WISE - Using imagery of a father covered in coal dust, Virginia Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling Thursday thanked coal industry officials for their economic impact on Southwest Virginia.
Bolling, who spoke and gave out awards at the 36th annual Virginia Mining Association membership meeting, recalled as a youngster meeting his father coming home from work in the driveway, with the father getting out of his Ford pickup covered with coal dust head to toe.
"My dad was a coal miner," Bolling said in an interview before speaking to the gathering of about 100 people at Mosby's Restaurant and after Jeff Kennedy and the Mountain Boys performed.
"He was a heavy equipment operator on strip mining operations," Bolling said. "I know how important mining is to the economy of Southwest Virginia."
Bolling said he grew up in Haysi and Cedar Bluff before his family moved to West Virginia, where his mother operated a diner where miners and families would congregate to learn news after a mining accident.
As an adult, he moved to Hanover County near Richmond but still remembered the coal fields.
"Some of my fondest memories were when he took me up on the coal mine site to show me the equipment," Bolling recalled during his speech in which he thanked the coal industry.
"A lot of families in Southwest Virginia are dependent on what you do," Bolling said. "It makes a living for a lot of folks."
Bolling said he wants to make sure Virginia keeps favorable tax, regulation and litigation policies as well as supports new technologies for coal.
He gave out awards to Paramont Coal Co. of Virginia LLC for Best Post-Mining Land Use, Best Combination Mining and Best Completed Deep Mine; Red River Coal Co. Inc. for Best Active Surface Mine; Meadow Branch Coal LLC and Exeter Coal Corp. Mine No. 1 for Best Active Deep Mine; and Clintwood Elkhorn Mining Co. for Best AOC.
Paramont also won the Overall 2007 Feature Award for Best Remining and Reforestation for Black Bear No. 4, and the association gave out awards to teachers for excellence in coal education and energy education.
Dink Shackleford, executive director of the association, predicted coal would grow from providing more than 50 percent of the electricity generation in the United States to 60 percent within 20 years.
He lauded Dominion Power's 585 megawatt coal-fired plant in Wise County, which is to employ 800 during five to eight years of construction and 100 to 150 permanent employees after that.
Bolling was in the area as part of the "100 Ideas for the Future of Virginia" tour to help create a blueprint for Virginia's future. Bolling said he would like to be around as governor to help implement the blueprint. He said most lieutenant governors either go on to be governor or fade into obscurity.
Republican Bolling was elected in 2005 along with Democratic gubernatorial nominee Tim Kaine - which Bolling called an "eclectic experience" compared to his hopes of serving with Republican gubernatorial nominee Jerry Kilgore of Gate City. Still, Bolling said he gets along well with Kaine even though the two disagree on some things.
"Tim Kaine is a good guy," Bolling said. "When it comes down to it, most people aren't Republicans or Democrats. They're just Virginians."
He also said politicians shouldn't take themselves too seriously. After joining the Hanover County Board of Supervisors in the early 1990s, he said his first constituent phone call drove that point home.
"Are you the guy that picks up the dead dogs?" a woman asked him. "I soon learned out that's exactly what I did."
On the other hand, while visiting his old elementary school in Cedar Bluff earlier in the day, he said he remembered that when last there 41 years ago he never dreamed he could be lieutenant governor."Anybody can grow up to do anything," Bolling said.comments powered by Disqus