Tomorrow, the West Virginia State Legislature gavels in to begin its 85th session. On the agenda are promises of bold ideas for reform – encouraging a better future for generations of West Virginians to come.
Very few see promise within West Virginia’s hills, but for mountaineers full of courage there is nothing but. The ground that supports country roads has been home to novel, daring ideas for decades. So bold, in fact, our Capitol has had five different homes across the state.
In the early 20th century, Cass Gilbert and a team of architects carefully designed our state government’s marble dwelling. However, the state and its residents quickly became filled with doubt. In 1930, editorials filled the state papers condemning the decision to build a grand Capitol, echoing the accusation that we’d never use the space.
While this may resentfully speak to the size to which our government has grown in the past century, today, the state has constructed even more buildings to hold the executive departments the Capitol could no longer maintain.
During its construction, Cass Gilbert became warry of the plan. The weight of the marble columns posed a threat to the structure’s lower levels. The absence of modern technology emboldened the West Virginia spirit — instead of giving up, architects swung the West Virginia Supreme Court columns into place via crane.
As the state built the Capitol, establishing a place for itself in a country much older, the New York Stock Exchange collapsed, the state faced a drought, and the Great Depression was on its brink.
Because of the bold ideas and perseverance of a few, we have one of the country’s grandest Capitols. Today, West Virginians continue to encourage this drive to succeed and honor the people who made our story possible. The marble walls that embrace the foundations quickly encapsulated me and my love for the people who write our story.
I am a West Virginian by choice. Born and raised nearly 400 miles away from the place I now call home, my love for West Virginia has fueled my desire to do more for the people among the hills.
In 2019, I worked within the State Senate during a time of political commotion. For the first time in decades, West Virginia was proposing transformational change for the future of education. Resembling a prior era of hope, the legislature empowered students and families to choose their education. Simultaneously, sects of the state echoed that the idea was fueled in disillusion, despite the “proof in the pudding” across the nation.
My experience in the legislature has reminded me of something important: Republican or Democrat, West Virginians will fight for one another like there’s no tomorrow. It is one of the many things I love about her people.
As the legislature begins its 2021 session, these bold ideas will once again come to the forefront, demanding change for the people within it. The principles of freedom comprise our state motto and people but fall short within our State Code. West Virginia was founded by those who put freedom first. This session, our legislators should work to do the same for the future of West Virginia.
Jessica Dobrinsky is a Policy Development Associate for the Cardinal Institute for West Virginia Policy and a resident of Morgantown, WV.