He worries about his county's health. In 2009, 31 percent of Wyoming County fifth-graders already had high blood pressure, as measured by West Virginia University, compared with an already-alarming 24 percent statewide. About 28 percent were obese. And 37 percent of Wyoming County adults had high blood pressure, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
"It's gotten to the point where it's no longer just a concern for doctors," he said. "We want to make this a healthier county. We've set up five 5K races a year and one 10K, underwritten by the Visitors Bureau and the County Commission. And there are at least 40 walking and riding trails in Twin Falls State Forest alone. We get more than 200 runners at most races. More local people are taking part every year, and that's exciting.
"Now the question is, how do we get more people out walking and biking all year, not just for special events? How do we get them to see that can prevent diabetes and heart attacks?"
"We need to target young people," he said. "We've added track and cross country to both high schools in the past five years. That's going to make a difference.
As he rode, he thought of ways to get people to bike. "We could get bike racks around town -- at groceries and so on, for instance," he said.
"My dad and grandparents were coal miners, and my mother's family were lumberjacks," he said. "We live in an extractive industry state, and the unfortunate fact is, extractive industries are not necessarily good for your health. But that doesn't mean you have to make bad health choices for yourself. Maybe I live near a slate pile, but that doesn't mean I have to smoke. If I walk up a nice holler that's not so nice anymore, it doesn't mean I have to be 80 pounds overweight.
"There's another way to get people out: friendly competition," he said. "Maybe involve the churches in walking or biking teams."
"The man is constantly trying to think of things that will make life better in his county," said Patti Hamilton, director of the West Virginia Association of Counties, sponsor of today's conference.
Stover walked his bike along Raleigh County's Coalfields Expressway ("no way am I trying to ride on that"), then cut off on Paint Creek Road, which he took into Charleston. "From there on, it's smooth sailing, with very few cars," he said. "I've never biked inside Charleston itself before," he said. "I hear it may not be entirely easy."
He looks forward to Chris Danley's conference session. Danley, CEO of Vitruvian Planning in Idaho, will discuss ways cities and counties can encourage citizens to walk, bike and move more.
"I'm ready to learn," Stover said. "I'm looking for ideas."
The Healthy Counties conference starts at 11 A.M. at the Embassy Suites and continues through noon Tuesday. For information, see www.wvcounties.org.
Reach Kate Long at (304) 348-1798 or katel...@wvgazette.com.
"The Shape We're In" is supported by a Dennis A. Hunt Fund for Health Journalism fellowship, administered by the California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowships at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.