Question & Answer Session With GOP Candidate For State Treasurer Open And Informative… Originally published by Huntingtonnews.net
Before the General Election season hits us hard after Labor Day, the news staff at HNN (Huntingtonnews.net) will be providing occasional background pieces about some of the more compelling statewide and local races. In this Q & A interview, they look at State Treasurer candidate Mike Hall, a two-term Republican State Senator from Putnam County--with Cabell County roots.
HNN: You grew up in Huntington, correct?
Hall: Yes, I grew up in Huntington. My father and mother were Marshall students in the 1940s. My father, Bill Hall, was recruited by Cam Henderson to come to Huntington to play basketball. My mother, Betty Jane Blazer, came from Fayette County. They married in 1947.
Our family settled in the East End of Huntington, and my father worked at Owens-Illinois most of his life. My mother was a stay-at-home mom. I attended Huntington East high school and graduated in 1970. I attended Marshall University and graduated in 1970 and married later that year to Vicky Steele from Point Pleasant.
HNN: How meaningful for your father was playing for Cam Henderson? Did you play, too, in high school?
Hall: My father was recruited by Cam Henderson to play basketball for Marshall University in 1945. In 1947 Marshall University won the in NAIB national championship. This was very meaningful for him, because he was part of the legendary Cam Henderson national championship team. Growing up in Huntington I would constantly hear about this.
There were many who expected me to play basketball, but I couldn't shoot, jump, or run that well, so I learned to play golf. I went through literally hundreds of plastic practice balls as I would knock them around the East End of Huntington. I played on the golf team at Huntington East 1966. We played on the old Glen Brier golf course which is no longer there.
I still have good friends from those days particularly my "half-brother," David Eagle. He is not really a blood relative but a dear friend who knows more about me than I know about myself. My family was a member of the Highlawn Methodist Church where I attended as a child.
HNN: Tell us about your own family.
Hall: Before Vicki and I were married in 1972, we had both been active participants in the student ministry called Crusade for Christ in the 1960s. I spent one year in seminary in New England at Gordon-Conwell then returned to West Virginia and took an appointment with the United Methodist Church. The appointment was to the Glenwood Charge in southern Mason County.
At 22 years old I had four churches with 450 members. It was during those days that my two children were born. My son, Mike, was born in 1972 and my son, Eric, was born in 1976. We lived in the Methodist parsonage in Apple Grove, WV.
In 1981 I was called to be the minister of the Littlepage Presbyterian Church in Charleston West Virginia. By this time we had moved to Pliny, WV.
Mike became an engineer and is the manager of the local McKinney Drilling office in Winfield. My youngest son, Eric, is in the insurance business in Lewisburg. At this point in my life, I maintain close contact with both of them as we do joint business projects together. My oldest son and I have built a few houses, and my youngest son and I discuss his insurance business regularly.
HNN: How did you sense your call into the ministry?
Hall: My concept of being called into the ministry is that your gifts and skills develop in your work in the Body of Christ. These eventually become apparent to yourself and to those with whom you minister. I believe everybody has a calling to something. Some may be called to preach, and others are called to plow corn: but all callings are holy.
Even serving in the political arena can be a calling. I do believe you have to balance your own desires and feelings with those around you who give you insight as to what you should be doing. Since the church is called the Body of Christ and "the hand cannot be without the foot," so it is that we cannot simply jump into something without collaborating with others.
Most of the major decisions I've made in my life have come as a result of examining what my skill set is, combined with a desire to do what I think would be a meaningful and beneficial thing, and then speaking to others about my decisions or plans.
HNN: How did you end up in retirement investments for the Presbyterian Church?
Hall: I ended up serving with the agency called Insurance Annuities and Relief, or IRA, as a result of meeting the then director, Jim Hughes. He recruited me knowing that I had a financial services background in spite of the fact that I was serving full-time as a local church pastor. I went through a normal interview process and was hired to work in the organization in June of 1994.
