The people we love to love.
When Oakland, Maryland, native Mark Tasker’s mother wouldn’t pay for him to become a starving artist, he chose cooking as a tongue-in-cheek response. Turned out he had a talent for the business, and he honed it on both coasts. Back home in the early 2010s and ready to open his own restaurant, every place was in recession— except Morgantown.
Diners weren’t sure what to make of Table 9 when it opened in 2013 in a gorgeous riverside space several restaurants had failed in. But six years in, Morgantown celebrates Tasker’s creative cuisine by voting him BOM20 Best Chef. Never been to Table 9? Try any Tuesday night’s burger/bourbon/beer innovation—or treat yourself to a Saturday or Sunday brunch on the best deck in town (40 Donley Street, 304.554.2050, dinetable9.com, @table9morgantown on Facebook).
With a long career as a school guidance counselor and Morgantown city councilman before he became a county commissioner, Tom Bloom knows the area’s history, its issues, and its people. But that’s only part of what makes him BOM Best Politician for a third time running. His dedication to food insecurity and recycling, among other issues, has won him constituents’ trust. And he’s accessible: He shows up at many events each week, he meets people, he helps out, he celebrates successes, and he posts it all on Facebook.
West Virginia Delegate, Danielle Walker
Best Craft Cocktail Bartender
Josh Graham has been serving drinks behind Tin 202’s bar since the restaurant opened in 2014. He became the beverage director only a year later. But being an excellent craft cocktail bartender requires continual learning. Graham has taken a seat at bars in cities like Boston, New York City, and Washington, D.C. to learn from the country’s pros. “You see what other people are doing and ask why,” he says. The knowledge lets him craft new flavors for Morgantown’s palate.
Not sure what to order? Graham encourages diners to tell him what spirits and flavors they prefer—for instance, Graham is a rye whiskey guy himself—and then trust him to craft a cocktail just for them. “The process is fun because we can give people something they haven’t tried before or wouldn’t normally try, and they enjoy it,” he says. Graham invites anyone to swing by Tin 202 for a classy yet comfortable evening filled with good food and, of course, drinks (tin202.com, @tin202wv on Facebook).
Best Media Personality
Award-winning sports broadcaster Tony Caridi has been the Mountaineers’ main play-by-play radio broadcaster since 1997. For Mountaineer sports fans, his voice is synonymous with WVU football and men’s basketball; now he’s a four-time winner for Best Media Personality, too. In Morgantown, catch Caridi’s play-by-plays on 94.3 WRLF and 100.9 WZST. Get your between-game fix when he hosts MetroNews Statewide Sportsline weekdays at 6 p.m., or hear the podcast any time (wvmetronews.com/podcast/sportsline).
Best PreK-12 Teacher
Jennifer Secreto, Morgantown High School
Morgantown High School honors English teacher Jennifer Secreto always wanted to teach. She grew up in Wheeling, went to WVU, then taught 7th and 8th grades before settling on 9th. “A passion for kids has to be your No. 1,” she says. Secreto plays many extramural roles, including coordinating senior awards day and coordinating grants for the MHS Foundation. She attributes her popularity, in part, to an old-school approach. “I don’t take anything late, for example,” she says. “Kids know what to expect.”
Best PreK-12 Principal
Natalie Webb, North Elementary
An enthusiastic babysitter from an early age, North Elementary Principal Natalie Webb earned a master’s in early childhood education at WVU. She taught preschool through 2nd grade, then achieved national board certification as an early childhood teacher in 2003. She has since coached many hundreds of West Virginia teachers in achieving the certification and has trained new principals as well. Webb promotes a classroom environment structured for today’s kids—“still having high expectations, but realizing that attention spans are different, home life is different, parental support may be different, and we need to accommodate that.”
Even at Gene’s Beer Garden where, like the television show Cheers, everybody knows your name, one name stands out from among the rest: Lucy Morrison. This talented, two-time-BOM-winning bartender has been filling glasses at the local Greenmont watering hole for almost two decades. Morrison is an Irish native who settled in Morgantown and found a home at Gene’s, where the neighborly atmosphere even makes first-timers feel like family (461 Wilson Avenue, 304.292.1147, genesbeergarden.com, @genes1944 on Facebook).
Eddie “Spaghetti” Maier
Eddie Spaghetti’s whimsical woodcut prints showcase animals, nature, and other scenes that evoke a childlike joy. The artist makes his prints by carving a piece of wood, spreading ink across the surface, and then printing it onto paper. His masterpieces can be found throughout Morgantown and West Virginia in cafes, restaurants, and galleries as well as at seasonal festivals and markets. His talents don’t end with woodcut printmaking—he also works with clay, oils, watercolor, and more. Eddie Spaghetti often hosts workshops to help inspire others with a love for art (eddiespaghettiart.com, @eddiespaghettiart on Facebook).
Best Community Champion
As a football player at Morgantown High School, Daniel Strosnider appreciated the local Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) ministry. Fast forward a decade, and Strosnider has run that program himself for 7 years—now called Athletes’ EDGE and a program of Kingdom EMC in Westover.
Under Strosnider’s direction, Athletes’ EDGE invites athletes from any high school and sport to weekly home-cooked dinners to talk about the choices young people face. “We don’t push religion on the kids,” he says. “We’ve always said, we’re going to talk about life and, if we get to Jesus, we get to Jesus.” As many as 100 athletes attend each week. The program has an especially strong presence at Morgantown High, where Strosnider is an assistant football coach. It’s primarily a three-season program, but one thing that distinguishes Strosnider’s Athletes’ EDGE program from the FCA he knew is that it’s partnered with the church—so athletes who want to deepen their connections over the summer can participate in church camps, retreats, and mission trips.
“Some of the impact that I’ve seen is kids that come through the program who go on to be good dads and good husbands—just have high character value as humans,” he says. “That’s really been amazing” (theedgeatkingdom.com/athletes-edge).