Moderator Jamie O'Brien asks questions of the candidates for Buckhannon City Council. (Photo by Brian Bergstrom / My Buckhannon)

Upshur County Candidate Forum: Watch the full video and read the biographies of each candidate

BUCKHANNON — The Buckhannon-Upshur Chamber of Commerce, West Virginia Wesleyan College Student Senate and My Buckhannon recently sponsored a candidate forum featuring several local races in the upcoming May 14 Primary Election.

Held at the WVWC Performing Arts Center, 20 candidates running for Upshur County Commission, Sheriff, Magistrate, Board of Education and Buckhannon City Council fielded questions from moderator Jamie O’Brien on a range of topics. Questions were submitted by members of the public in advance and selected randomly during the forum.

About 150 people attended the forum, and Channel 3 Buckhannon was on hand to livestream the event. Candidates were also asked to submit short biographies, which were distributed to attendees.

Read the candidate bios below and watch the full two-hour video here:

Candidate Bios

Upshur County Commission – Full-Term Seat

Upshur County Commission – Unexpired Term Seat

Upshur County Sheriff

Upshur County Magistrate (Division 1)

Upshur County Magistrate (Division 2)

Upshur County Board of Education (2 seats)

Buckhannon City Council (3 seats)

Upshur County Commission – Full-Term Seat

Kristie Tenney (Incumbent)

Upshur County Commissioner Kristie Tenney is seeking re-election for a 6-year term. Kristie is a native of Upshur County and the owner of Top Line Apparel. She resides in Sago with her husband, JP. Together they are dedicated to the community and keeping Christ at the center of everything they do. 

Kristie relentlessly pursues businesses that are compatible with the region. Adam Boyers, President & CEO of Middletown Tractor, praised Kristie for her diligence in recruiting their company. “Commissioner Tenney was proactive in recruiting us to Upshur County, helping us find a location, met with potential building site owners, and just be a general resource for information and contacts. After we opened, she continued to support us at our Grand Opening and checked on us several times during the uncertainty of COVID. She is an asset to Upshur County because she cares, and it shows through her actions.”

Appointed by Governor Jim Justice, Kristie is a board member of the West Virginia Records Management & Preservation Board. Additionally, she was nominated by County Commissioners around the state to serve on the executive committee for the West Virginia County Commission Association. Kristie is also dedicated to the WV Region 4 First Foundation, where she works tirelessly to obtain funding to combat the opioid crisis. Tenney’s involvement in various boards has facilitated important connections and opportunities for our area.  Her involvement in numerous community projects showcases her diligent approach to ensuring Upshur County’s growth, economic development and improved safety for residents.

Scott Williams

I’m Scott Williams, a Republican candidate for Upshur County Commissioner. 

My wife Robin and I have been married 39 years and are blessed to have raised our four children, who have given us six beautiful grandchildren in Upshur County over the past 35 years.  Two are West Virginia Wesleyan College graduates, and two are West Virginia University graduates.  We are committed to seeing other families have the same opportunities as we have as Upshur County residents. 

I’m a Fairmont State graduate with a degree in Safety Engineering who then worked as an engineer with Mobil Oil Corporation.

Robin is the daughter of Jimmie and Justine Woody, who were part of the family-owned and operated Woody Lumber Company.  In 1989, I joined Woody Lumber to assist in expanding its timber and sawmill operations. We constructed a new dry kiln and began a dry kiln lumber export business, shipping lumber worldwide.

Since then, I’ve held positions with Trus Joist Macmillan, Weatherford, and US Well Services. 

Our family has owned the Daily Grind Coffee House, and I’ve served on the UCDA Board of Directors. We have also served in numerous capacities as members of the Buckhannon Alliance Church for 34 years.

 I’ve learned much working for multinational corporations and small businesses here in Upshur County. The experience and knowledge I’ve gained would serve me well in fulfilling the duties of an Upshur County Commissioner.

I ask for your vote as Upshur County Commissioner to help me ensure future prosperity for Upshur County.

