65 years old; Resident of Jefferson County (Blue Ridge) for 10 years; Democratic Party candidate
Community Service Experience — member of the Jefferson County Parks and Recreation Commission, member of the Board of Directors of the Jefferson County Day Report Center, member of the Blue Ridge Community and Technical College Foundation, Co-sponsor (with my husband) of the Raymond B. and Susan M. Benzinger Scholarship at Blue Ridge, member of the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce, member of the Harper’s Ferry Woman’s Club, member of the Mountain Community Center, recent graduate of Leadership Jefferson (part of the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce), member of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church
Work Experience — Retired pension and tax attorney by trade; Worked for two large accounting firms (KPMG Peat Marwick, Ernst & Young), Mercer HR Consulting, Internal Revenue Service, three small legal offices (sole proprietor/partner), and a family gift shop business.
Education — Undergraduate degree from George Mason University; Law degree from George Mason University School of Law (now the Antonin Scalia Law School)
The candidate’s responses below were edited only for clarity & spelling.
What influenced your decision to run for Delegate?
As a retired tax and pension attorney, and taxpayer, the use of tax dollars effectively, efficiently, and with transparency is something I feel strongly about. I have grown tired of seeing issues in our community that can and must be addressed, but are not — high-speed internet, clean water and support for public school teachers and staff, to name a few. We just keep talking in circles on the same issues. and quite frankly the time for talk is over, and the time to act is now. We have resources, we just need to use them wisely to better our communities and the future of our state.
What should the residents of Jefferson County expect from a Delegate?
Residents of Jefferson County, particularly of the 100th District, deserve a representative who has their best interests at heart and is willing to bring their issues to the legislature. I am prepared to be that representative by participating in community service and community events, listening to the issues of everyone in our area, and my willingness to work with our local delegation regardless of party affiliation. I believe we all need to work together — in our district, in our County, in the Eastern Panhandle and in Charleston. As an individual delegate I will support the issues that have the greatest impact on my fellow residents.
What priorities would you advocate for in the House of Delegates?
High speed internet is no longer a luxury for the few but a necessity for all. We must have this in our district to support our children, our families, and our businesses. I am also concerned about salaries for public employees — specifically teachers, social workers, and first responders. Finally, clean water is a must to preserve our way of life in the County. Clean water supports our health, local agriculture and tourism, which in turn grows and maintains many of our local businesses.
Is there specific recent WV legislation (enacted) that you disagree with and would look to modify?
In the last legislative session, there seemed to be a focus on more, rather than less, government oversight of West Virginians rather than private companies operating in the state. For instance, the majority passed legislation, SB 694, protecting energy companies over protecting the rights of our citizens. The measure makes it easier for gas companies to extract resources from beneath landowners’ property — even without their consent.
Additionally, the legislature passed bills to keep the public from accessing information from agencies supported by taxpayer dollars. In the last session, the legislature passed bills to block the release of records from jails and prisons, and denied requests to stream videos of their public meetings.
As I mentioned before, my work as a tax attorney allows me to really appreciate the use of taxpayer dollars from the appropriations aspect. For instance, I am concerned that we’re using the people’s hard earned taxed dollars to support private education. This takes funding and resources away from our public schools in a way that is not consistent with our constitutional provisions as it relates to educating youth
While the legislature did pass a bill relating to broadband (high-speed internet), the governor ended up vetoing the measure. We have been debating this issue for years and while most legislators aren’t impacted by the lack of internet service, there are thousands of people in my district and around the state that do not have reliable internet. This impacts education, economic and workforce development, tourism – you name it. Each year we do nothing, the cost goes higher and we continue to lose ground on recruiting and retaining new businesses, supporting small businesses, and our children fall behind in their studies.
Is there specific recent WV legislation (not enacted) that you would like to re-introduce?
What I was most disappointed in from the last session was what appeared to be a greater interest in helping special interests and corporations than helping West Virginians. A few examples include HB 4252, which would have capped patient costs for insulin and equipment to manage their diabetes.
Then there is the failure of the legislature to pass HB 4344 to address the state’s foster care system and begin to develop a core plan to solve the systemic issues in the state that has created the largest foster care population in the nation right here in West Virginia. As Frederick Douglass said “It is easier to raise strong children than repair broken men.” We must act now to help these children.
Ultimately, we need the legislature to govern in a way that develops a proactive plan to help the state grow economically and not interfere in the daily lives of Mountaineers.
In light of recent decisions from the U.S. Supreme Court and actions by the federal government, the WV legislature will likely be discussing legislation touching on multiple rights of citizens. Do you have specific views to share with voters on any of these issues?
Our founding fathers wrote the constitution to protect each and every one of us from a government that would be too powerful and would interfere with our individual pursuits and desires to live our lives as we see fit. Individual colonies were concerned that the new federal government would override state governments. As a result, our Constitution was written to limit the power of the government. The amendments added guidance on keeping the government out of our houses, thoughts, religions, bedrooms, and doctor’s offices. I will support legislation that keeps the government at bay in our daily lives and I will not support restrictions on our rights to live as we wish.
Why should voters elect you?
I will work tirelessly for our community and be your voice in Charleston. We have great people and resources but we also need to address important issues that face all of us. I will focus on bringing good paying jobs to our area to improve our economy, providing services to combat the opioid epidemic, and raising pay for teachers so that we can retain and attract the best teachers to provide our children with the excellent education they deserve. I will also work to be sure we have clean water and high-speed internet for every home, school, and business.
Susan Benzinger – West Virginia Delegate District 100
Web: SusanForJefferson.com; Facebook (SusanFor Jefferson); Instagram (SusanFor Jefferson); email: SusanForJefferson@gmail.com; tel: 304-995-8062
About West Virginia House of Delegates District 100
The 100 members of West Virginia’s House of Delegates are elected every two years. The 100th Delegate District (shown in yellow on the map) includes the Town of Shepherdstown, plus Willowdale and Maddex Farms neighborhoods to the west and the neighborhoods near the elementary school to the south. This district stretches eastward to include the Towns of Bolivar and Harpers Ferry, and the unincorporated areas around Moler Crossroads, Bakerton, and Uvilla. This district includes all of the areas to the east of the Shenandoah River (Blue Ridge, Mountain Mission, Shannondale) as well as Millville and portions of Halltown.
In the 2022 general election, there are two candidates running in Delegate District 100:
Susan Benzinger is the Democratic Party candidate.
Bill Ridenour is the Republican Party candidate.
Read More: The Observer’s Guide to the 2022 ElectionBy Staff Contributor