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Sparks making bid to return to Ward 2 seat

June 11, 2000|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - After serving one term as Ward 2 councilman, Earnest Sparks became Martinsburg's mayor in 1992. Now, he wants to return to the council.

Mayor Sparks, 61, is taking on incumbent Councilman Richard Yauger in Ward 2 in Tuesday's election.

"There indeed needs to be some changes on the council," said Sparks, who is retired after a 34-year career with Corning Glass Works in Martinsburg. He now operates his own company, Sparks Sales Associates.

He said he respects a councilman's vote - "as long as it's your own." Too often, councilmen trade votes to further their own causes, Sparks said.

Yauger, 67, expressed shock when he heard that. He said consulting with fellow council members in advance of meetings - asking for their support on key topics - is a regular part of government at any level.

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Yauger, the Ward 2 representative for six years, is retired after 27 years as a project analyst with the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.

Sparks said the B&O Roundhouse is one of the council's top issues. "I was the first (city) official to stand up in support of it," he said. "It's a tremendous building. It has a whole lot of effect on economic development."

Upon hearing that, Yauger also scoffed. He said Sparks never spoke out publicly on the roundhouse at the start, while "I voted for it and voted for it with pride."

In other areas, the candidates agree.

Both support a proposal to have a college - probably Shepherd College - use the now-vacant Blue Ridge Outlet complex.

Sparks recently updated the council about Shepherd's interest. He said he "very positive" about the chances of the college moving in.

But Yauger said the mayor's report to council was sparse, lacking a time, plan and cost.

Both envision a mix of residential and commercial growth on the 740 acres that were recently annexed by the city. Sparks called it one of the "hottest" parcels in the East.

Both also encourage the roundhouse to be used for conventions and trade shows.

Sparks said the downtown doesn't have many empty stores. Those that are vacant could become specialty shops, he said.

The downtown would also benefit, he added, if more shops stayed open past 5 p.m. and if parking meters were removed. The latter idea was rejected by merchants, Sparks said.

Yauger said that a renovated roundhouse would pick up the downtown, which could use a mix of trinket shops, clothing stores and other businesses similar to what's in Ellicott City, Md.

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