My West Virginia

By Jack Houvouras

Jack Houvouras

As this issue of the magazine goes to press, 2018 is shaping up to be a good year for the Huntington region. It would be difficult for even the crustiest curmudgeon to find fault with many of the positive events that have transpired in the last seven months. Here’s a brief recap:

In March, the Marshall University men’s basketball team returned to the Big Dance (aka the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship) for the first time in 31 years. Led by junior shooting sensation Jon Elmore, No. 13 seed Marshall upset No. 4 seed Wichita State in the first round before falling to cross-state rival WVU. Nevertheless, it was an exciting season for Coach Dan D’Antoni and Thundering Herd fans across the country. Perhaps the March Madness run marks the long-awaited return of Marshall University basketball to national prominence.

In April, Huntington Fire Chief Jan Rader was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by TIME magazine. The annual TIME 100 issue includes the world’s most significant leaders, scientists, activists and more. Rader, the first female professional fire chief in West Virginia, was listed in the “Pioneers” category for her tireless efforts to combat the opioid epidemic in Huntington and, by way of her ongoing advocacy, around the country. Now, her unique approach to saving lives and directing troubled individuals to long-term recovery is “world-renowned.” I am extremely proud to say that Jan graced the cover of the Autumn 2017 edition of this magazine.

In May, the major deal that saw Cabell Huntington Hospital acquire St. Mary’s Medical Center was finally made official after a nearly four-year process. The milestone agreement that unites two of the state’s largest hospitals should improve health care and reduce costs for patients throughout the region. At the official announcement of the pact, attended by some 500 local citizens, Dr. Kevin Yingling, chairman of the Cabell Huntington Hospital Board of Directors, told the crowd, “Today is an historic day that we will reflect on for decades.”

In June, the final step in the redevelopment of Third Avenue was completed with the opening of The Market, an open space retail complex. Located in four buildings near Eighth Street, the new hot spot includes an array of unique shops and quaint eateries. Look for an upcoming feature on The Market in the next edition of HQ.

In July, it was reported that the overdose rates in Cabell County for the first six months of 2018 were down 41 percent from last year. The credit for this dramatic decrease can be attributed to numerous leaders throughout the Huntington community including Fire Chief Jan Rader, Mayor Steve Williams, Marshall University President Jerome Gilbert and countless others who united to combat a common enemy – the opioid epidemic ravishing Huntington and the entire nation.

Also in July a new campaign to promote Huntington’s positive attributes was launched. “My Huntington” is the name of the initiative started by several local entities to showcase the very best that Huntington has to offer. “This is a movement,” said Mayor Steve Williams at the press conference. “A movement to encourage individuals to share what they love about Huntington and how Huntington has enriched and enhanced their lives.” The founders of the “My Huntington” campaign hope to capitalize on the energy created when Huntington was named “America’s Best Community” in 2017. “We have to take ownership of this town,” said business owner MacKenzie Morley. “We’ve got to remind ourselves that we’re a vibrant city and an urban city. There’s a lot of things happening here.”

Indeed, there are. So, get out there and help keep the momentum going. You could attend a Marshall basketball game, congratulate Jan Rader on her major honor, grab a bite to eat at The Market or join the “My Huntington” movement. Help make this year one of the best ever.

 

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