As we go through our lives, we often look around our state or town and only see the flaws or the things that we believe could be so much better. We look at social media and marvel at our friends’ and families’ photos of other places and wish we could live there. “There’s nothing to do around here,” we bellow and fondly remember our trip to the beach or an adventure out West. It is easy to fall into this trap and feel as if we are stuck and count the days before we can leave. I recently had an experience that gave me another perspective on this common refrain. I was attending the Southern Municipal Conference in Wheeling, West Virginia, which is a group of Executive Directors of Municipal Leagues throughout the South and their staff that meet to exchange ideas and discuss ways to work together. The West Virginia Municipal League was hosting the conference, and I was representing one of my clients, HdL Companies with my colleague from Winston-Salem, NC, Kandi Marler, Senior Operations Manager at HdL.
Attendees came from Florida, Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, Alabama, Georgia, Arkansas, and Virginia and even one attendee from Minnesota. The conference was held at the Oglebay Resort, which was decked out for the Christmas season with garland, trees, and holiday lights throughout the resort. A light dusting of snow gave the area around the conference center the look of a Christmas card and the many deer that roam the grounds only added to the atmosphere. I have attended dozens of events and conferences at Oglebay over the years and it took a conversation with a group of the attendees, to reopen my eyes to the uniqueness and beauty of this West Virginia treasure.
I was standing with a group of attendees and asked them if this was their first trip to West Virginia. This started a cascade of positive comments about our state and particularly, the Wheeling area. The director of the Louisiana Municipal League, John Gallagher, said that he and his wife, Camille, had come early to explore our area and visit some of the sites. When I asked if they were familiar with Fiestaware, John laughed and said his car was filled with some of the colorful glassware. He also related going over to Steubenville, Ohio, which is just over the Ohio River, to search for the graves of his great-grandfather and other descendants of his family. He found the gravestones and got to connect to his family history. Shari Veazey, the director of the Mississippi Municipal League, was ecstatic with the Oglebay Resort and the beautiful landscape that was so different from her state. As I listened to the impressions relayed by the visitors, I realized that we do have something special in West Virginia and these visitors will return home with special memories to share with their friends and families. Things that we pass every day will be posted to social media throughout the South and a seed will be planted in the minds of many who may not have given West Virginia, a second thought.
Travis Blosser, the Executive Director of the West Virginia Municipal League, and his staff did an amazing job of putting together this conference and giving it that special West Virginia touch. Host of MetroNews Talkline, Hoppy Kercheval, did a great job giving the attendees a look at West Virginia politics and Wheeling resident and internationally famous Mentalist and Magician, Craig Karges, wowed the crowd with his unbelievable magic. Sometimes it takes an outside set of eyes to view our state in a positive perspective and the attendees at the Southern Municipal Conference should be enthusiastic ambassadors for the Mountain State!