Either Gov. Jim Justice is confused or I am. His idea of the governor’s job and mine don’t seem to mesh. I view the governor like a basketball coach, coaching players from the team bench. He appears to want to coach state government from the parking lot and communicate with players by flip phone. That raises the question if he’s really doing what’s necessary to deliver an upturn in our state’s economy or if he’s benefiting from happenstance.
West Virginia MetroNews reported that the governor, during a Beckley news conference last Wednesday, listed his administration’s accomplishments as, “ ‘... West Virginia’s revenue numbers are breaking records,’ which he attributed to robust generation of severance taxes, corporate net income taxes, personal income taxes, sales taxes and lower unemployment ... .”
OK, but those aren’t his administration’s accomplishments. After all, what part did the governor play in generation of severance taxes? No one working for the state dug any coal or drilled for gas. Same with the other revenue sources. Increases there are the results of the activities of hard-working West Virginians.
Our governor’s job is to enforce the laws, collect taxes, report them and spend them on services that he and the Legislature have agreed upon, which, in turn, creates the environment where we can flourish. For that, they work together in Charleston and hash it out because our constitution says so.
But our current governor apparently lives in Greenbrier County and shows up sporadically, even when the Legislature is in session.
But I can’t be too harsh. Many business owners are often trapped in the same stinking thinking. They think if sales are going up, then they’re doing their job, right? Not really. Sales can be going up because of outside forces.
Demand for chicken dinners at a restaurant can go up if a new road opens delivering more customers. Conversely, divert traffic by building an interstate around a town and sales drop.
And even if the governor and Legislature create a perfect environment, that doesn’t guarantee we will prosper. The demand for fossil fuels is largely outside our control, regardless of who is governor.
It’s like a salesperson in business. You can’t measure their effectiveness solely by the sales dollars they generate. After all, who tells them what to sell, to whom to sell it, where to sell and at what price to sell it? Management does.
So, a poor salesperson can sell their heart out and still have low results. On the flip side, they can do little or nothing, yet have great results because of their customers’ increasing demand for a particular product.
Same with a governor. As we can’t measure a salesperson’s performance simply by gross sales, we can’t measure a governor’s success simply by economic performance or lack of it. We must look deeper.
Are they performing the activities that should lead to increased sales? Is the salesperson making their calls? Is our governor showing up to work?
The first job of the leader is to lead the team, and you can’t lead if you’re not there. Some may wonder about multinational corporations with operations all over the world. Well, each location has a leader who is there, and they report to the leader above them. It’s delegation. But when we reach the top, the leader of the leaders must be there and doing their job. They can’t phone it in.
Yes, revenue has increased, but it doesn’t seem to have been as a result of our governor’s activities. You can’t lead the team in Charleston if you’re not in Charleston any more than the basketball coach can lead their team if they are in the parking lot, instead of on the bench.
Your team is in Charleston, governor. That’s where you should be. Our state constitution even says that. If you can’t grasp that, well, maybe you shouldn’t be governor.