Upshur County Commission – Unexpired-Term Seat

Doug Bush (Incumbent)

I am Doug Bush your Upshur County Commissioner, running to complete the term created by the untimely passing of the honorable Terry Cutright. Since September 2022 it has been my goal to learn, listen, and to cooperate in making the transition smooth.

Being a commissioner demands a wide variety of skills and talents. A county commissioner handles the county’s business. That business includes being a leader, a communicator, and a representative at the State level, promoting Upshur County. As a commissioner, we need to look at the future and continually look for ways to improve ourselves and our county.

I graduated from Buckhannon-Upshur High School in 1978, earned my BS in Education from Alderson Broaddus College in 1982, a MA in Curriculum and Instruction from Salem Teikyo University in 1994, and completed additional graduate hours in Safety Management and Athletic Training from WVU. After graduation I would spend a 30-year career teaching and coaching in Barbour and Upshur County schools.

I am one of five children, raised by my parents, Roy (2020) and Judy Bush. I am married to Ann Trainer. We have two amazing daughters Katie (Joshua) Henzler and Karoline (Tyler) Sturm, and four grandchildren. Our farm, Ledge Rock Farm, is located near Hall, where we cut quality hay, manage our forests, and enjoy the recreation it provides. We are active members in our church, Bethany Baptist Church, in Hall.

I am dedicated to our county and to its citizens. I am County Commissioner Doug Bush asking for your vote of support on May 14th.

Patrick Kyle Lane

Early Life and Background: Born in 1974, I am a lifelong native of Upshur County. I grew up surrounded by the natural beauty and community spirit that define this area. My parents, Kyle Wright Lane, and Judith Ann (Archer) Lane, instilled in me a strong work ethic and a commitment to service. After graduating from Buckhannon-Upshur High School in 1992, I continued my education at West Virginia Wesleyan College, where I pursued a degree in Business Management. During my four years at the college, I not only excelled academically and in sports, but I also gained practical experience by working with the family businesses.

Career and Community Involvement: I have been a valuable asset to the family business of Buckhannon Lanes and a driving force behind the success of the current family business, Triple L Mart, Inc. The family businesses, established in 1954, 1962, and 1990, have deep roots in Upshur County. As a proven leader, I have successfully developed, promoted, and managed Triple L Mart, Inc. for more than twenty-five years. Beyond business, I am an active member of the community. I am a devoted Christian, finding strength and purpose in my faith. I am an avid bowler, golfer, and outdoorsman. My love for the outdoors is evident through my hobbies, while embracing the natural beauty of the region.

I am affiliated with several organizations, including:

  • Franklin Lodge #7
  • United States Bowling Congress
  • West Virginia Bear Hunter’s Association
  • Buckhannon-Upshur Chamber of Commerce

Jesse Davidson

At the age of 34, I have been a lifelong resident of Upshur County. I began my educational journey at Rock Cave Elementary School and graduated from Buckhannon Upshur High School in 2008. After, I decided to further my education and attended West Virginia Wesleyan College. I graduated from West Virginia Wesleyan in 2012, with a degree in environmental studies. I am currently a part owner of the family business, Davidson Lumber Company, and have worked there for the last 19 years.

My reason for running is simple, I love Upshur County. I want to give back to the county that has given and continues to give me so much. I believe my education and experience will give me a better understanding of how I can help Upshur County improve and grow. Being 34, I can understand and communicate with both the younger and older generations to make decisions that will be beneficial to both parties. Overall, I want to represent the residents of Upshur County. It is home, it is where I make a living, and it is where I plan to stay.

So come May 14th I ask that you give me a chance. I am a new fresh face with a new fresh outlook. So tell your family and your friends, together we can make a difference in the County Commission. Thank you and God bless.

