Harrison County, West Virginia has always been my home. I’m a proud third-generation engineer, and I earned my degree from West Virginia University in 1977. My dad and I started the civil engineering firm Thrasher Engineering in 1983.
We focused on public utility infrastructure, and we grew by doing a good job and getting hired back. I know how hard it can be for our state’s small business owners to worry about making payroll. I became so focused on surviving that I grew our little firm, one water and sewer project at a time. I spent a lot of time driving to our beautiful state’s communities, counties and public service districts to oversee those projects.
The Thrasher Group now has 11 offices in seven states with about 500 people, and we’re proud to hire many graduates of West Virginia colleges and universities.
I count my three sons as my greatest accomplishment, and I’ve tried to instill in them the same work ethic that took me from baling hay at 14 and bagging groceries in high school all the way to being one of West Virginia’s largest employers of professionals.
My oldest son, Cody, is a Bridgeport-area entrepreneur with a food truck and restaurant; Austin my middle son is a fourth-generation engineer who works with the Thrasher Group; and my youngest son, Kaelin, is finishing an accounting degree at James Madison University. I’m engaged to be married to Stefania Salentro.
I was honored to be asked to serve as secretary of the West Virginia Department of Commerce in December 2016. I was proud of the moves we were able to make to support key infrastructure projects for our state, and I had hoped to see them through to completion. We made advancements in broadband service, secured more funding for tourism for repairs to our state parks’ facilities and drafted improvements to our timber industry.
I’ve been proud to serve in leadership positions for numerous local, state and regional organizations, including chairman of the WVU Alumni Association and president of Genesis Youth Center, which takes care of kids who can’t return to their families and need temporary housing. I’ve also spent time as president of the local Chamber of Commerce, local United Way, the T. Moore Jackson Chapter of the Society of Professional Engineers, the state chapter of the American Council of Engineering Companies and the West Virginia Society of Professional Engineers. I’ve also been active in several Christian church organizations.
I’ve been honored to receive several awards and distinctions over the years, but among my most cherished have been Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year in 2000 and The Exponent-Telegram’s Entrepreneur of the Year in 2013.
White Oaks Development, the 450-acre professional business park in Harrison County is one of my proudest accomplishments. About 3,000 people work there now as a result of $400 million in investments in the past 10 years.
I will use my background to always put West Virginia first and use my skills every day to bring about economic development opportunities for our people.