The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

December 12, 2013

Beckley mayor

— The four Beckley residents who have offered themselves as candidates for the job of mayor came together publicly for the first time this week.

Each made his or her case to replace departing Mayor Emmett Pugh, whose resignation is effective at the end of this year.

His term, however, doesn’t end until June 30, 2016. So whoever succeeds him as chief executive for the City of Beckley is not going to be a caretaker.

For two and a half years, whomever is selected by the Common Council will have the chance not just to put their leadership skills to the test, but to lay down a marker on governing the city.

With so much of Pugh’s mayoral term yet to be completed, we would have liked to see a special election called to let the voters in Beckley decide on their future executive.

But rules are rules, and we are aware that there are substantial costs to holding a special election. So Beckley Common Council will select from among the four candidates to determine which one will serve out Pugh’s term.

We were heartened by the comments of the four candidates, each of whom displayed a knowledge of the financial and political limitations facing all municipalities in southern West Virginia.

Beckley has had the benefit of sound political leadership for some time. All of the candidates pledged to continue that trend.

Tony O. Martin professed his confidence in his leadership ability, which he says is essential to attract new business to Beckley, and to create opportunities that will keep our young people here.

Bill O’Brien, the former radio broadcaster, talked about a more humanitarian approach to helping those in need in the community.

Councilman Cedric Robertson invoked the immutable law of limited municipal resources, and said he would consolidate where necessary to make government more efficient.

Councilwoman Ann Worley voiced her opinion that a financially stable Beckley is a city better-positioned to help not just established businesses, but to attract more business.

We doubt many folks can find much to disagree with among these visions for the City of Beckley. They reflect the realities facing Beckley, and they also acknowledge the kind of future we all hope to see.

But a decision from among these candidates must be made. Not by voters, but by Common Council.

We think we can speak for most Beckley residents in saying this limited forum was a good start. But with decision-time quickly approaching, we’d like to know more about the candidates.

Even though voters aren’t making the decision, we certainly have a stake in which candidate the council selects.

We hope all the candidates do their utmost to make themselves available for questions from their fellow citizens in the short time before the council votes.

We think that, whomever the council decides on, that his or her success as mayor will depend upon winning a consensus of support from Beckley voters.

While we may not have a vote in the matter this time, we think voters should have a chance to ask the right questions.