Upshur County Sheriff

Mike Coffman (Incumbent)

I am MIKE COFFMAN and I am a REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE for the office of SHERIFF. I am a lifelong resident of Upshur County, and currently reside in Buckhannon with my wife Amy, son Evan and daughter Sarah. I graduated in 1994 from Buckhannon-Upshur High School and have a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice from Fairmont State College. My work experience includes two years as a correctional officer with the Upshur County Sheriff’s Office, seven years as a deputy sheriff with Lewis County and four years as a deputy sheriff with Upshur County. I was elected as magistrate from 2009 to 2021. In 2021, I accepted the position of Chief Deputy with Upshur County to serve under Sheriff Virgil Miller. On April 4 2023, I was appointed to Sheriff of Upshur County when Sheriff Miller suddenly passed away. In 2023, I was selected to attend the FBI National Academy. I am a graduate of the WV State Police Academy Basic Class earning a Law enforcement certification. I have completed over 20 semester credit hours towards a Master’s Degree at WVU in Legal Studies.

I care about the quality of life and the citizens of Upshur County. My work experience and education have prepared me for the position of Sheriff, and my work ethic and integrity will ensure that I continue to do the job in an efficient and effective manner. I look forward to speaking with the citizens of Upshur County and answering any questions they may have in the upcoming months.

I ask that you keep me as your Sheriff. Your continued support is greatly appreciated.

Chester Zickefoose

Today, we introduce Chester Zickefoose as a candidate for Upshur County Sheriff. With an assorted background spanning Law enforcement, military service, business ownership, and community involvement, Chester brings a unique blend of experience and dedication to the table.

A former police officer and Navy Seals, Chester has dedicated his life to serving and protecting others. He is committed to public safety and his extensive experience to both law enforcement and military operations makes him exceptionally qualified for the role of sheriff here in Upshur County.

In addition to his distinguished service in the military and law enforcement, Chester is also an ordained minister and holds a master’s degree in business. As the owner of CZ Automotive, he has demonstrated his entrepreneurial and leadership skills in the business world.

Prior to owning CZ Automotive, Chester had worked for almost 20 years alongside County Commissioner  Sam Nolte, gaining valuable insights into the inner workings of local government and community dynamics. Born and raised in Buckhannon, WV, Chester is deeply rooted in the community and understands the challenges and opportunities facing Upshur County. 

Upshur County Magistrate – Division 1

Mark Davis (Incumbent)

Mark Davis is running for re-election as Upshur County Magistrate – Division 1. A seasoned professional with 38 years of experience in the West Virginia justice system, Mark has been serving as Magistrate since February 2021. Mark’s campaign centers on the importance of experience, integrity, and accountability. As Magistrate, he is committed to providing fair and impartial judgements in the cases brought before the court. He believes the court has a duty to provide fair and impartial judgment, ensuring cases are adjudicated in a timely manner and that people are treated equally with dignity and respect.

During his time as Magistrate, Mark has focused on effectiveness and efficiency, implementing systematic processes, and fostering professional and ethical interactions. The court does not have a backlog, it is compliant with all state requirements, and it has been selected as a mentoring court where other newly appointed and elected magistrates can come observe and learn. Since taking office in 2021, Mark has also served as representative magistrate for the Upshur County Drug Court team, helping members of the community focus on overcoming crime and substance abuse challenges through rehabilitation.

Mark and his wife Brenda have lived in Tennerton since 1984. An active member of the community, he knows Upshur County well – its challenges as well as its opportunities. He asks for your vote of trust and confidence to continue helping Upshur County become a safer, stronger place to call home.

Kay Hurst

I am Kay Hurst running for Division 1 Magistrate. A lifelong resident of Upshur County along with my husband, Ron. We have two sons, Ben and Matt, our daughter-in-law, Stephanie, and five wonderful grandchildren; Brady, Liam, Elizabeth, Emma and Olivia.

My entire working career began as a part-time secretary with the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office in 1982. From there I worked full-time positions as Legal Assistant/Paralegal for private law offices up until I was hired as a Magistrate Assistant in 2007. My years as a Legal Assistant/Paralegal, I assisted in criminal and civil trials; performed legal research; prepared legal pleadings and correspondence; interviewed clients and managed all other aspects of a legal office.

After working a year and a half as a Magistrate Assistant, I went back to work in a private law office until elected as Magistrate and began on January 1, 2016, using my impartiality, integrity, knowledge, experience, work and professional ethics.

I learned the UJA system (statewide Magistrate Court program) and could initiate cases, scan and docket pleadings, prepare my own orders in civil and criminal cases.

