The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

September 17, 2013

Don’t dither

— Can Beckley Common Council be accused of dithering?

As it begins to wrestle with replacing Mayor Emmett Pugh following his Dec. 31 retirement, we believe it behooves members to agree sooner, rather than later, on a process for choosing that successor.

Currently, there are at least two scenarios on the table.

Ward I Councilman Tom Sopher has proposed a series of workshops to provide a smooth transition into new leadership.

The first workshop would determine each council member’s stance toward mayoral selection, the mayor would be asked for his input and a Municipal League representative would be asked to speak about the issue.

The second workshop would entail reviewing the letters of intent and vision statements from potential candidates.

The third workshop would be an opportunity for potential candidates to address Council, followed by a question and answer session.

The final workshop would narrow down the nominees for the position. City attorney Bill File and recorder-treasurer Byrd White would be asked to attend to explain the process of nominations and how to move forward during the vote.

Ward III Councilman Chris Hall says he would rather delay accepting letters from potential candidates until a two-week period beginning Oct. 15; nor does he want any council member who has expressed an interest in becoming mayor to interview those seeking the post from the outside.

Councilman-at-large Tim Berry says he believes Hall’s plan is overly complicated and he does not want outside nominees considered.

“I am uncomfortable awarding the keys to the mayor’s office to someone who has never campaigned or put forth the money,” Berry said at the Sept. 10 council meeting.

We fail to see what campaigning for the office or “putting forth the money” has to do with finding a successor.

This should be finding the best person for the job. Period. Even if that means a person not serving on the current council.

City attorney Bill File has said nothing in the city’s charter or state code prohibits council from seeking resumes now, prior to the mayor’s resignation.

It can be a member of the current council — or not. Just because something has always been done one way, doesn’t mean it always must be done that way.

Dec. 31 will be upon us before we realize it. Council should decide as soon as possible how it is going to handle candidates for the job.

But the last thing we want is for Beckley Common Council to rush into choosing a new mayor.

Council members must discuss, then decide what qualities, experience and vision they want to see in a new mayor.

We want members to get on the same page and start moving the process forward.

Beckley’s role in the region is too important not to.