Millennial legislator and entrepreneur Ben Queen brings his own sense of style to the job

By Local News | January 11, 2017
By Stephen Reed - The Charleston Gazette-Mail.  Harrison County is sending a new, young member of the House of Delegates this year in Ben Queen, a West Virginia University student and graduate of the Bridgeport High School Class of 2013. 

Ben’s interest in serving others came to my attention in 2004 when he and his father, former Harrison County delegate and Board of Education president Mike Queen, put together a generous package of toys for the child victims of the major earthquake in Aceh, Indonesia.

My wife, Leni, is from Indonesia and had friends helping with the tsunami relief. So the Queens joined us in trying to make a difference for the kids there. At age 8, Ben had a genuine interest in kids his age, even though they were a world away. It was all quite touching. He was a good kid.

We have followed Ben’s development into a teenage entrepreneur. At age 12, he began Ben Queen Photography (www.benqueenphotography.com). This is no lighthearted lemonade stand. Ben has developed a small event photography business that sells photographs online after sporting and other events, even hiring high school classmates as photographers.

Ben has been tireless in the development of his business and has won awards for entrepreneurship, a subject he continues to study at WVU.

Last year, when Ben decided, at age 20, to run for the House of Delegates, I had mixed emotions. Wouldn’t he miss out on college life in Morgantown?

However, after watching his organized and characteristically diligent work on his campaign last year, I believe if anyone can pull off completing his education and serving in the West Virginia legislature, it is Ben. His campaign was positive from start to finish and used social media on Facebook and Twitter to great effect.

Throughout the 2016 campaign, Ben emphasized his interest in developing the state’s economy so more West Virginians from his generation could stay here. Like all good politicians, Ben sought to bring an ever-broader group of supporters to embrace that message. Again, his hard work succeeded, with Ben being one of the youngest serving elected officials in West Virginia.

To say that his father, Mike Queen, is proud of his son is an understatement. Mike recently left a successful talk radio program in Clarksburg to join the staff of incoming Secretary of State Mac Warner as Deputy Chief of Staff/Director of Communications.

Having helped Ben in his various initiatives over the years, Mike gave Ben the space he needed to determine for himself if public service was for him. Earlier last year, Mike told me simply that Ben had been encouraged to run by several in their north-central West Virginia community.

Though Ben made up his own mind, he is following in his dad’s footsteps, as Mike started his career in public service as a young member of the House of Delegates himself. Those were the days when a Republican being elected in Harrison County was a true novelty.

Mike Queen has a strong personality. You don’t have to wait too long when talking to this longtime former political activist to discover his views on a range of issues. That’s what made Mike such a successful talk radio host in Clarksburg.

But to Mike’s credit as a father, while giving good guidance to his son, he has let Ben develop his own voice and style.

Ben is the quieter of the two, while still being affable and outgoing. Ben studies a problem, chews on it, confers with others and then plunges in with the same drive his dad has to solve a complex problem.
West Virginia is fortunate to have not one but two generations of one of north-central West Virginia’s most dedicated families working for us in Charleston. I asked Mike if he and Ben would be rooming together in Charleston, and he replied, “Not initially anyway — Ben wants to be in the middle of the action!”

Not everyone knows what to do in the middle of the action during a heated legislative session. We trust calm, considerate Ben Queen will.

Stephen N. Reed is a former deputy secretary of state and a former talk radio host on WCHS-AM.

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