Responsibilities and duties of a Magistrate are dictated by the West Virginia Code and the West Virginia Supreme Court. You must be dedicated and perform those duties completely and with integrity, impartiality, ethics and truthfulness.

I ask for your support and vote to bring back that Magistrate with 34 years’ experience in the legal field, one and a half years as Magistrate Assistant and four (4) years as your Magistrate. True experience matters.

Upshur County Magistrate – Division 2

Alan Suder (Incumbent)

In 2021, I was appointed and then elected Magistrate of Upshur County. I am running for re-election to the Magistrate position.

I believe in faith, family, and fairness. I make level-headed decisions and show

compassion to anyone in need. I continue to work hard to make positive impacts in Upshur County. I am the fourth generation of Suders that have been raised in Upshur County. I am married to Christy Suder, a teacher for Upshur County Schools, and we have four children. I was a private business owner for 30 years, working in the Coal, Oil and Gas fields, and I maintain a family farm. I am a member of South Buckhannon Mission Church and The Breath of God Worship Service at The Way of Holiness.

I believe it is very important to give back to one’s community. I am a member of the Southern Upshur Business Association (SUBA), Buckhannon Moose, Franklin Lodge #7 AF and AM Masonic Lodge, Osiris Temple of Wheeling, Scottish Rite of Clarksburg, York Rite of Elkins, Upshur County Shrine Club, Upshur County Shuttle Patrol, Upshur County Farm Bureau, and the Upshur County Hall of Fame Committee. While serving three terms on the Upshur County Board of Education, I served on several community committees.

I would like to thank the community members for their support.

May God bless you and your family,
Alan M. Suder
Magistrate Upshur County Division 2

Upshur County Board of Education (2 seats)

William Parker

Thank you for taking the time to attend this forum. My wife, Cynthia, and I are residents of the Mt. Nebo community. We have two married adult children, one granddaughter and a dog named Mamie. My in-laws, John & Opal Marsh, live just across our shared driveway and my stepmother, Cheryl Parker, lives in French Creek. Upshur County is our home. After high school I attended Glenville State College obtaining a degree in Business Administration – Management – Economics. While working in Upshur County I attended WV Wesleyan College and obtained my Master’s in Business Administration. My work experience includes 15 years in the oil & gas industry and 30 years working for local government entities in the north central area of our state. I’m a candidate for the Board of Education to improve the education for all children. Working with parents, staff, and the overall community we can accomplish this task. We must A.C.T. together to improve the “Accountability” — “Credibility” — “Transparency” of our educational system. With your support in the upcoming election, we can make improvements for our children.

Rob Hinton

Rob Hinton is a distinguished professional, whose career spans various high-profile roles, demonstrating a profound commitment to business and community development. As a seasoned business owner, Rob has cultivated a deep understanding of the complexities and challenges inherent in entrepreneurship, leveraging this knowledge to foster growth and innovation. His tenure at Meta (formerly Facebook) further enriched his expertise, providing him with invaluable experience at one of the largest tech industry’s fast-paced companies.

Rob’s contributions to economic development have been particularly notable in his role as the Director of the Upshur County Economic Development Authority. Here, his strategic vision and leadership have played a critical role in driving regional economic growth and prosperity. Recognizing his dedication and impact, the Governor appointed him as Chairman of the West Virginia Broadband Enhancement Council. In this capacity, Rob has been instrumental in expanding broadband access, a cornerstone for modernizing infrastructure and enhancing the quality of life and economic opportunities for West Virginians.

Throughout his career, Rob has also shared his talents and insights by serving on various boards, contributing to the success of numerous organizations and initiatives.

He obtained his undergraduate degree from Glenville State and furthered his education with two master’s degrees—a Master of Science and an MBA—from West Virginia Wesleyan College. These academic achievements have provided him with a solid foundation to excel in his multifaceted career, making significant contributions to business, technology, and community development.

Rob resides near Ellamore with his wife Jackie and their four children, Rob is deeply rooted in his community.

