Smith retiring from Berkeley Commission

January 08, 1998


Staff Writer, Martinsburg

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - James C. Smith, president of the Berkeley County Commission, announced Thursday he will retire when his term expires at the end of this year.

"There's a point where your mind stays active and your body doesn't," Smith, 64, said during a meeting of the commission.

The filing period for the May 12 primary begins Monday.

Before his announcement, two men, Martinsburg businessman C.B. "Butch" Pennington, a Democrat, and the Rev. John E. Wright of Bunker Hill, W.Va., a Republican, said they would run for Smith's seat. Wright is a former member of the commission.


"We knew it was coming. He indicated at the end of last year that he would retire," Commissioner D. Wayne Dunham said after the meeting.

"He'll be sorely missed. He's a leader. He's a tireless worker," Dunham said. Dunham added that Smith, who will be 65 next month, has "left his mark on Berkeley County."

"Jim's done a very good job. Some of the things I didn't always agree with, but he's shown leadership," Commissioner Robert L. Burkhart said.

Smith was elected in 1992 and has been president for the past three years. On Monday he was reappointed president for his final year.

Smith served as the superintendent of Berkeley County schools from 1972 to 1980. He then worked for the West Virginia Department of State and left state government in 1990 as the deputy superintendent for West Virginia schools.

He didn't rule out running for another office, but his written statement said he had "a long-standing commitment to retire after age 65."

Smith listed several projects accomplished by the county during his term, including the ongoing sewer system project for southern Berkeley County, the address conversion project, the flood buyout program for the Sportsman's Paradise subdivision, the purchase of buildings for more office space and renovation of older county buildings.

Quad/Graphics, Sino Swearingen, Guardian Industries and the Cumbo Yards Industrial Park were industrial development projects he listed as happening during his term. Rebuilding the War Memorial Park pool and expanding the Senior Center on High Street also were listed.

"I've just been honored to work with the leadership people of West Virginia," Smith said of the governors, senators and others he said have helped county government achieve its goals.

"I hope my announcement would open up the field" of candidates running for the seat, Smith said. Smith said he will look closely at candidates' positions before deciding whether to support anyone.

He said he'd look for candidates that weren't politically partisan, or "owned" by business or labor interests. Smith said he would want to know their views on consolidating water, sewer, police and other services to streamline government.

He said he also would want to know how candidates plan to work with state government and how they look at land use problems in Berkeley County.

Smith said he will spend more time on his farm and with his family, but is considering other job opportunities, perhaps in education. He said he has a residence in Myrtle Beach, S.C., and would consider something in that area.

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