The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

January 13, 2013

A parting shot

Gus Douglass exits storied career with handful of inexplicable actions


— Gus Douglass served the state of West Virginia for more than four decades as its elected Commissioner of Agriculture.

Douglass was widely respected for his work and while toward the end of his most recent four-year term, many were starting to feel that the job, and its many responsibilities, had started to pass him by, his storied career was one to remember with many positives.

Then, almost inexplicably, some of his final official actions have left several angry and shaking their heads.

First, late last year following the November election, it was learned that Douglass had doled out some significant raises to several handpicked employees in the Agriculture Department, all while knowing that state budgets were going to have to be slashed by 7.5 percent.

Then we learned from several sources within state government that after Sen. Walt Helmick won election as the new Agriculture commissioner that Douglass and many members of the state work force that he employed at the Agriculture Department didn’t really reach out to help smooth the transition.

Douglass supported another candidate in the Democratic primary in May 2012 that Helmick defeated and apparently decided that he didn’t need to be very gracious to the new man in charge.

To top all of that off, Douglass put forth the recommendation that the state’s funding for the black fly spraying program in southern West Virginia be completely terminated, along with sizable funding cutbacks in the gypsy moth treatment program.

Huh?

We certainly know that budgets do need to be reduced, and maybe the black fly spraying and gypsy moth treatments do need to be pared back, but not the way Douglass has proposed.

Helmick has already said he is vehemently opposed to both ideas and we suspect he will take care of it not long after he is officially sworn into office come Monday.

What’s disappointing and puzzling is what prompted Douglass to act so callously on his way out.

The raises were clearly a wrong move, the lack of cooperation in transitioning to a new administration was petty at best, and chopping off funds for the black fly spraying program was not only mysterious, it was downright irresponsible.

Too bad that the legacy Douglass is leaving will show a sizable black eye at the end.