Susan King

Susan Matelan King, is a retired Upshur County teacher with 40+ years of experience. She graduated from WVWC with a BA degree in Elementary Education and Social Studies. She obtained a master’s degree in Reading and MA+45 in Curriculum & Instruction. She taught 5 years at Main Street School, 25 years at B-U Middle School, where she served as Reading Dept. chairperson, and 10-12 years at the Transitional & Alternative schools for B-UHS/B-UMS.

Mrs. King is married to William “Sky” King, a retired realtor and is the mother of Jennifer King, an actress in Los Angeles, and William King, a wildlife manager for the WVDNR. Mrs. King is an avid reader and is very active; enjoying sports, traveling, bike riding, and kayaking.

Mrs. King has been an advocate for students and is passionate about Upshur County Schools. Through the crusade of the past 3 years, Mrs. King has gained considerable insight and knowledge concerning the insurmountable issues facing Upshur County Schools and is prepared for the challenge. She will not sit on a “lame duck” board, she will be proactive and ensure transparency, accountability, and competency.

Buckhannon City Council (3 seats)

John Antolini

John Antolini was born and raised in Buckhannon, graduating from B-UHS in 2016 and getting his bachelor’s in Political Science from West Virginia Wesleyan College in 2020.

While in school, he was a member of B-U YLA, a member of Wesleyan’s Student Senate, served as a Frasure Singleton Legislative Intern in Charleston, and was active in several student groups on campus, along with being an active member of the community.

He volunteers for Free Meals Appalachia, and has served on its board since January 2023. He enjoys cooking, being out in nature, and blasting yacht rock on his porch in his spare time.

Pam Bucklew (Incumbent)

Born and raised in Burnsville, WV with a high school education.  Moved to Buckhannon in 1977 and worked in a family owned business.  Decided to attend cosmetology school with my late husband and graduated in 1984.  Been a cosmetologist continually since.  I raised two kids Catherine and Joe Cuppari who both graduated from West Virginia Wesleyan College in the early 2000s.  I have 2 grandsons and 2 granddaughters.  I have served the people of Buckhannon since being appointed to town council in 1998 by the late Binky Poundstone.  If elected this will be my 7th term as council member.

In my spare time I am a member of community theater and I help take care of aging family members.  I hope to continue to be a council person to help ensure progress and continued growth.  Thank you for your consideration and support on May 14 2024.

Scott Randall

I was born and raised in Buckhannon where my family taught me a strong sense of community and service. I traveled and worked in many different places as a young adult, but always knew that Buckhannon is home. It is where I met my wife of eight years, where we chose to live and where I am proud to raise my children.

I accepted a position on the Buckhannon City Waste Board in September of 2020. Then, in June of 2022 I was appointed to the Upshur County Solid Waste Authority Board and later that summer I joined the revenue review committee. I have been serving in all three roles since. Functioning in these roles has given me insight into how our city works, the potential it has for continued growth, and the ways in which I can continue to be of service here at home.

My campaign focus is to help assess the current needs of our citizens and city employees, our infrastructure, and our city’s attractiveness for tourism and other opportunities.  I look forward to the upcoming elections and the opportunity to serve.

I hope to earn your vote on May 14, 2024. It would be my honor to serve and collaborate with you on this level for our community.

Jack Reger (Incumbent)

Jack Reger grew up in Buckhannon and is a 1976 graduate of Buckhannon-Upshur High School. Reger is an alumnus of West Virginia University where he earned both his Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees. Jack is actively engaged in the Buckhannon Community where he participates in local government and is currently a member of City Council, Consolidated Public Works Board, Financial Review Committee, serves on the Senior Center Board of Directors, and serves on the Partners in Care Council at St. Joseph’s Hospital. He is a member and is active at Grace Church Buckhannon.   

Reger has served as Vice President of Administration and Finance for MONCO Constructors, Inc. following his retirement from Upshur County Schools.  Jack served in education for thirty-eight years both administratively and as a classroom teacher.  He has overseen governmental regulatory compliance at the local, state, and federal levels; personnel and human resources for a workforce exceeding seven-hundred employees, complex scheduling and logistic systems, various legal issues, facility management; and has worked with budgets exceeding thirty million dollars.

