By Matthew Young, RealWV
The race for West Virginia’s 1st Congressional District added another contender last month, as Greenbrier County’s James Umberger formalized his intention to challenge for the office. Umberger, a Democrat, is pursuing the seat currently held by two-term incumbent, Republican Carol Miller.
“I have a love for my family, my state, and my country,” Umberger told RealWV on Wednesday. “It seems to me that there’s a lack of civility in our politics, and a lack of compromise. It’s just wickedness, and we deserve better – we deserve a functioning government.”
A native of Charleston, Umberger graduated from George Washington High School before being drafted into military service during the Vietnam War. After being honorably discharged with the rank of Sergeant, Umberger returned home to pursue a degree from West Virginia State University. Upon his graduation from college in 1974, Umbergerger temporarily relocated to Arizona. However, in 1979, Umberger once again returned to his home state.
Umberger would spend the next four decades working in the developmental disabilities and mental health fields, including serving as hospital administrator for the former Greenbrier Center in Lewisburg, and counseling combat veterans for the Veterans Administration (VA) in Princeton.
“As a combat veteran myself, I understood the problems that guys who come back from combat have, particularly Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD),” Umberger said. “I wanted to work with my fellow veterans.”
During his time with the VA, Umberger’s work day consisted of one of the largest caseloads in the country. In addition to his work with veterans, Umberger served for several years as clinical director at Lewisburg-based Davis Stuart, as well as operating his own private counseling practice. Outside of his professional life, Umberger has held board positions with the American Red Cross of Greenbrier County, Greenbrier County CASA, and Carnegie Hall, among other organizations.
“We’ve got to do something to pull the country forward,” Umberger said. “I feel that I need to get involved, and help bring a little bit of sanity to the folks in Washington, and to the Congress.”
Over the course of his career, in addition to gaining significant administrative experience, Umberger assisted with the writing of West Virginia’s mental health code, and the establishing of the state’s Medicare regulations.
“I was also on the Greenbrier County Planning Committee for six years,” Umberger noted. “That was a good experience. It was a bipartisan group of people on that committee, and we were able to function very efficiently.”
According to Umberger, he is a “rational problem-solver,” something which he feels is sorely lacking in Washington.
“I think about solutions with people from all political persuasions,” Umberger said. “We need to work together. The alternative is more chaos. I’m not an obstructionist – I’m a problem solver, and that’s what’s needed.”
“I listen to people,” Umberger continued. “I want to listen to folks, and be cognizant of what their needs are, and what they’re hoping to get out of government. Then I’ll try to push for solutions that meet those needs.”
“I’m conservative with how I spend money, and I believe we need to know where the dollars that we spend are coming from,” Umberger added. “Most people don’t want to believe that their money is being wasted – they want to feel like they’re getting the best value for their dollar.”
While no other Democratic contenders have filed for West Virginia’s 1st Congressional District, it remains to be seen if Umberger will face a challenge in the primaries. To learn more about James Umberger’s campaign for the United States House of Representatives, visit JimUmbergerforCongress.com.
Primary Election Day in West Virginia is Tuesday, May 14. General Election Day is Tuesday, November 5.