This gave me the opportunity to spend years in dealing with people and their retirement issues. I was also involved with the organization's board in meetings where consultants and money managers were interviewed and hired. It was a great learning process as I was involved at the street level in seeing how money management was evaluated and structured. I remained in this position until 2004. At that time, I left to go into private business.
HNN: You entered politics before Republicans had really broken through some of the barriers here, before George W. Bush had his big win here in 2000. What made you think you wanted to get involved in the state legislature?
Hall: You mentioned my calling earlier on, and I look back my to desire to get into politics as a very early one. When I was in the eighth grade there was a debate in our class between students who supported Barry Goldwater and students who supported Lyndon Johnson. I'll never forget this debate, because I was one of the three students who supported Barry Goldwater. We lost the debate 29 to 3. But it was a spirited debate about issues and I'll never forget it.
As I moved on in life, I always paid attention to political things and in the early 1980s when the Moral Majority and Ronald Reagan came to power. I decided to run for office in 1984. It was a House race in the Mason County and Putnam County area. I barely lost that race but finished fifth in four delegate race.
In 1994, after I had moved to Hurricane and the district had been changed, I again ran for the House of Delegates and won. I won that race, and my director of IRA permitted me to take a leave of absence so that I could stay in office. I'll always be grateful for his decision.
I managed to continue to win elections, and then, in 2006, I chose to run for the Senate. It was a tough race against a tough opponent and a good person, Jim Lees.
HNN: Give us an idea of the education you get as a legislator serving on committees like Finance and Pensions? How does that translate to a job like State Treasurer?
Hall: When you sit on the Finance and Pensions Committees particularly during the hearings, you consistently gain a wealth of information about state finances and how the state's finances work. You learn there is more to state finances than a general revenue budget.
You also learn about the obligations of the several pension systems that the state of West Virginia has designed over the years. You become aware of what affects the State's bond rating and how that affects the State's ability to build schools and roads and other infrastructure projects. The State Treasurer is the Chief Financial Officer of the State and sits on many of the boards that oversee these various functions of the State's finances.
HNN: You seem to enjoy this kind of financial work. Give us an idea of what your continuing education as a legislator is like.
Hall: A few months ago, I was the only legislator from West Virginia asked to attend a session on national pension concerns that was conducted by the Pew Foundation for the States in Washington D.C. One the things that our country faces as a critical issue is the investment performance of our pension systems. This is somewhat out of the view of most of the public, but it is very critical to the financial well-being of our states and also our retirees.
I cannot overstate the importance of the investment responsibility that we have as a state to take care of the retiree money so that it will be there when it's called upon. The State Treasurer's office has a role in overseeing the work of the Investment Management Board. If elected State Treasurer, I would consider this obligation one of the most important jobs that I would do. I think it is important for the Chief Financial Officer of the State to have a working knowledge as to how investments work.
HNN: What would be the biggest single difference between having you or John Perdue as State Treasurer for the next four years?
Hall: The State Treasurer's office has certain statutory responsibilities to be executed. It is an administrative office. The Treasurer does not introduce legislation nor does he/she vote on legislation. However, as a member of the Board of Public Works, the Treasurer does have a public voice. Recently, the current Treasurer has expressed himself as a strong supporter of the policies of Barack Obama.
As a member of the Board of Public Works, I would have a different point of view on the policies of Barack Obama. I believe that West Virginia can continue to be a significant provider of energy for the nation from our coal and natural gas, while doing so in an environmentally safe manner. But not in the constricted manner as the current EPA is dictating.
HNN: What is the accomplishment you'd most like to achieve in four years as State Treasurer?
Hall: I think the people do not expect the State Treasurer to expand the office. They want to see the office spend only what is required to conduct the business of the office. In four years, I would like to say that the office would be functioning in a manner that would be professional, efficient, and cost-effective, still reaching the goal set for the office as designed by the Constitution and the enabling statutes.
HNN: Thanks for your time, Senator Hall.
End Of Interview….
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