CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- We sometimes question whether a state that has been so industrialized for so long really needs a commissioner of agriculture, but the state Constitution requires voters to choose one, and we think Democrat Walt Helmick is the better choice for the job.Helmick, originally of Bergoo in Webster County, served on the Pocahontas County Board of Education and then County Commission before being elected to the House of Delegates in 1988. In 1989, he was appointed to an unexpired term in the state Senate from Pocahontas County, and has been re-elected to that seat every year since 1990. During that time, he has served on the Agriculture Committee, and risen to chair the Military, Banking, Natural Resources and Finance committees.Helmick does believe the agriculture commissioner is still relevant. First, the department is responsible for food safety. Also, while West Virginia is not known as a farm state, it has 23,400 farms, more per capita than any other, Helmick said. More could be done to foster the growth and production of food in West Virginia and to grow markets, here and elsewhere. Food is already a $6 billion-a-year industry in the state, he said. He is interested in looking for ways to bring more locally produced food to West Virginia tables, including those in education and corrections.Helmick received his bachelor's degree from West Virginia Tech, is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma Economic Development Institute, and started out his career as a welder. His previous businesses include H&S Welding Supply, Home Health Supply and Mountaintop Athletic Club at Snowshoe. He and his wife, Rita, operate a natural spring water bottling company on their 200-acre farm in Minnehaha Springs.
Helmick's broad experience gives him a thorough understanding of state government, issues and opportunities, and makes him a good choice for the Nov. 6 election. Early voting starts Oct. 24.