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New W.Va.-Washington, D.C. Liaison Seeks Federal Grants

Decker & Big Jim.jpg
Office of the Governor
Melissa Decker meets with Gov. Jim Justice.

A member of Gov. Jim Justice’s staff is now working in Washington, D.C. to bring home federal grant money.

Melissa Decker said her title is D.C. Director for Gov. Justice. She will identify areas where the state can compete for more federal grant funding, serve as liaison with the West Virginia congressional delegation and be the primary point of contact between federal officials and the state of West Virginia.

“I’ve met our folks in Charleston just to get to know them and establish relationships,” Decker said. “So I can pick their brains on what grants they have looked at. I’m working so we can identify if we haven’t competed for a grant, and how we can change that legislatively.”

Decker said her decades of experience in working with federal legislators and agencies has honed her communication skills.

She brings more than 30 years of public service experience to the position having worked in various roles with state governments and the federal government.

Most recently, she served as Senior Advisor to the Under Secretary of Memorial Affairs within the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Decker previously worked in former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s administration as Deputy Director of California’s D.C. Office and as a Deputy Cabinet Secretary. She also served as a legislative analyst for the U.S. House Republican Conference under U.S. Rep. John Boehner.

Decker has a Master’s Degree in Public Administration, an Executive Master’s Degree in International Relations, and a Certificate of Advanced Study in Security Studies from Syracuse University.

Originally from 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 amazing class from a Reagan Democrat appointee for American government studies,” Decker said. “And all of a sudden I realized that public policy was really cool because there's no one answer. It's all about building the coalition and finding ways to get everyone on board and moving something forward.”

Decker says she’s a grant researching nerd who knows how to compete for the money.

“And I think it just allows West Virginia to be more competitive,” Decker said. “Just being able to walk across the street and up to Capitol Hill and talk with our delegation anytime it's needed.”

Justice recently said there were 381 possible grants that West Virginians could tag on to. Decker said she looks forward to seeking that number, or more.

Government Reporter, ryohe@wvpublic.org, 304-634-8123

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