The legacy of Beckley Mayor Emmett Pugh will be multi-faceted.
What’s going on now isn’t positive. But there are many positive accomplishments in his 34 years in Beckley city government.
Pugh served as Councilman-at-Large for the City of Beckley from 1979 to 1988. He became Mayor in 1988 and has been re-elected at each opportunity since.
We learned this week that he will step down from his mayoral post, effective Dec. 31, as part of a settlement agreement with the West Virginia Ethics Commission.
Folks that know only that much about Beckley’s mayor — or caught the headline or soundbite alone — are missing much of the story however.
It’s important to note that Pugh admits no guilt to the nine ethics violations charges against him. He also has voluntarily agreed to retire as mayor, as well as pay $7,000 reimbursement for the cost of the investigation. Also in the agreement, Pugh has agreed not to hold public office for five years, beginning Jan. 1, 2014.
Pugh says the facts found by the Ethics Commission and the facts found by his counsel were essentially the same, just the interpretation was different. Pugh said that it’s been going on long enough. He doesn’t have the finances or stomach for it anymore.
“This thing has been going on for four years,” he said. “It has become very wearing on me.”
In his final months in office, Pugh said he hopes to see the Comprehensive Plan for the city through, as well as the Beckley Intermodal Gateway project and other ongoing city projects.
The mayor also holds many civic leadership roles, such as his involvement with the United Way of Southern West Virginia and Beckley Area Foundation. He has indicated that he will remain active in those roles.
As Pugh is moving on, it is also time for the City of Beckley to put this aside and move forward.
It’s a bit of a black eye — the negative publicity — to have to deal with now, but there have been too many positives over the past several years to dwell on anything that isn’t moving Beckley forward.
Beckley is doing as well financially as any city its size in the state. It has a wealth of community and business activities that it supports well.
The future here is very bright. We must not lose sight of that.
What happens next in city government is crucial to the future of Beckley. Our hope is that the transition will be handled professionally and productively.
Because the positive momentum that Beckley has enjoyed over the past few decades must not be interrupted or hindered by playing politics.
Because in the end, it’s the legacy of the City of Beckley that matters most.