YOUNG ASSESSOR CREDITS FOOTWORK, DONKEYS - From The Huntington Herald Dispatch

(02/02/2001)

By Dave Peyton

(Wed., January 31st) David Felinton may be getting most of the publicity in these parts for winning the mayors race in Huntington at the age of 25, but hes not the youngest public official to have been elected in the state last November.

That honor probably goes to Jason Nettles, a 20-year-old who won the Calhoun County assessors race.

Calhoun County, in central West Virginia, has only about 8,000 people. The average age of folks there is even older than West Virginias average. And yet, they elected a 20-year-old to be their assessor.

How did Nettles do it? A lot of shoe leather and plywood donkeys, he says.

Nettles may be a member of Generation X, but first and foremost hes a West Virginian and a Calhoun County native. Folks in the southern part of the county around Nicut, where he was born, knew him. But his task was to get voters in the northern part of the county to vote for him. To do that, they had to become acquainted with him.

Thats where his door-to-door campaign helped, he said. In addition to going house to house, he put thousands of miles on his Jeep getting around the county.

"Jason is just a really good person, really focused. Hes known since he was 12 years old that he wanted to go into politics," said Dianne Weaver of the unincorporated Calhoun County town of Hur. She and her husband, Bob, publish The Hur Herald, an online newspaper you can read at www.hurherald.com.

"And of course, those donkeys helped a lot," Weaver added.

Nettles, a Democrat, said he began his campaign by cutting a few donkeys out of plywood and painting his campaign signs on them.

"People would see them in yards and ask if I could make them one of those donkeys," Nettles said. "I made nearly 200 of them and people still ask me today if I can get one of those donkeys to put in their yard."

Nettles said he got considerable razzing from some folks about his tender age. "But I just convinced them that I could do the job and that I would be honest and serve the public the way Im supposed to," he said.

He beat a 50-year-old opponent in the Democratic primary and a Republican opponent in the general election to win the job as assessor.

"Jasons biggest job is to convince county folks that things are changing, that the way government used to work isnt the way it works today. And I think hes doing a good job of doing just that," Weaver said.

Meanwhile, Nettles is looking to the future.

"Ill be assessor for eight years, then Ill go on to be a delegate to the Legislature for eight years, and then Ill run for governor," he said.

To prepare himself educationally, hes enrolled at nearby Glenville State College, where hes majoring in business administration and minoring, of course, in political science.

Dave Peyton is a columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. His telephone number is 526-2790 and his e-mail address is dpeyton@herald-dispatch.com.


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