Group came to give message to candidate Jackson

By Bob Weaver

Lincoln, Cabel and Roane County residents traveled to Calhoun Saturday to deliver a message to Democrat gubernatorial candidate Lloyd Jackson.

A few of the protesters were members of Challenge West Virginia, an advocacy group for community-based schools.

Jackson (left) made an appearance at the old Army Reserve Center at Mt. Zion for a campaign rally sponsored by oil and gas businessman James Morris of Grantsville.

"I'm shocked how some of Jackson's supporters lashed out with profanity toward peaceful protesters," said Arnoldsburg resident Eric Rogers, a member of the group. "People have a backward perception of activists and should try to understand the right to peaceful assembly."

Morris, owner of the property where Jackson was appearing, reminded the group it was private property, although the meeting was to be public and the group remained on state right-of-way.

Delegate Bill Stemple, an employee of the Morris family business interests, accompanied Jackson to Mt. Zion, saying "I have not made up my mind who I am supporting" for governor.

Several local candidates for public office and a few citizens attended the rally where Jackson delivered his message promoting education and economic growth by growing small businesses. He says he is developing a new approach to tourism and will fight off the rising costs of insurance.

Protester seventy-four-year-old Dona Ramey (right) said "We want people to know Lloyd Jackson and the damage he has done to Lincoln County."

"God forbid if he is elected governor," she said.

Jackson, a millionaire oil and gas businessman and former state senator, frequently refers to his rural county, but in fact lives in Charleston.

Jackson's reputation in Democrat ridden Lincoln County has gone down hill after a Republican write-in candidate defeated him for State Senate. He still managed to be elected by voters in the senatorial district.

Carol Smith, president of the Lincoln County school board, said the system has been held hostage by Jackson's followers, allowing community schools to fall apart.

Lincoln County resident Thomas Ramey said "Beware Calhoun! Lloyd Jackson tries to portray his Lincoln home boy roots, when in fact his political and business ambitions have created a gap that seems beyond repair."

"He is the state's chief architect for school consolidation, closing community schools and causing two-hour bus rides in our county, when that movement has been discontinued around America."

"With student population falling in Calhoun, it will likely happen that your last elementary schools in Arnoldsburg and Pleasant Hill will be moved to the consolidated Mt. Zion School," said Ramey.

Protester Karen Sargent said "I don't want to see Jackson continue to do to West Virginia what he has done to Lincoln County," referring to the closure of nearly all the schools with the building of the most costly high school ever built in the state at $30 million.

"Hey, the only entrance road to the new school even floods, but that's the way things work down here," she said.

"In the Lincoln County community of Harts you must now go to school in Logan County, or get permission from the school board to attend school in your own county. It is the final takeover of local education," she said.

"I have a right to protest," said Elisabeth Sargent, a 16 year-old former Lincoln County student. Ms. Sargent commented on the apparent dissatisfaction of some of the rally attendees. "I was taken aback by one man's words after I asked for a chair for Mrs. Ramey." She said, "Mr. Jackson has avoided us on numerous occasions, I find it ironic that a man who wants to lead the state, doesn't want to face his opposition."

Oil and gas businessman Ted Adkins (left) heckled a member of the group, and Carl Cox, an apparent Jackson supporter (right), after a request was made for a chair for an elderly protester who had open heart surgery, said "I don't give a d- - -! So what if shes' had surgery. She should have stayed at home," and then saying "I have a right to say whatever I want to" about the elderly woman.

The protesters then traveled to Spencer where they anticipated Jackson would make an appearance at a Democratic fundraiser being held at the community building.

School board president Smith said Mayor Terry Williams became outraged, calling the group "idiots" and telling them to "go back to Lincoln County from where you come."

Although the protesters remained outside on public property, a member of the mayor's group reportedly called the Roane County prosecuting attorney who advised them the group had a right to peacefully protest.

"His behavior was not becoming of an elected official," said Smith.