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Freshman Delegate Evans works for district priorities

McDowell delegate on losing side of Courtesy Patrol committee vote

By Lexi Browning

For The West Virginia Press Association

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — For freshman Delegate Ed Evans, D-McDowell, the first two weeks of this year’s legislative session have been a learning process.

Delegate Ed Evans, D-McDowell

Evans, who retired from the education system after 35 years, said in the upcoming weeks he hopes to work for substance abuse reform, highway construction and improvements, and employment in the southern regions of West Virginia.

Fixing the roads, Evans said, will allow the state to maximize its tourism industry and increase employment opportunities in McDowell and Mercer counties.

“The Hatfield and McCoy trails are our Disneyland,” Evans said. “The popularity of the ATV industry is so big right now that people will come from everywhere to visit, but we must be prepared when they get here. We have to have housing and rentals and entertainment. A road will allow that to happen.”

The first step to jumpstarting employment in southern West Virginia, Evans said, is to repair and upgrade roads leading into the coalfields.

“I ran on the platform that I’d do everything I could do to get a road through McDowell County, be it the Coalfield Expressway or the King Coal Highway. Those roads will open McDowell and southern West Virginia to the world. People will come in, and there will be things for them to do.”

Noting that substance abuse is a major issue in southern West Virginia, Evans said, “We’ve got to do something about the drug epidemic,” Evans said. “We’ve got so many people overdosing in McDowell. Everyone talks a good game and uses the buzzwords, but they don’t follow through. We’re arresting people left and right. We have to work with our law enforcement, judges and find the answer. The bad part is that we take one dealer off the street and there’s always someone to fill the opening. That’s not unique to McDowell or Mercer; it’s everywhere.”

Evans served on the House’s Roads and Transportation, Education and Pensions and Retirement committees.

This week Evans opposed House Bill 2007, which would eliminate the state courtesy patrol, stating the Courtesy Patrol program as his “sacred cow” for the moment.

Delegate Marty Gerheart, R-Mercer

H.B. 2007 — with Delegate Marty Gearheart, R-Mercer, as lead sponsor — was passed out of Roads and Transportation and communicated to the House Finance Committee for further review.

Evans said his opposition was based on his support of getting tourists to West Virginia.

“I just don’t think it’s a good idea to eliminate the courtesy patrol, but not just because of the 12 jobs involved,” Evans said. “If we want to transition from an economy dependent on mineral resources to an economy that relies on tourism, we should be welcoming people with open arms, not ignoring them if they break down on a highway. It’s just the West Virginia way to take care of visitors.”

The West Virginia Courtesy Patrol operates 16 hours per day seven days per week and was founded in an effort between the Citizens Conservation Corps and the Division of Highways to combat unemployment and offer “training and educational opportunities” for courtesy drivers.

According to the CCC, courtesy drivers “assist stranded motorists, remove hazards from the roadways, provide gas or directions, change flat tires,” which the organization says “enhances safety on the state’s highways and promotes good will.”

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