BUCKHANNON – She was the first woman elected to serve as chair of the Republican National Lawyers Association.
Then, in May 2019, Buckhannon native Kimberly Reed achieved a second ‘first’ when she became the first woman – and the first West Virginian – to be tapped as chairman and president of the Export-Import Bank of the U.S. by President Donald Trump.
But in an era marked by political divisiveness and party-line votes, Reed is also ‘one’ of a kind in that she was confirmed in her position by the U.S. Senate by a vote of 79-17 – a strikingly bipartisan outcome of which Reed said she was proud Monday night.
Reed, the daughter of local attorney Terry Reed and the late Janet Logue Reed, traveled from the nation’s capital to deliver the keynote speech at the Buckhannon-Upshur Chamber of Commerce’s 54th Annual Dinner Monday at the Event Center at Brushy Fork
“I am unique in this administration because my final [U.S. Senate] confirmation vote was 79-17 whereas most votes of the nominees that you see, it’s usually about 52-48, and so it was great to get that amazing vote,” she said.
In addition to the confirmation and vetting process, Reed walked attendees through what the Export-Import Bank of the U.S. – or EXIM – actually does and how it impacts small businesses.
A West Virginia Wesleyan College alum who earned her law degree from WVU, Reed attained her professional certification in finance from the New York Institute of Finance and prior to accepting her current post, most recently served as the president of the International Food Information Council Foundation.
As part of the U.S. Department of Treasury, she headed up the Community Development Financial Institution Fund before being confirmed in May 2019 as the president and chairman of the Board of Directors of EX-IM, said Bob Skinner, who introduced Reed at Monday’s dinner.
Founded in 1934 by U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the EX-IM was created to help American businesses export goods and services around the world.
“Now, today, we offer a tool in the trade toolbox to help small businesses,” Reed said. “We come in and help small businesses sell their products and services in the very competitive global marketplace. We fill-gap.”
Specifically, Reed said, EX-IM helps foreign purchasers “buy a U.S. good made by a U.S. worker on U.S. soil” when the foreign purchaser can’t get financing through a regular bank.
“So, we come in and we give a direct loan – a loan guaranteed that a normal bank gives, or we provide export credit insurance to protect someone like Linda’s Candies,” Reed said, referencing the local sweets business owned and operated by resident Linda Xander. “We do working capital loan guarantees. We do that and we support millions of jobs, and we support small businesses.”
Reed described the road to her current post as a “long haul.” Trump first nominated her to be vice president of EX-IM in July 2017, then to be the chair in July 2018, but after the nomination was voted out of committee, it took some time for the Senate to confirm her.
“Because EX-IM is a complicated issue for a very small part of our United States government (officials) who believe it’s not the job of government to do what EX-IM does, and they believe it distorts free markets and we should not have this agency, they blocked our nominations to keep the bank essentially shuttered,” she said. “It was a long haul.”
But a chance meeting with Trump at a golf clubhouse restaurant motivated the president to ask Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who Trump had been playing golf with – and Reed’s “blocker” – to confirm her as chairman and president of EX-IM.
“Within one week, I was confirmed, and if it had not been for that very moment [seeing the president at the golf clubhouse], the 400 people who work at the Export-Import Bank would be without a job, the agency would be shut down,” she said.
Following Reed’s speech, the Chamber doled out its five highly anticipated annual awards – including Organization of the Year, Business of the Year, Businesswoman of the Year, Businessman of the Year and Citizen of the Year.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the night occurred when the emcee himself, Robbie Skinner, was named Citizen of the Year. In addition to being a Buckhannon City Councilman, Skinner is an executive board member and past president.
As Skinner was about to read the bio of the person he thought had won, Chamber president Kathy McMurray stepped up to the microphone.
“It is fair to say this year’s Citizen of the Year recipient absolutely loves Buckhannon and Upshur County,” McMurray read. “By the time, he was five years old, he was known as the neighborhood ambassador and when he reached eight, he knew the location of every street in town.”
“Today, more people are aware of the many wonderful benefits of living here through his constant promotion and advocacy and the sharing of his beautiful photos of Buckhannon, West Virginia Wesleyan College, and Upshur County on a variety of social media sites,” McMurray continued.
“But this aspect of our recipient is just part of why he is being honored tonight,” she said. “He has been an engaged volunteer in Create Buckhannon, since its founding, as the past sponsorship chair of the West Virginia Strawberry Festival, and as an active member, secretary, president and past president of the Buckhannon-Upshur Chamber of Commerce. He is often seen serving food, helping with set-up and cleaning tables at a variety of dinners to help those in need.”
Community Care of West Virginia was tapped as the Business of the Year, an award chief executive officer Rick Simon accepted on behalf of the company.
“Celebrating 40 years of delivering quality health care to our community and region, it began as a singular health care location in Rock Cave,” Skinner said. “Now, this business robustly employs more than 300 people, in 15 health care centers, 5 pharmacies, 13 contract pharmacies and one dental clinic throughout Central West Virginia. Additionally, they’ve expanded to into 53 schools providing school-based health centers; six of those schools-based health centers are right here in Upshur County.”
“Their mission is to help our communities live the healthiest lives possible by meeting their immediate and long-term healthcare needs,” he added. “This mission is accomplished by providing high-quality, accessible, comprehensive, culturally appropriate, and cost-effective healthcare services, by serving as a true comprehensive medical home for their patients.”
Lisa Hulver, owner of TATEEP Unique Boutique on Main Street, earned the accolade of Businesswoman of the Year.
“She proudly carries many locally made items in her store that specializes in a variety of gift items including clothing, jewelry, purses, bags and more,” Skinner said of Hulver. “Yes, small business ownership is challenging, but her strength, determination and spirit for giving back to her community are what makes her business successful.”
Skip Gjolberg, administrator and president of WVU Medicine St. Joseph’s Hospital was recognized as the Chamber’s Businessman of the Year.
“During his tenure as president of St. Joseph’s Hospital, it has been recognized with several awards including a Gold Honors Achievement Award, awards for quality, and for safety and most recently, it has been named as one of the top 100 Critical Access Care Hospitals in the country, and it’s the only one in the State of West Virginia,” Skinner said of Gjolberg.
“One of the special qualities about this year’s nominee is that he truly embodies the mission of the place and people he goes to work for every day… and that is, ‘We are inspired by the love of Christ to provide our community with quality healthcare in ways which respect the God-given dignity of each person and the sacredness of human life.’”
The West Virginia Strawberry Festival Association was honored as the Organization of the Year for its ongoing efforts to offer “good, wholesome, honest fun,” Skinner said.
“At the climax of the festival, it’s like time stands still,” he said. “We put away our phones, set up our chairs, cease political debates, forget about personal problems and the challenges facing our world, and we relax. We focus on our community, and the memories and traditions we hold dear. We reconnect with the raw enjoyment of life.”
“The festival without a doubt plays a major role in making Buckhannon one of the very best small towns in America, and we cannot thank the dedicated team of volunteers enough for their commitment year in, and year out,” Skinner said.
President of the upcoming 79th Annual West Virginia Strawberry Festival, Sandra Bennett, accepted the award on behalf of the WVSF Board of Directors.