Christy Laxton grew up in poverty and vowed to create a better life for herself and her family.
When she went to work at 14, she pulled herself up on boot straps. After their marriage, the birth of their first child, and her full-time employment, she graduated from Concord College with honors – the first in her family to graduate from college. Today her oldest child is attending college.
In November, Laxton celebrates its 20th anniversary with the Wyoming County Economic Development Authority. In December she will celebrate her 16th year as managing director.
She became a director at the age of 23 after serving as a grant and loan program coordinator and then as an assistant director for the past four years.
“I’m excited to see what happened here during my tenure,” said Laxton. “Laura (Roberts-Lambert) will soon be celebrating her 20th anniversary at the EDA and we have worked hand in hand on everything that has happened here.”
Laxton and her husband Mike will also celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary just three days before their 20th year with the EDA.
They have four children – Luke, Andrea, Sydney and Nathan. “One in college, one in high school, one in middle school, and one in elementary school,” observed Laxton.
Laxton holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Concord College (now Concord University) and Economic Development Finance Professional certification from the National Development Council.
Register-Herald: Describe your job for me.
My job is different every day, so I LOVE it. My general job description includes: managing all tax and administrative processes related to receiving and spending funds; Negotiate and execute contracts; Take a leadership role in identifying and removing barriers to the county’s continued growth; Management of administrative staff and all personnel matters; Identify funding opportunities and write funding that will benefit the district as a whole for the EDA; Representing the Wyoming County Economic Development Authority on regional and state initiatives; Wyoming County in southern West Virginia; and market the county for outside business interests.
In the midst of all this, we manage a loan fund, a community fund, scholarship fund, the district planning commission, industrial areas, events, strategic plans, overall planning and coordinate numerous other projects. I am here to do whatever it takes for the people and communities of the county.
Register-Herald: What have been some of the challenges you have faced since taking office and what has been the biggest challenge for you?
A major challenge to Wyoming County’s economic development is that much of its land in Wyoming County is owned by non-state owned land companies. This complicates the provision of real estate for new buildings and extensions.
We are a more rural community, so it is also more difficult to attract new industries because of the lack of highways and large areas of land for them.
So we focus on small businesses and production that can take place in areas that don’t need to be on the highway.
We have some amazing small businesses here in Wyoming County.
Covid was an additional challenge. It was tough for everyone, personally, professionally, mentally and physically. We all had to adapt to new ways of life. We have worked hard here at EDA to help small businesses overcome these barriers here locally and nationwide.
Register-Herald: As a woman, did you have any particular challenges?
Naturally. I think all women in the workforce face challenges, but I just keep going as a hard worker, moving forward as if those challenges weren’t there and, on the other hand, getting stronger to show that women are capable to make something happen.
It seems that this stereotype has faded over time and women are more accepted in the workforce and in leadership positions than ever before.
Register-Herald: In your own words, how did you get where you are?
I think it comes from a lot of different factors. My childhood upbringing and the people I watched growing up. People who know me and how I grew up know that I come from a low-income family and a rough family life. We lived on food stamps and welfare. We didn’t have a car most of the time and the utilities were cut off. We were grateful for the churches that sent us meals over the holidays and were grateful for our family and friends who also helped. We were also grateful for the baseball field, which was our safe haven.
I started working at the age of 14 paying bills at home. My parents divorced shortly afterwards. From that point on, I continued to do sports and a taxable job while my mother also had multiple jobs.
I would drive to games and find my jobs with coaches or friends and their parents. I knew in my mind that I didn’t want to continue living in the environment in which I grew up. I wanted something more.
I saw successful people around me and aspired to be like them. Ashleigh Goode and her parents Mike and Peggy Goode have been and still are very influential in my life. Ashleigh and I had a birthday together and we grew up together. They took me to games and I even stayed at their home the night before my wedding. Everyone should have something from Peggy’s French Toast!
This family, the compassion they had for me, the way they treated themselves – always being kind and doing for others, showing me a Christian home, they were an inspiration for how I am my family wanted to have. Successful, friendly and always there for others. The Goode family will always have a special place in my heart.
I also wanted to be a first generation college graduate. During high school, I worked in various local jobs, played sports, helped pay bills, bought my family a car, bought a car in my senior year, graduated with honors, and graduated from high school with 24 college credit hours .
I went to college to play softball, get married, start my career with the EDA, have a baby, and graduate with honors as a first generation college graduate.
Hard work and determination made me responsible, kind, caring, and most importantly, grateful for all the things the Lord has blessed me with. Prayer, support from family and friends, and the determination to get better are all things that got me where I am today.
Register-Herald: What challenges do you see for the Wyoming County’s economy?
When looking at the barriers to economic development in the southern counties of West Virginia, many would say that this is an impossible task. I am happy about the challenge and look forward to working on it every day. I will probably never have the huge announcements of over 100 job relocations or additions that make the front pages of the Charleston Gazette so often. However, I will be able to go to work every day because I know that what I do is very important to many people who are really important to me. These people are my friends, family, board members, and many others in Wyoming County that I will likely never meet.
Overcoming Covid remains a challenge. The pandemic is still ongoing and the unknown and uncertainty are still out there.
Companies are still trying to recover from the shutdown, and now outbreaks are happening again, with quarantined businesses being forced to close down for employees and owners.
Our office will continue to support you to the best of our ability and provide you with the resources you need.
Register-Herald: What role do you think will play in these challenges?
We will continue to provide resources to small businesses and continue to provide community and economic resources to the county as needed.
Register-Herald: What do you think are the characteristics of a successful leader?
Integrity – doing the right thing and recognizing mistakes no matter what.
Loyalty – being able to serve everyone on the team.
Excellent communication skills – speak effectively and listen to people in your organization, region, state, and networks.
Resilience – the ability to recover from a potential mistake and move on despite obstacles.
Compassion – being able to relate to others in many different ways.
Register-Herald: How do you incorporate these attributes into your own job?
These have to be integrated into my work on a daily basis in order to make me an effective economic and community developer or a person in the workforce. We should pursue these leadership skills to ensure that we are successful in our daily life and in our professional careers.
Register-Herald: Would you like to add something?
I see my greatest achievement so far in being able to continue my professional career in the county in which I grew up.
So often, professional training is a guaranteed one-way ticket from southern West Virginia. I am proud to be able to work in my hometown and to bring my education back to Wyoming County and use it to help others who want to return.