The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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December 24, 2012

Aliff sees his legacy as progress, integrity

 John Aliff is vacating his seat on the Raleigh County Commission after a dozen years, leaving a legacy he sees as major strides in progress and a hope that forward thinking can go on uninterrupted.

Twice the commission president, Aliff can look back on a number of water and sewer projects, and the crown jewel of his tenure — the Judicial Annex just across from the courthouse.

“I think how humbling and honored and privileged it was to have served the citizens of Raleigh County in the capacity of one of the commissioners the last 12 years,” Aliff observed in an exit interview.

“I’ve certainly enjoyed it and hope that history will show that we made some progress during those 12 years. I leave with regrets, if any, that we didn’t get more accomplished than what we did.”

A retired United Parcel Service employee, Aliff pointed to the Clear Creek and Mount View Streeter water projects, and sewer extensions for Flat Top-Cool Ridge, Harper Heights and Glen White-Lester.

“It has been the county commission’s first priority to provide our citizens with a safe drinking water supply and a proper way to treat sewage,” he said.

“I am proud to say that as a county commissioner I did not lose sight of that goal. Without water and sewer, growth cannot occur.”

Making more room for business, Aliff said the commission acquired two large tracts of land, the Pinecrest and airport properties, positioning the region for economic expansion.

Another major advance came with a state-of-the-art emergency services facility that serves as the command center in times of crisis in southern West Virginia.

Working with volunteer fire units and the private sector, he said, ambulance service has been enhanced.

A key move came with the commission’s successful promotion of a fire levy enacted in the primary election that assures the 13 volunteer units and the Beckley Fire Department of a revenue stream to provide equipment and meet operating expenses for at least five years.

“We have developed a very good working relationship with present and past sheriffs to provide proper training and equipment, which allows for better police protection throughout the county,” the outgoing commissioner said.

Before he arrived, the county worked in tandem with Beckley officials to organize the Transportation Study Group to seek remedies for traffic congestion that has been a constant nuisance as the city continued to experience growing pains.

“Upon becoming commissioner, I have been very active in the development of proper roadways that will assist in the growth of the county but will alleviate traffic congestion,” Aliff said.

“Prime examples are the development of the Coalfields Expressway, Beckley Beltway and the Z-Way Project.”

While the sparkling and spacious Judicial Annex has replaced empty storefronts left from Beckley’s past, the old courthouse itself was given a facelift.

Most of the offices have been renovated with energy efficiency in mind. New windows are in place and restoration of architectural designs are in the offing. The old magistrate building has been converted into voters registration and a classroom for precinct workers, meaning the county no longer must rent space to program machines in the election cycles. A total overhaul of the Campbell Building for the prosecutor’s office is in progress.

Fitzpatrick Park has witnessed a number of upgrades, including a repair of the dam and the fields. A monument honoring all veterans was installed at Stoco Community Park and there were improvements at Prosperity Community Park. Lake Stephens underwent some vast changes, including work on the dam and the erection of cabins.

“Raleigh County is a progressive county and one of my priorities during my time in office was to continue to improve the quality of life for our citizens,” Aliff said.

“We have taken proper steps to protect our citizens with the adoption of building codes and the development of land use ordinances, all the while providing essential services to meet the ever-changing needs of our local society.”

In his time on the commission, the Democrats have enjoyed a 3-0 majority for the most part, until Republican Dave Tolliver defeated John Humphrey. Last month, Linda Epling won a seat, giving the GOP a 2-1 edge.

“I don’t have any qualms with Republicans,” Aliff said of the major shakeup in the commission’s composition that leaves Pat Reed as the only Democrat.

“I think we should look at our elected officials as people that have intentions of doing good. Just because one has a ‘D’ or an ‘R’ outside their name doesn’t mean that one is better than another. My hope is that the Raleigh County Commission will be successful and continue to be progressive.”

Aliff might have sought a third term, but a family crisis developed within the past year and a half that dramatically altered his life.

“I’m leaving to face another challenge,” Aliff said.

“My wife has Alzheimer’s and it’s certainly challenging to deal with this. It progressively gets worse, and it requires a lot of time and attention. That’s where my priorities will be. I would have certainly considered it (running again), but once we discovered that she had that, it was basically out of my mind to even think about running.”

Rather than attempt to hold his seat, Aliff said he decided to devote all attention to his wife of 52 years.

“It is my responsibility to be with her and help her as much as I can for as long as I can,” he said.

“That is my intention.”

— E-mail: mannix@register-herald.com

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