Leadership West Virginia is a program that has a simple but complex mission. Preparing leaders to move West Virginia forward is the goal.

Each year since 2013, about 50 West Virginians have participated in two-day educational exercises during an eight-month period. The process to be selected into the program is a competitive one. Nominations are accepted and after an application period, candidates are selected.

Two Jackson Countians were chosen to be in the 2020 class.

Ceason Ranson, an attorney with Adams Fisher & Chappell PLLC, and Matt McVay, plant manager of Armstrong World Industries at Millwood, will be attending the leadership sessions once the schedule is set, after the current health situation is resolved.

Ranson, 38, said she is looking forward to being part of the program.

“I don’t think many realize how diverse a state we have,” she said. “The panhandles are so different from the coal counties, the coalfields are so different than central West Virginia and the Ohio River Valley.”

To see how the other areas of the state are addressing issues, along with learning cultural differences, is something Ranson is interested in exploring.

“We have the potential to start a renaissance,” she said. “I love West Virginia and there is good energy here. We just need to see how others are accomplishing things and then take that state-wide.”

Her partner in the process, McVay, 41, agrees.

“I’m interested in the other participants’ journeys,” he said. “How they impact their communities, how they develop their teams is something I’m looking forward to discovering. And I’m hoping I’m a little uncomfortable. That’s where the challenge comes, where you learn the most.”

Both say that networking is extremely important.

“It’s not always who can do something for you,” Ranson said. “Knowledge network is extremely important as well. Seeing how talents are being used to move areas forward, to improve the way of life is going to be exciting to see.”

McVay said that West Virginia has plenty of opportunities.

“We have a good dedicated workforce,” he stated. “We know that helping our neighbors is important. We just need to be more confident and know that we can meet our challenges if we learn from each other. Be proud of where we’re from but work to make it better.”

The attendees were nominated by last year’s Leadership participants, Bobbi Farrell and Cam Matheny.

To Farrell, the experience was one she won’t forget.

“I cannot say enough wonderful things about Leadership and the knowledge I gained of our state,” she said. “The people I met were so passionate about West Virginia and its future. I would participate again without a second thought.”

While they are looking forward to learning from others in their Leadership class, both McVay and Ranson know they will each bring something of value.

“We come from a county on the rise,” Ranson said. “We are positioned perfectly for continued growth. I’ve got friends who are determined to stay here. They, and I, see so much potential with Jackson County and this state. This firm belief makes me determined to work with others to find solutions and unique possibilities.”

McVay says his management style is one of the strengths he brings.

“As I’ve grown older, I have learned to be a servant leader,” he said. “My job as manager is to make sure the workers have what they need when they need it. All discussions are not black and white.”

Looking back over the day, what went right and what went wrong, is part of McVay’s everyday routine.

“Sometimes you really do have to look backward to be able to go forward,” he said.

Being part of Leadership West Virginia is an honor according to both Jackson County residents.

“Some of the best and brightest in West Virginia have been in this program,” Ranson said. “To be part of this, to meet visionaries that can see five or ten years down the road, to be able to live our West Virginia story is a real privilege.”