By SCOTT GILLEPSIE
The Preston County News and Journal
KINGWOOD, W.Va. — Ferdinand and Isabella. Antony and Cleopatra. Kim and Kanye.
Dave and Terri?
OK, so perhaps the Sypolts of Preston County aren’t yet as famous or overexposed as those other power couples, but they’re nevertheless making history as the 2017 West Virginia legislative session gets underway on February 8.
Dave Sypolt is a three-term Republican Senator, now in his 11th year in Charleston, representing sprawling District 14, which comprises all of Barbour, Hardy, Preston, Taylor, Tucker and parts of Grant, Mineral, and Monongalia counties.
Terri Sypolt is a Statehouse newbie, having defeated incumbent Democrat Steve Shaffer last fall to win House District 52, which consists of Preston and part of Grant counties.
While the two have been friends for many years — they met when Dave, a Kingwood land surveyor by profession, spent time at work in the Preston County Assessor’s Office, where Terri was a staffer before serving as assessor for 16 years — this month marks their joint foray into state government representing the people back home.
“When Dave asked me to marry him, I asked him ‘Are you sure? This is a big step.’ And he said, ‘Well, at our age, if it’s wrong, we don’t have that much longer to deal with it anyhow,” said Terri one recent evening at a town hall meeting at the Bruceton Mills Senior Center.
But she’s not worried about mixing love and politics.
“I know we’re still kind of in the honeymoon phase of marriage, but we really don’t fight or argue about things,” she said. “We express our opinions, and sometimes they’re not the same, but we don’t take it personally.”
Dave said the 60-day legislative session is all-consuming to senators and delegates alike, and the couple probably won’t find time enough to exchange Valentine’s Day candies beneath the gold dome.
“I’m sure we won’t chat in the Rotunda. We probably won’t have lunch together. We’ll be on different sides of the Capitol building and on completely different schedules,” he said. “I get to the Capitol about seven in the morning and usually leave around nine or ten o’clock at night, studying and working with the resources I’ve got in my office there.”
The Sypolts will spend evenings together in a house in Charleston.
“I think we’ll see each other actually more, at least in the evenings during session,” Dave said. “Before now, Terri would stay in Kingwood most of the time, and I’d return on the weekends during the session. Now we’ll be sharing a place in Charleston.”
Terri said delineating between the professional and personal is key to their marriage.
“We don’t talk much about politics, actually. Working in the assessor’s office and chairing its legislative committee, I dealt with Dave as a senator long before he was my husband — and he’s not the easiest senator to deal with sometimes,” she said, laughing.
“When it comes the major issues — right to life, gun issues — we’re pretty much on the same page. But on other things, we don’t always share the same views. And when that happens, we deal with it on a professional level, express our opinions and don’t take it personally. And then we go on to dinner or the next meeting or whatever,” she said.
Time together, Terri said, is cherished — and often rare, even when the Legislature isn’t meeting.
“Politics consumes a lot of our life together, especially when you consider Dave’s district covers eight counties. Sometimes he’s on the road for three hours to attend a luncheon that’s only an hour and a half long,” Terri said. “But having been around politics many years myself, I guess I’ve come to accept that. I understand the demands on a politician’s time and why he’s often the last person to leave the room.”
As for their legislative goals this year, each Sypolt has their own agenda.
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