Mon BOE welcomes Smith and Morgan; elects Kelly president

Mike Kelly said he’ll keep both hands on the wheel as he begins his two-year term as president of the Monongalia County Board of Election.

Kelly, who has served on the BOE since 2005, was elected to his post by his fellow board members Monday.

The board met that evening for the swearing-in of new members Shawn Smith and Christina Fattore Morgan, both of whom outpaced Ron Lytle in his re-election bid May.

Both newcomers represent Mon’s Eastern district, as did Lytle.

The two seats came available after longtime incumbent Nancy Walker, who, also from Eastern, announced she was stepping down after 28 years on the board.

This will be the first go-around with the gavel for Kelly, who has served stints as vice president during his time on the board.

Meanwhile, it’s hard not assign racing metaphors to the new BOE president, who is a motorsports enthusiast and inductee to the West Virginia Drag Racing Hall of Fame.

“There are five seats on the board,” he said. “Everybody has a voice. I’m just going to help a little more with the steering.”

Kelly said he’s excited by the arrival of Smith and Morgan, and the insights they’ll bring. Smith is an industrial engineer. Morgan is a political science professor.

“We’ve got two members coming on who are going to do well. I think we’re in pretty good shape.”

After the trouncing of the Renaissance Academy bond on the ballot during May’s primary, though, the board is also one collectively in defeat – at least for now.

However, just like a racer going down the quarter-mile, the BOE doesn’t stay static for long, Kelly said.

Not that he would want the BOE defined by the trouncing, anyway, he said, of the multimillion-dollar measure that would have fronted the county’s first high school devoted solely to science, technology, engineering and math.

“We’re always in future tense,” he said, “because we have to be.”

Meanwhile, Kelly, who grew up in Westover, is a proud product of Monongalia County Schools. He’s a University High alum and one of his daughters teaches at the county Technical Education Center.

“We are going to have to revisit career technical education,” he said, referring to the unsuccessful bond.

Thank the pandemic, in part.

Education landscapes began shifting somewhat in COVID’s wake, when large segments of high school seniors geared-up for such offerings – opposed to another four years in college classrooms, and the student debt such sojourns can bring.

There’s no reason, he said, that Mon’s schools can’t keep multitasking to meet the needs and goals of both sets of students.

With an allegiance to workforce education, Kelly is also proponent of the arts and the core curriculum in school.

“Our district does a good job,” he said.

“We owe our success to our teachers and staffers who are there for our kids every day. None better.”

BOE member Jennifer Hagerty, a Realtor who retired as a teacher and principal in the district, was also elected vice president.