3rd commission candidate files

January 14, 1998

3rd commission candidate files


Staff Writer, Martinsburg

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A third candidate has thrown his hat in the ring for the seat on the Berkeley County Commission being vacated by James Smith.

Leon Close, 64, of 506 Penn St., filed Tuesday in the circuit court clerk's office to run in the Republican primary on May 12.

Smith, 64, announced Thursday he will not seek re-election.

C.B. "Butch" Pennington, a Democrat, and the Rev. John E. Wright, a Republican and former county commissioner, have also announced they will run for the seat.


Close, a Republican, has been a home builder in the Eastern Panhandle for 30 years.

"I'm living in the development I'm building houses in. That way I can walk to work," he said Tuesday.

He has also been a candidate for state office in the past. Close said he was the GOP nominee for the state Senate in 1984 when he lived in Morgan County. He has been a resident of Berkeley County since 1985 and has run for the House of Delegates three times.

In a statement announcing his candidacy, Close said he had "witnessed the inequitable and unreasonable increase in property taxes considering the rapid industrial growth in the county."

"What I would be doing is holding the line on taxes" if elected, he said. Economic development in the county, he said, should produce enough revenue to allow taxes to remain steady.

"If they're prudent, but fair, with their tax dollars, they will have enough money," Close said of the commission.

He is also opposed to county zoning.

"When we buy property in this county, we have property rights that they should respect," Close said.

He said zoning, which was defeated when put to a vote by county residents, would allow Berkeley to become a home-rule county. He said that could potentially allow the commission to impose taxes other than those on real estate and personal property.

Close said the commission has not been vocal enough in the effort to get more state road money for the county. "We have more traffic than the roads can handle," said Close, who pointed to the lack of progress in expanding W.Va. 9 to four lanes.

The candidate said he would support the sheriff's department through higher salaries and the hiring of highly qualified deputies. He said he would also encourage water and sewer line extensions.

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