in Clayton and with all that being said and if this works out that he’s moving jobs and it works out with the board of education folks and all of those people–that’s good stuff to me,” Justice said.
Justice said his administration’s education efforts would not stop with a change at the top.
“We will not drop the ball and we will absolutely continue on and there won’t be any lapse, we’ll continue on and we’ll continue to try to do all of the good work that we’re doing,” Justice said.
Burch has made several visits to the Schools for the Deaf and the Blind in Romney in recent months connected to both promised education improvements with the appointment of an intervention team at the school 2021 and facility improvements following a February fire that destroyed an historic building on campus.
Wednesday’s state Board of Education meeting begins at 9 a.m.