Seeking to Build Bridges: As Federal Co-Chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission, Gayle Manchin Leads Efforts for Parity in Economic Development for Rural Residents |


Growing up in West Virginia, Gayle Manchin saw and experienced some of the challenges faced by those who call Appalachia home.

Now as federal co-chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission, Manchin is able to draw on her experiences and what she saw firsthand as an educator and later as a wife of a State and now federal official representing West Virginia.

In his position, Manchin works with the 13 ARC member governors, their state alternates and program managers. She also helps coordinate and communicate with people in the different regions that fall under the CRA.

West Virginia is the only state in the ARC’s service area, but 12 other states have rural areas similar to West Virginia that can benefit from the commission’s focus on their assistance.

“I’m from West Virginia and grew up here,” Manchin said. “It grounded me in the Appalachian region.

“But I have so enjoyed learning about the other ARC states and their wonderful projects. It is truly rewarding to see the resilience and ingenuity of the people of the Appalachian region.

Manchin said the key to being able to further stimulate economic growth in some of ARC’s challenging areas lies in learning from each other and developing best practices.

Along with her obvious passion for educating and helping people, as well as first-hand knowledge of the Appalachian region, Manchin brings an eye for detail.

During her time as a class teacher in Marion County, as well as a faculty member and then director of the community service-learning program at Fairmont State University, Manchin demonstrated the organizational and communication skills necessary to bring together people.

As the wife of U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, whom she met when they were both students at West Virginia University, Gayle Manchin also learned the importance of consensus-building and political wrangling sometimes necessary to get things done.

While her husband was governor, Gayle Manchin was an active first lady, championing educational efforts throughout Mountain State and eventually serving as chair of the state Board of Education.

She also served as Cabinet Secretary for the West Virginia Office of Education and the Arts under another governor.

Manchin said her love of learning and then teaching led her to succeed in what she is passionate about: helping others find their path to success.

“I loved learning,” Manchin said. “I loved going to school…people who love going to school become teachers, so it was natural and led me in that direction.”

She also knows that she has had opportunities to continue to grow and learn throughout her life.

“I’ve been blessed with the opportunities I’ve had, to go places, to meet people. I’ve been on a lot of boards and community groups and learned to listen to many different viewpoints.

“You learn from all of this and you continue to lean on all these people you meet. I’ve always been blessed to be around people smarter than me, to build relationships with people who can enrich our Invest your time in them because they come back to be part of who you are.

“(And) As you build those relationships, to learn, you have to listen, whether it’s in a classroom or a conference room. You have to listen. You have to look at different professionals, different cultures to get a broad view on the life.”

Manchin’s top priorities as Federal Co-Chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission are to support the creation of economic opportunity in the Appalachian region, improve broadband access and critical infrastructure in communities, and solve the opioid crisis in the region.

“The main objective of ARC is to achieve parity and equity with the rest of the country; to level the playing field,” Manchin said.

“Personally, the way we do this is to bring the 13 ARC states together, through grant projects and open communication, sharing ideas about what works and what doesn’t,” Manchin said. “For me, that’s the goal I’m going to strive for.”

Manchin said that while West Virginia is the only state totally within the territory of the Appalachian Regional Commission, it’s important to look at the region’s similarities and build strength through best practices.

“There is so much commonality between areas within the ARC,” Manchin said. “By mixing ideas and opportunities, we would have bigger and better projects that would affect more people.”

Manchin stressed that West Virginia should seek to work with its five bordering states, reaching out to them to see what joint efforts would benefit both.

“Broadband is a great example,” Manchin said of the importance of learning to work across county, state and regional boundaries.

“There’s such a lack of parity all over rural America, but especially in the Appalachian region,” Manchin said.

“If we were working with the supplier, we have to remember that numbers are important, so in bundling projects, suppliers might be looking to figure out how best to connect those middle miles and those final miles.”

A common theme among the struggling regions of the Appalachian region is the exodus of their young people, the famous “brain drain”.

Manchin knows that is the case in West Virginia and it is one of his goals to help West Virginia improve.

“I hope we have made a difference in our most troubled regions,” she said. “We’ve helped the communities not just survive, but thrive; and ultimately, they’re able to compete globally with the rest of the country.

“The one thing that’s not different from the whole Appalachian region is (West Virginia) there’s a shortage of teachers, nurses, welders. Those jobs are so important to the future.

“My hope is that we begin to grow our own as we educate the young people of our state and allow them to stay in West Virginia.”

Even before she was co-chair of the Appalachian Regional Commission, Manchin frequently visited schools, from preschool through elementary, secondary, technical and higher education.

She encourages young West Virginians to finish high school, get a college degree or some form of advanced training — and stay in the Mountain State.

“We must continue to take advantage of the opportunities that young people can have in our state,” Manchin said. “We have so many wonderful community colleges…build them and keep our young people here.”

Manchin thinks it’s important for West Virginia and the entire ARC to build on their past, with an emphasis on mixing cultures.

“One of the richest parts of the Appalachian region is the great heritage and culture,” Manchin said. “The diversity of different European nations and the way they have come together. This is who we are as a people.”

“To reach out, knowing your story is so important because it tells you how we got here,” Manchin said. “We have to listen, open our minds to different ideas about how people feel and think. And we also have to share our beliefs. We have to interact, based on mutual respect for the other person.”

Manchin knows that her role on the Appalachian Regional Commission, as well as her husband’s role in the U.S. Senate, puts family in the spotlight. She seeks to use this attention to inspire others – women, men and young people – with her efforts.

“I’ve spent a good part of my life working with women and children trying to level the playing field,” Manchin said. “We want equity and parity.

“The values ​​of what is so important to me is not because I am a woman. Equity and parity are the same. The values ​​are the same. We don’t need to be labeled .

“It should be about getting people to work together as colleagues, when we respect each other. When we become who we want to be, not because we’re male or female, it’s is because of our passion and purpose.

“Even though I have spent a good part of my life helping women and children, we should lend a hand whether we are doing it for a man or a woman. humanity and for our country.

As a frequent introductory speaker in schools, Manchin offers words of wisdom as young adults forge their path.

“There are certain messages that I find that I repeat, whether it’s kindergarten or masters,” she said.

— “We all have role models in our lives, the people we look up to. Some are blessed with so many good role models. But we must remember that we are all role models. Some may never know why they look up to us. We’re all mentors, so we have to be very careful in what we do and what we do.”

— “Building relationships is so important, as well as maintaining them. Don’t cut those relationships. They make our lives so much richer.”

— “Be who you want to be. Striving to be the best is important, but follow your passion and believe in yourself. If you do, you’ll find people along the way to help you achieve your goal.”

— “Never miss an opportunity to learn. There is always room to learn, grow, improve.”

—”The greatest gift in life is the gift of time. You have good times and bad times, but we have this time to live. I think young people don’t appreciate the value of time.” I say to my children and grandchildren, the value of every day and every minute of the time we have.”


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