Cheering for a New Governor
In just over a week (the same day that the nation observes Martin Luther King Day), Jim Justice will be sworn in as West Virginia’s newest governor. There is no telling how successful he will be; we’ll have to check back in four years and see what developed during the interim.
Yet, I have to cheer on our incoming governor for no other reason than—at an age when far too many Americans are searching for an armchair or the nearest golf course—the 65-year-old Justice is embarking on the toughest challenge of his career.
Non-Payment of Bills
I almost didn’t vote for Justice. Last August, while having lunch with an old friend, he proceeded to relate a story about his brother-in-law and how he had tried to sell some mining equipment to one of Justice’s companies. The Justice employee supposedly said, “I’ll be glad to buy all the equipment you want to sell me, but you won’t get paid.”
That disturbed me, particularly since a few months earlier I had read a story online about lawsuits filed against Justice for non-payment of bills to several companies. When I related the story to another friend who had traveled extensively during his business career, he replied, “That’s true. That’s the way he operates.”
There was even a website devoted to ripping Justice for his shady business practices and political favors. If all this weren’t bad enough, NPR aired a report the month before the election about him owing $15 million in back taxes and fines in six states.
Tipping the Scales
What started tipping my vote in Justice’s favor originated with an interview I did for a story I wrote about Samaritan Purse’s flood relief work in Louisiana.
I talked with a traveling chaplain with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, (about the ministry’s efforts in Louisiana. During our conversation, he mentioned how he had been at the famous Greenbrier luxury resort after last June’s flooding in West Virginia.
After I mentioned living just three hours north of there, the chaplain talked about how Justice had housed numerous area residents at the resort after the floods canceled this year’s Greenbrier Classic, a stop on the PGA Tour.
In addition to free housing, Justice fed them and gave each one a $500 Walmart card when they departed.
“Well, it was an act of Christian charity, so you wouldn’t,” the chaplain replied.
That gave me pause and caused me to re-evaluate my decision.
Soon after, a story appeared about noted pro golfer Phil Mickelson being named a “tour ambassador” for the Greenbrier.
“You know,” I thought. “With all the problems West Virginia is having, we need someone who’s a big thinker. And I think Justice is that kind of person.”
If you believe that—as Romans 13:1-2 says—God installs leaders in office for His purposes, it’s quite interesting that Justice won by a 49-42 percent margin. That despite opponent Bill Cole trying to ride the coattails of President-elect Donald Trump, who captured 69 percent of the state’s vote on Nov. 8.
Whether Justice is designed as a blessing remains to be seen. But, ironically, I had lunch a month after the election with the friend whose story caused me to frown on Justice as a candidate. He told me had voted for Justice too. His reason: “Because he didn’t have any political experience.”
It will be interesting to see if that proves to be a plus.