The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

October 6, 2013

Accusations are ugly reality of public life

By Cedric Robertson
guest columnist

BECKLEY — In Rob Rappold’s recent article regarding the upcoming Beckley mayoral appointment, he suggested impropriety on the part of one or more members of council, alleging the exchange of favors for votes.

As a current member of council who has publicly acknowledged my interest in the position, I take Mr. Rappold’s accusations as a personal assault on my integrity. As the front runner to receive the mayoral appointment, I have recently become the target of such attacks, both personally and politically, and sadly, Mr. Rappold apparently felt compelled to publicly join in this charade.

The appointment of a member of Common Council to the position of mayor is not unprecedented. It is well known that Mayor Pugh was originally a council appointee, and most would agree that the city has prospered under his leadership.

As a Councilman-at-Large, I was elected by all the people of the city to, as Mr. Rappold mentioned, conduct serious business “with all selfish motives put aside,” and that shall remain my goal, whether as councilman or mayor.

It is my belief that as a lifelong resident of Beckley, with more than 35 years of service to the city, first as a police officer and now as a councilman, unlike many, I am more than qualified to address the needs of the citizens of this city. Not just parts of the city, but the entire city.

Rather than calling our current situation unprecedented, I will simply suggest that we are at a crossroads of the city’s future. Mr. Rappold speaks fondly of his 22 years as councilman-at-large, and I thank him for his service. But we can’t afford to dwell in the past. We must live in the present and plan for the future. We must forego any “good ol’ boy” networks and be prepared to make tough decisions that were not made in the past. And those tough decisions must start at the top.

In his article, Mr. Rappold fears for the future of certain department heads. I believe this statement was made purely to create anxiety and fear in order to promote his candidates. He must surely know that department heads constitute the mayor’s senior management team and, as such, must be closely aligned with his vision, philosophies, and goals. Each new mayor must take a hard look at who will comprise his or her team and act accordingly. For example, Mayor Shoemaker replaced Chief Tom Durrett with Carl Legursky; Mayor Pugh replaced Chief Carl Legursky with Billy Cole. Those are examples of tough decisions that each new mayor faced.

Unlike outside appointees, I have the advantage of being familiar with each and every current department head, including their strengths and shortcomings.

With those facts in mind, I can firmly state that I have no plans to replace all department heads. Some have, however, stated they are retiring soon and those positions must be filled. Others may choose to leave because of philosophical differences with a new administration. My hope is that others will choose to stay.

Regardless of who goes and who stays, if chosen to represent the City of Beckley, my plan of action is to see that each department is run efficiently and effectively, and that the best people are placed in positions to best serve the public. That is the responsibility of the mayor.

When all is said and done, and after a considerable amount of thought and prayer, I have come to the conclusion that Mr. Rappold’s brand of political posturing is the ugly reality of public life. However, when this contest is over and a new mayor is in place, I sincerely hope we can set aside our differences and work toward the goal of building a better Beckley.

As a final thought, I want to take this opportunity to thank my friends for their kind words of support and many acts of selflessness. My family has been uplifted by these relationships and we are continually sustained by our faith.

— Cedric R. Robertson holds an at-large seat on Beckley Common Council and is a retired officer of the Beckley Police Department.