CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Former state Senator Chris Walters says his campaign for Kanawha County Commission is off and running.

Walters, who announced last summer that he would be seeking the GOP nomination in the May 2024 Primary Election, was a guest Tuesday on 580Live hosted by Dave Allen.

Walters said he has a lot of plans in store for Kanawha County if elected, including making more updates and improvements to the area, and more effectively accommodating area small businesses.

Chris Walters

As a native and longtime resident raising his family in Kanawha County, as well as owning a small insurance business of his own in Charleston, Walters said he’s passionate about being in a position to improve the area and local economy during the challenges it faces.

“Over the time I’ve been in Kanawha County, I’ve seen population leave, businesses close, the mall is a shell of what it once was, and I feel like there is a lot more we can do to bring this back, to turn Kanawha County around, and I have the passion and energy to do that for our citizens,” Walters said.

Walters said the removal of vacant, dilapidated structures in the county will be a major area of focus for him if elected to the commission, as well as working directly with municipalities and local governments to streamline the process.

He said during his time serving in the senate from 2012 to 2016, he saw where members of the Route 60 committee consisting of mayors from Poca, Bancroft, Buffalo among other municipalities in that region come together once a month and share equipment and work together to demolish dilapidated structures.

Walters said this concept of working together in unity to get the necessary work done in the region is something that Kanawha County is lacking, but one that would help make the work go more efficiently.

In addition, Walters said the mayor of Dunbar, Mayor Scott Elliot, more effectively deals with the dilapidated structure problem in his town by reserving $100,000 every year and buys vacant properties on tax liens that he sells, which has allowed the city to tear down over 45 vacant homes in Dunbar during his time in office.

He said by working together to come up with a creative solution such as that to resolve the issue, it would be better for the budget and the overall wellbeing of local communities involved.

“That is a great way that we can acquire these vacant, dilapidated houses and then tear them down to get rid of that, and when we get rid of that, we get rid of the homeless coming in there, we get rid of house fires, we get rid of a lot of the drug problem, and we really fight the issue right at its heart, and it improves the values of people’s homes in their neighborhood,” he said.

Walters said another area of focus he’s passionate about fighting for is small businesses. He said the area has seen local taxes increase on small businesses, but they haven’t seen those businesses get the support they need.

Walters said it’s also incredibly difficult for a small business owner to obtain a loan for their business, which he said he believes is a matter that should fall in the hands of the commission to help them with.

“I think that the county commission should be looking at that and helping with that,” he said. “I think that we should be assisting business owners in our city any way we can. We saw a business close its doors on Capitol Street just recently, and instead of coming to him seeing how we can help keep his doors open, the city put the stage in the way so no-one could go to his business during Regatta.”

He said the area is failing to reach out to small businesses and better support them, despite the fact that he said they are the one’s truly driving the local economy.

Walters said in order to improve the county as a whole, the issues going on throughout the individual communities need to be understood and addressed first.

He encourages citizens to reach out to him regarding those issues throughout his campaign and if he gets elected to a seat on the commission, because, he said the citizens are the ones who are living in those communities and he will rely on their help to fix them.

“I’m going to take the time to meet with the mayors, meet with the citizens, to have town halls, and to go out and meet with the people,” said Walters. “My ideas come from you, my great ideas come from people reaching out to me telling me their thoughts and us working together to create a plan.”

He said people can learn more about his campaign for Kanawha County Commission by visiting his Facebook page.

Walters will face GOP candidate Dewayne Duncan in the May 14 vote. Democratic candidates are longtime Commissioner Kent Carper and Natalie Tennant.

During Walter’s time in senate, he said he focused on the expansion of broadband internet in the region and set the stage for major companies that are coming in today to compete for that expansion. He said he also accomplished bringing Uber to West Virginia to combat drunk driving, and made the Outdoor Dining Bill a reality, which allows restaurants to put sidewalk dining outside of their establishments.