72 years old; Resident of Martinsburg since 1980; Democratic candidate
Community Service Experience — My prior community service includes work with Back Pack Berkeley County, Read Aloud in Berkeley County, the Apollo Theater (both as a board member and producing musicals performed by children as part of the Apollo Summer Youth program), the Martin Luther King, Jr. Scholarship Fund (board member), United Way of the Eastern Panhandle, Shenandoah Community Health Center (board member). I have taught Sunday School at the Congregation B’Nai Abraham, served as liaison for that Congregation with the Veterans Administration hospital near Martinsburg, and helped with Sister ACTS projects. As a member of the Gateway Garden Club, I helped establish the Children’s Garden in Martinsburg.
Work Experience & Education — Shepherd College/University (1986-2017) as a member of the political science faculty. My roles at the University included serving as Director of the Shepherd College Oral History Project, Dean of Instruction of the Community and Technical College (now Blue Ridge Community College), Assistant to the Provost for Academic Administration, and Chair of the International Business and Economic Training Seminar. I also started the School-to-Career Academy (a program to familiarize 8th graders with college options, requirements, and scholarships) and was a guest lecturer for social work classes on poverty in America with a special emphasis on the working poor and migrant farmworkers.
The candidate’s responses below were edited only for clarity & spelling.
What made you decide to run for the state Senate?
The Governor appointed me to complete the term of former Senator John Unger. During that one year, I learned much about how the Senate, its committees, and its caucuses function. Having spent that year gaining experience and knowledge of the Senate, I thought it was my responsibility to offer to continue my service for a full term.
I want West Virginia to be a place where our children can find good jobs with good wages so they can stay here and raise a family. This will not be accomplished by just lowering taxes, putting more money in the hands of the wealthy, and giving handouts to big corporations. Building communities through good education and policies which help all working people will do that. I will be a voice, and a vote, for policies that move us toward that goal, and so decided to run.
What should local residents expect from a state Senator?
I would be guided by answers to questions which I think local residents should expect from their State Senator, as well as from their Delegates. First, is the proposed legislation good for West Virginia? Second, is the proposed legislation good for the Eastern Panhandle? Most of the time, the answer to the two questions will be the same. But because the Eastern Panhandle is so different from many other parts of the State, a one-size-fits-all approach will not work. That is when members of the Eastern Panhandle delegation must work together to assure our citizens are treated fairly.
What priorities would you advocate for in the legislature?
We are losing many of our young people to jobs in other states. My overriding priority is to make West Virginia a place where our young people can get career type jobs which pay good wages so they can stay here and raise a family.
To do that, we must attract new businesses which provide those jobs. A key to attracting new businesses is a strong public school system which produces the educated people the businesses will need. To have a strong public school system, we must have and keep good teachers and service personnel. The recent pay raises are a good start, but they are not enough. We must equip our schools with up to date technology, including high speed internet and modern facilities. We should also work to align vocational school programs with apprenticeship programs, so those who want to enter the trades can get the skills and experience needed for successful careers.
To support our growing communities, we must provide more water and sewer systems, more schools, and more police and fire protection. Local governments should have the ability to control their income to meet their expenses. The Legislature could help by providing a source of funds to support our volunteer fire departments. We must act to get West Virginia’s foster care system out of crisis. The Legislature has to stop ignoring the vulnerable children trapped in that system. West Virginia has a long and proud history of military service. We must support our veterans by helping them get good jobs and affordable housing.
Is there specific recent WV legislation (enacted) that you disagree with and would look to modify?
I opposed SB650, because it made it easier for private business interests to force landowners to allow oil and gas production on their land. I opposed HB4408 because I fear that it gives private businesses the much ability to turn our beautiful state parks into tourist traps. I opposed SB268, which creates “learning pods” and “microschools” because I think it weakens our public school system while not assuring quality teaching in the new entities.
In addition, there were three bills which did not become law solely because the legislature ran out of time, but which I fear will be introduced next January. SB2 would have undercut the safety net provided to workers who are unemployed through no fault of their own. SB498, would have subjected teachers in public schools and state universities to disciplinary actions if they taught about racial discrimination in a way that any person connected with the student or the school deemed it improper. HB 4553, would have deprived Jefferson County of the ability to determine how county land is used.
Is there specific recent WV legislation (not enacted) that you would like to re-introduce?
HB4252 would have placed caps on insulin prices. The bill had overwhelming support in both the Senate and the House, but final details could not be agreed upon before the legislature adjourned. The Governor vetoed a bill which would have put to use the nearly one billion dollars in covid relief funds the State received to expand high-speed internet. Enacting that bill should be a high priority. Last session I introduced bills to increase the state minimum wage, and to restore the right of workers to collect their wages. I also proposed a constitutional amendment to put women on an equal footing with men in that document.
The legislature is likely to take up debate on several issues affected by recent court decisions or left unresolved from prior sessions. What thoughts can you share with voters?
I oppose the proposed amendment giving the Legislature the ability to eliminate personal property taxes because it deprives localities of the ability to control their budgets to meet their needs. I oppose the proposed income tax reduction because it would be meaningless for all but the most wealthy in the state
I think the decision of whether to give birth is one which belongs to the woman, in consultation with her doctor, her partner and her Creator. I recognize it is likely the Legislature will restrict the woman’s decision. So, there must be exceptions for rape and incest, and for the physical and mental health of the woman. I do not think one can claim to be pro-life without providing support for foster children, who are the most vulnerable of our young people. We must address the crisis in our foster care system. I oppose using money paid by all taxpayers for the public school system for use in private schools. Locality pay is absolutely needed. We have to stop losing experienced teachers to higher paying border states.
Why should voters elect you?
When deciding how to vote in the Senate, I ask two questions: “Is this good for West Virginia?” and “Will this help keep our young people in the State?” I want to build our public schools up, not tear them down. Strong public schools are the backbone of a community, and a major draw for new businesses. We have children trapped in a foster care system which lacks people and resources. I want local decisions to be made locally, not in Charleston, and I want women to have the freedom to get good health care within our State.
Hannah Geffert – West Virginia Senate District 16
About West Virginia Senate District 16
West Virginia’s Senate District 16 covers all of Jefferson County and roughly half of Berkeley County. There are two senators representing this district, each elected in alternating even-numbered years.
In the 2022 general election, there are two candidates in Senate District 16:
Hannah Geffert (currently serving as state Senator) is the Democratic Party candidate.
Jason Barrett (currently serving as a state Delegate) is the Republican Party candidate.Staff Contributor