Reger has also developed and implemented training programs and managed the acquisition and implementation of comprehensive technical systems.

Mr. Reger served as consultant and trainer for The Reger Group, a defense contracting company, located in Stafford, Virginia.

Jack is married to Charla Reger. Formally, they owned and operated the renowned “A Governor’s Inn” Bed and Breakfast in Buckhannon, West Virginia.  The couple has one son, one daughter, and four grandchildren.

Jim Valenson

Jim Valenson was born in California where he resided until 2017 when he and his wife Ammie made Buckhannon their new home.

He retired from a major grocery working in store operations evaluating units profitability. His prior experience was running operations for an international company where he had the opportunity to work in 37 countries. He started an ice cream distribution company where he was so successful a major ice cream company purchased it.

Throughout his career he had to work with budgets exceeding 15 million dollars and manage 250 employees both union and non-union, experienced in negotiating and not afraid of making hard decisions that upset some people for the good of the majority of the people is not a problem.

Believes in holding people accountable and shows no favoritism to one group or another.

As city council members are servants of the people, all the people, not just friends, businesses, and special interest. We must curtail spending on items that are a cost to all taxpayers for the pleasure a minority of the residences. City of Buckhannon’s infrastructure should be the first priority.

Rob Zuliani

My name is Rob Zuliani and I am running for one of three Buckhannon City Council seats.

I was born on January 23, 1969, in Hartford, Connecticut and raised in Granby, Connecticut, a small, rural community much like Buckhannon. In 1987 I graduated from Granby Memorial High School and in 1991 I graduated with a BS in Management from The University of Rhode Island. During high school I ran a small lawn mowing and landscaping business. Once in college I opened Z-BEST Painting and Staining which employed college students to paint houses and commercial buildings during summer and winter breaks. In 1993 I opened Zuliani’s New York Style Pizzeria in my hometown. I chose to ignore advice with regards to bringing on a partner and quickly learned one of many difficult yet important business lessons. After the partnership dissolved, I was invited to a wedding in Buckhannon and met many wonderful people there and my wife-to-be, Jackie Knicley. Five months later, in November 1994, I moved to Buckhannon. Jackie and I made the first batch of Zul’s Frozen Lemonade that winter and the first cup of Zul’s was sold on May 6, 1995, in Buckhannon at a youth soccer tournament. Zul’s Frozen Lemonade has now been in business for 29 years. In 1999 I opened Zuliani’s Italian Pizzeria downtown, across from the post office and sold it in 2004 to be “Mr. Mom” to our daughter Cameron.

Jackie and I were married on December 12, 1998. She has been employed by the Upshur County Board of Education as a teacher and coach for 31 years. We have two children. Cameron is a sophomore at Merrimack College outside of Boston and our son Carter is a Junior at Buckhannon Upshur High School.

Thank you for your time and consideration. Please vote on May 14!

Mike Ruffing (Not in Attendance)

Mike Ruffing was born in upstate NY and shortly after was moved to Pittsburgh as a child. He lived in Pittsburgh for almost 30 years before choosing to become a WV resident. He graduated from Penn State University with a degree in business with a minor in marketing. He spent almost 20 years working for Fortune 500 companies including Advance Auto Parts in marketing & operations before starting his own marketing agency, Problem Solver’s, here in Buckhannon in 2013. Since moving to Buckhannon Mike has become a part of our community in numerous ways including being President of the Buckhannon-Upshur Airport Authority, Chairman of the Better Business Bureau of WV, Vice Chair of WV SCORE, started & Chair Leadership Upshur, and is a member of Region VI Workforce Development Board & Create Buckhannon. In his free time Mike is an avid golfer, licensed drone pilot, amateur photographer (part of Buckhannon Upshur Camera Club), and CrossFit L1 Coach at PowerAlley CrossFit in Buckhannon.

Mike has become passionate about living in WV and especially Buckhannon over the last 13 years. He loves to give back and be a valuable part of the community. He loved hiking with his family in our parks and on our trails while taking pictures of the beautiful landscapes. If you have any questions or want to learn more about why he’s running for city council please connect with his FB page (@MikeRuffing) or send him a DM on any of his socials.

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