The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

September 29, 2013

Beckley Common Council must listen to the citizens of Beckley

By Rob Rappold
guest columnist

— These are unprecedented times in the history of Beckley. In my 22 years as councilman-at-large (1989-2011), Common Council always went to considerable lengths to encourage public input from the citizens of Beckley on important as well as routine matters.

Aside from mandated public hearings on certain matters before council, ward meetings have been held across the city over the years for council members to hear firsthand the concerns or views of the people who elected us to serve them.

The city is now faced with a very critical challenge — to appoint a mayor to serve the citizens of Beckley for the 2-1/2-year unexpired term of Mayor Emmett Pugh, who steps down effective Jan. 1, 2014. The progressive, fiscally responsible path that Pugh has kept us on through good and bad times must be continued for the future of Beckley.

This responsibility lies with Common Council and seems to have gotten bogged down in political posturing at its worst. In my opinion, each council member must remind him/herself that they were elected to serve the best interests of the city and citizens who elected them to council seats.

Promising to fire an excellent police chief in order to gain favor with certain council members for their appointee votes is not serving the citizens of Beckley. Promising to get the vote out from your voting base in order to get a current council member elected to the Raleigh County Commission, to secure his vote, is not serving the citizens of Beckley. Again, political posturing at its worst. We deserve more integrity in this important process with so much at stake.

At this time, there are at least three noncouncil citizens, each of whom has successfully owned or managed multimillion-dollar companies with numerous employees, each willing to contribute that expertise and reputation to this public service. This, all for the good of the city, with faith in its current department heads. This seems to be a certain path to the continued progress that Mayor Pugh has dedicated his life to. As the process opens up, there will be more good candidates ... this is good for our great city.

My hope and prayer is that Common Council will set aside personal aspirations that no voter had in mind when they voted for council members.

The next mayor may well come from council, but don’t current members owe the electorate the courtesy of expressing their thoughts on this important matter?

This is serious business. The kind of business that council was elected by our voters to conduct with all selfish motives put aside. Let the public speak up!

For the record, I have no interest in pursuing this appointment, but am a very concerned citizen.

— Beckley resident Rob Rappold is a former member of Beckley Common Council from 1989 to 2011.