Charleston to Elect Key Leaders Tuesday

By: Michael Hyland Email
By: Michael Hyland Email

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- After a big political weekend, voters are heading back to the polls again Tuesday in Charleston.

There are several important local races, including for mayor. Incumbent Danny Jones (R) is seeking his third term, facing challenger Janet Thompson (D).

But, it's the contest for at-large City Council seats that's really getting a lot of attention.

There are 11 people running for six spots.

No matter what, some new people will be running the city since two at-large city council members are not running for re-election.

The four incumbents running for re-election say there are still some things they want to get done, such as getting a grocery store on the East End, solving the city's pension issues, and revamping the library.

Council Member Jerry Ware (D) says, "So, I think everything is tied to our financial responsibility. And, I think over the last eight years, the council that we currently have has basically kept on track."

Tom Lane (R) agrees with Ware’s sentiments about continuing with the city’s existing leadership. He says, "We have a great group to serve with. We're under good leadership. And, I hope to be part of a planning process for moving Charleston to the next level."

Council Member Kasey Russell (D) adds, "We're looking at doing a brand new, state-of-the-art recycling and reuse facility that actually seven counties will utilize, so I'd love to keep working on things like that."

Mary Jean McIntosh Davis (D), a current council member, shares Russell’s sentiment about continuing some ongoing initiatives. "And, we have other areas that we want to develop. Of course, we have the Clay Center. And, I want to a part of that continuation of developing Charleston for the future."

At least two newcomers will get spots on the city council, since current at-large council members Will Hanna (D) and Harry Deitzler (D) are not seeking re-election.

Some of candidates are new to politics, so asked them what issues inspired them to run.

Their answers included things like improving public safety, building up downtown and addressing the controversial user fee.

"We could make it income-based, so that the average person is paying what the fee was. And, the low-income earners are paying less of a fee," says Jason “Slim” Blackhurst (I).

Fellow independent Charles “Chuck” Parks says, "I saw a lot of our historical districts, our historical buildings and homes, being torn down. And, I decided that I want to run to try and stop that from happening."

Republican Chris Dodrill has several goals he’d like to accomplish while on City Council, but he says "the number one thing I want to do is revive downtown business and get Charleston growing again."

Like many cities, Charleston is facing several challenges that are varied and complex.

So, asked the candidates what's at the top of their candidates' lists of the most pressing issues facing the city.

One candidate says crime is the major issue. Others say the lack of growth in population is a key problem.

Some candidates say finding money to pay for police and firefighter pension costs and other liabilities has got to be addressed quickly.

"Obviously, there are a number of strategies that can get us there. But at the end of the day, the answer is growing the community again," says Andy Richardson (D).

Pat Brown, who is retiring as the director of the Charleston Urban Renewal Authority, says, "I think one [challenge] is affordable housing. That's a very tough problem. And, hopefully, we can find some solution to that."

Martha “Gale” Poore, who lives on Charleston's West Side, says, "Our largest challenge in Charleston right now is crime. We do have different areas that are battling crime at this time, and I'd like to see a cap put on it.”

The 11th candidate, Republican L.G. Sturgill, declined our request for an interview.

City officials say more than 1,200 people cast ballots during early voting. There are 38,303 registered voters in Charleston.

Officials say they are not expecting huge turnout Tuesday, as they expect another 3,000 to 4,000 people to vote.

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