The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

January 15, 2014

No caretaker

New mayor will have crucial effect as Beckley moves forward

— New Beckley Mayor Bill O’Brien emphasized his business skills, organizational abilities and his communications experience in an interview with The Register-Herald last week.

O’Brien was the choice of Beckley Common Council to finish out the term of former Mayor Emmett Pugh, following his resignation that was effective at the end 2013.

O’Brien promised to build on the solid foundation left by Pugh in his more than two decades in the mayor’s office, saying his own deep roots in the community will benefit his administration.

The new mayor says he has no intention of running for election when his term expires in mid-2016. We’ve heard similar promises from politicians before.

Still, it is important to note that with more than two years left in his term, O’Brien does not have the luxury of being a mere caretaker of the mayoral office. Much time in his term means O’Brien’s leadership will be crucial to the city as Beckley moves forward.

He says he has met with the city’s department heads and has been impressed by their knowledge and insight into the issues facing the city.

He also says he has met with members of council, and their support will be key to making his term in office a success. It will be up to O’Brien to try to finesse and mend any hard feelings within council members over his selection.

So far, we like what we hear from the former broadcaster and business owner.

He vows to continue Beckley’s path of living within its means, and promises that fiscal responsibility will be a primary motivating factor in his administration.

He wants to get a handle on city expenses, and will start by rejecting the use of a city car in favor of driving his own vehicle.

We hope the new mayor continues Beckley’s willingness to work closely with county and regional officials. It is critical that the city’s mayor takes a deep interest in economic development, and making not just Beckley but Raleigh County an attractive place to do business.

O’Brien also wants to create a minority hiring plan for the fire and police departments, adding more diversity to better reflect the city’s demographic makeup.

“We’re in the right place geographically; we have the right people in place. I think with the plan we’re continuing to formulate, we’re going to utilize the resources we have here at the city to an even better advantage. I’m just excited for the next two and half years. We’re going to get everyone pointed in the right direction. Everybody has the city’s best interest at heart.”

That spirit of Beckley, the willingness of residents to volunteer and make their own contributions and sacrifices to make the city a better place to live, is certainly the strongest factor in the city’s success.

We hope the new mayor finds ways to not just encourage that spirit, but to deepen and broaden.