The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

January 2, 2014

Pugh’s legacy

— The successful 25 years the City of Beckley has enjoyed under the leadership of Mayor Emmett Pugh has come to an end.

Pugh, in an outgoing interview with The Register-Herald, showed his willingness to share credit for his accomplishments and the city’s progress while mayor.

“It’s been a team effort,” he said, going on to praise the Raleigh County Commission, Beckley-Raleigh Chamber of Commerce, Raleigh County Board of Education and the New River Gorge Development Authority.

Pugh, and we think rightly so, said the relationships he had with these organizations and the officials and others who lead them was a partnership.

“Everyone needs to realize we’re all in this together,” he said.

It is crucial to not just the City of Beckley but to southern West Virginia that the attitude of a partnership continues between groups that in the past have at times been more competitor than collaborator.

As the state and region struggle to regain their economic footing, it is crucial that we pull in the same direction, not just for the City of Beckley, but for all of southern West Virginia.

Pugh, 63, has acknowledged the political difficulties that led him to resign as mayor halfway through his term in office.

He has denied accusations that he used his office private gain, and that he accepted improper gifts in 2012. Pugh reached a settlement with the West Virginia Ethics Commission in 2013, agreeing to repay $7,000 for the cost of the probe and not to seek elective office for five years.

While unfortunate, we don’t believe the ethics situation should be the measure by which Emmett Pugh’s time in office is calculated.

He also offered some cautionary advice for whoever the Common Council selects to fill out the remainder of his term.

The city will, he said, have to be even more watchful over spending, since it is losing revenue due to shrinking B&O taxes.

The City of Beckley’s financial liabilities are, for the most part, personnel-related, he noted, and although he said the there are “some concerns going forward, but those problems can be dealt with.”

The new mayor the Common Council is prepared to appoint tonight will have one advantage. The city’s Comprehensive Plan is near completion, and that, Pugh said, will provide guidance to the new mayor and the council as they go forward.

Beckley Common Council will meet this evening at 7:30 in chambers and is expected to select Pugh’s replacement. That new mayor may come from several announced candidates, or anyone the council chooses to fill out Pugh’s term.

It is our hope that whoever is appointed to the office of Beckley mayor will continue to work to make the city prosper. And whoever he or she is, they could do worse than to continue to pursue a path of cordial relations with both citizens and other governmental agencies, partnering to work for better lives for all of us in southern West Virginia.