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Karos running to be Martinsburg mayor

November 01, 1999|By JULIE E. GREENE

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Although he is often busy behind the counter at Patterson's Drug Store downtown, Martinsburg City Councilman George Karos said he'd still have time to serve the city as mayor.

"I certainly hope so. If I didn't, I wouldn't run," said Karos, 68, who recently announced he'll run for the seat. Karos said the store's close proximity to City Hall, a few blocks up Queen Street, should help.

Mayor Earnest Sparks, who encouraged fellow Democrat Karos to run for mayor, decided more than three months ago that he wouldn't pursue a fourth term as mayor because he doesn't have the time.

Having started his own business, Sparks Sales Associates, Sparks, 61, said he no longer has the time required on a daily basis to be mayor. He hasn't ruled out a run for a City Council seat.

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Sparks said Karos would sit back and allow City Manager Mark Baldwin to run the day-to-day affairs of the city.

With Sparks not seeking re-election to be mayor, Karos said the time is right for him to run.

"I'd never run against an incumbent for mayor," said Karos, who has been a council member at-large for 25 consecutive years.

Since Karos announced his run for mayor, Councilman Glenville Twigg said he won't run against Karos and instead will seek re-election to his Ward 5 seat.

"I think George has the potential to be a very good mayor," Twigg said. "I think George has the right personality. He's a diplomatic person."

Karos has a full agenda.

"I'd like to create some harmony between the council and the Berkeley County Commissioners and the Berkeley County Public Service Districts," said Karos, of Delaware Avenue.

One step toward that harmony Karos wants to see is the city gradually renewing an agreement with the county to have city fire and ambulance crews respond to calls in the county.

The city stopped providing that service about 12 years ago because the county ran into financial constraints and wouldn't help fund the city crews, he said.

Karos also wants to see the city and county become more cost effective by exploring what services they could share.

When it comes to business, Karos wants to see last spring's 30 percent increase in the business-and-occupation tax rates repealed.

Under the increase, retailers pay 42 cents on every $100 of gross revenue, and contracting businesses pay $1.03 on every hundred.

Karos said the tax "penalizes" business owners before they can "make a penny."

He'd like to explore other ways to generate revenue.

Karos said there is a "stigma" that downtown is in need of dire repairs, but he thinks downtown is in "pretty good shape."

He does think some cosmetic repairs are needed to parking lots and lighting needs to be improved.

Karos said he also supports Main Street Martinsburg's efforts to create new businesses in town and get vacant buildings occupied.

Karos owns Patterson's Drug Stores in Martinsburg and Inwood. He said he is a member of the West Virginia State Board of Pharmacy.

The formal filing period for the June 13, 2000, nonpartisan general election lasts until March.

The Martinsburg mayor now serves a four-year term and is paid $500 a month, city officials said.

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