The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

January 27, 2013

Delegate first R. in the House

Josh Nelson is the first Republican elected to that Boone County office

By Mannix Porterfield
Register-Herald Reporter

CHARLESTON — If there’s any doubt how Josh Nelson earns his keep in this world, just pay him a visit at the Capitol when the Legislature opens shop for the 2013 season and look on his desk.

What you’ll find is a big lump of coal.

For nearly three years now, Nelson has been a steady hand in the mining industry, doing just about every conceivable job associated with the profession.

“I’ve run every piece of equipment you can think of, except a (continuous) miner,” he says.

In his current line, Nelson oversees the safety of work crews, making sure miners are using the proper equipment, for a firm known as GMS Mine Repair.

Historically, coal miners in West Virginia are Democrats. Ditto for the folks in Boone County.

Which is why Nelson’s election last Nov. 6 to the House of Delegates is not easily dismissed.

Nelson is a Republican, the first of his party in Boone County ever claim a seat in the House, and he won not only as a member of the GOP but as a novice who upset veteran Democratic Delegate Larry Barker, the assistant majority whip, in the 18th District.

“You run on principle and not on a political party,” Nelson said, explaining how he managed to win.

“I feel that partisanship and people not standing on our constitutional principles are killing our country.”

Nelson shows no signs of freshman timidity.

“Absolutely,” he answered, quickly, when asked if he had any legislative goals in mind.

“I want to stand up for West Virginia energy, first and foremost. I feel that a lot of times, even on the state level, we’re shooting ourselves in our own feet with over-reaching regulations. Obviously, we want to make sure that we’re mining safely and that our gas operations are doing it safely. But at the same time, not getting in the way of people going to work.”

Another matter dear to Nelson is the Second Amendment, under fire from liberal politicians in Washington who think more restrictions can prevent the level of mass violence that unfolded last month at a grade school in Newtown, Conn.

Nelson and others are working on legislation designed to counter any 2nd Amendment compromise that might emerge in the halls of Congress, but the freshman legislator isn’t saying at this point just what he has in mind.

“It’s still in the works,” he said.

“I definitely want to protect constitutional gun rights. Gun bans have not worked. The crime rate went up during the prior assault weapons ban. I fully believe the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”

Which leads to a major point in the gun debate: Are armed guards needed in schools to thwart any would-be assassins?

“I have no problem with schools having resource officers there,” Nelson said.

“When I went to school, we had a resource officer. It never made me feel uncomfortable or never hindered my learning experiences. They were a good asset to our schools, a part of the school team. I think that would be a good start.”

Nelson says the resource officer is preferable to armed guards, since the former is a police officer with some experience, not unlike the DARE officers.

“I’m definitely not advocating police officers come into our schools dressed in olive drab green with AR-15s and this and that, but a reasonable protection for our kids, and also at the same time, protecting the learning experience is important,” he said.

Nelson also feels more attention needs to be paid to the mentally disturbed, with particular emphasis on the anti-depression medications.

A member of the West Virginia Air National Guard, the new delegate lives in Danville with his wife, Brittany, and their son, Elijah. Nelson is the youth pastor at Lick Creek Community Church.

“I want to work on several things,” he said of the coming session, “but first and foremost are jobs.”

— E-mail: mannix@register-herald.com