Working lunch

U.S. Representative Carol Miller, center, speaks with Jennifer Kessinger, right, about Sarah's Soup at Giuseppe's Italian Restaurant in Mount Hope last week. Also pictured is Kim McMillion, left, deputy district manager for Miller's office.

As she aims to visit each of the 18 counties she represents, Congresswoman Carol Miller, R-W.Va., made several stops last week in southern West Virginia.

First stopping in Alloy to tour the metals plant, Miller then traveled to Mount Hope and Beaver to speak with constituents.

In Mount Hope, the first-term congresswoman ate a taco salad at the famous Giuseppe’s. The meal was provided by Sarah’s Soup, a program that aims to create unity in the community by providing meals and conversation.

According to Jennifer Kessinger, a founding member of the program, Sarah’s Soups was inspired by a member of the community who got caught up in the drug epidemic and simply wanted people to know that those in that situation still have value.

Kessinger said that person is doing much better now, and she is hopeful the program can help the community out in a small way.

“We try to see what the needs are of the community and we do what we can to connect them in the right areas to get those needs met,” Kessinger said.

So far, Kessinger said that she has been impressed by the response of local businesses, organizations and residents lending a helping hand in the efforts.

“It’s more than just giving people food — it’s building a relationship, and that’s what we are doing,” Kessinger said.

With Miller visiting Mount Hope, Kessinger said that a new relationship is being built.

“She’s not just a face anymore,” Kessinger said, praising the representative for coming to the town.

Miller, too, offered praise for the efforts of Sarah’s Soup, adding that she has seen the quality of the people of the state while touring its southern region.

“What they are doing here is so typical of what West Virginia people stand for,” the congresswoman said.

Looking over Mount Hope’s Main Street and its shuttered businesses, Miller shared her cautious optimism.

“Of course I don’t have a magic wand,” Miller said. “But southern West Virginia really suffered under bad policy. We’ve turned a corner, we’re hiring more people, we’ve got coal jobs coming back and we’re re-educating people for the jobs out there.”

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As for her tour of the Alloy plant, the congresswoman spoke on its uniqueness and its history — many families have multiple generations who have punched their timecards there.

Miller said while at the plant, she discussed her recent trip to China. She said she acted as an ambassador for southern West Virginia, while promoting fair trade practices.

Speaking on the ongoing trade issues with the Asian superpower, Miller said that she and other members of West Virginia’s congressional delegation penned a letter to the president urging caution with the issue while providing support.

Tariffs and trade were also key discussion points with representatives from Leslie Equipment Co. at their Beaver location.

“I want to let the president know, I support him 100 percent,” Miller said. “But, these are issues that directly affect my people and our jobs.”

The congresswoman shared her belief that President Trump cares for the state and that it is her job to give him an individualized account on how tariffs and trade disputes could impact its citizens.

So far, part of that individualization has been in dealing with problems caused by tariffs in the lumber industry.

Prompted by a discussion of closing lumber mills in the state, Miller said during her visit to four Chinese cities she saw lumber from West Virginia in Chinese factories.

The congresswoman also told the representatives from Leslie Equipment that she has been in discussions with Larry Kudlow, the director of the National Economic Council, about the impacts of tariffs on the state’s lumber industry.

When asked about other trade issues, Miller said that when the proposed trade agreement between the United States, Canada and Mexico reaches Congress that it will pass through easily.

While optimistic about a new North American trade deal, Miller, who sits on the House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, was unsure on the timeline to a possible $1 trillion infrastructure spending package.

On possible revenue sources for the infrastructure package, specifically a hike of the national gas tax, Miller said that the gas tax as a revenue source needs to be thought out better, due to increasing electric and natural gas vehicles on the road.

On the complexity of infrastructure, Miller said that any package would have to go beyond just roads and bridges.

“There’s just so, so much that needs to be looked at,” Miller told the representatives at Leslie Equipment. She also noted the importance of cell and internet coverage in the state.

Email: mcombs@register-herald.com; follow on Twitter @mattcombsRH

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