New W.Va.-Washington, D.C. link seeks federal grants

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A member of Governor Jim Justice’s staff is now working in Washington, DC to bring home the federal grant money.

Melissa Decker said her title was Director of DC for Governor Jim Justice. She will identify areas in which the state can compete for more federal grants, serve as a liaison with the West Virginia congressional delegation, and be the primary point of contact between federal officials and the state of West Virginia.

“I met our folks in Charleston just to get to know them and build relationships,” Decker said. “So I can ask them what grants they looked at. I am working so that we can determine if we did not compete for a grant and how we can change this legislatively.

Decker said his decades of experience working with lawmakers and federal agencies have honed his communication skills.

She brings more than 30 years of public service experience to this role, having served in various positions in state and federal government.

Most recently, she served as Senior Advisor to the Undersecretary for Memorial Affairs in the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.

Decker previously worked in former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s administration as deputy director of the DC California office and as deputy cabinet secretary. She also served as a legislative analyst for the US House Republican Conference under US Representative John Boehner.

Decker holds a master’s degree in public administration, an executive master’s degree in international relations, and a certificate of advanced studies in security studies from Syracuse University.

A native of Ashland, Ohio, Decker earned her bachelor’s degree in politics and public policy from Bethany College in Bethany, West Virginia. She says she went to college as a math major, but the curriculum at this small liberal arts school swayed her interests.

“I took an incredible course from a Reagan Democrat nominee for US government studies,” Decker said. “And all of a sudden I realized that public policy is really cool because there’s no one answer. It’s about building the coalition and finding ways to get everyone on board and get something done.

Decker says she’s a grant seeker who knows how to compete for money.

“And I think that just allows West Virginia to be more competitive,” Decker said. “Just being able to cross the street and walk up to Capitol Hill and speak with our delegation at any time.”

Justice recently said there are 381 possible grants West Virginians could join. Decker said she was looking forward to researching that number, or more.

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