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Dunham to step down

December 12, 2000

Dunham to step down



By BOB PARTLOW / Staff Writer, Martinsburg

photo: RICHARD T. MEAGHER / staff photographer

D. Wayne DunhamMARTINSBURG, W. Va. - Zoning and other growth issues marked the six-year tenure of Berkeley County Commissioner D. Wayne Dunham, who is retiring from the three-member commission at the end of December.

"Everything relates to growth and that's what you deal with all the time," said Dunham, 54, a Berkeley County native and graduate of Hedgesville High School who still lives in that part of the county.

He was asked to run in 1994 by Republican activists. Dunham ran Payne's Hardware and Building on W.Va. 9 and had long harbored a desire to run for office. He won a primary, then the general election.

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His major theme was opposition to zoning. He said he believes provision of sewer and water will dictate growth.

"I just felt it was putting too many restrictions on people that owned land. I'm a strong believer in individual rights," Dunham said.

County voters overwhelmingly rejected zoning in a referendum two years later.

"There were a lot of hard feelings. People were really up in arms," Dunham said.

County residents were equally angry over a commission decision to convert street addresses and road names to a new system to aid 911 in locating structures when people called for help. The conversion also was related to growth and the need to eliminate duplicate road names or those that sounded alike and to give the county a modern system for responding to emergencies, he said.

"Ten years from now, when people look back on it, they will say 'It's a good thing we did that,'" Dunham said.

People were angry because "any time you do something different it causes people to be unhappy," he said.

Another growth-related issue was the county's desire to save the B&O Railroad Roundhouse complex after the city of Martinsburg voted against paying to preserve it. Dunham said he believed it was important to save the site as a way to bring people to town for economic development.

"If we hadn't stepped in and saved it, it would have been torn down," he said. "This is going to be a big thing for the future of Berkeley County."

Dunham also chaired the group that is working to consolidate the three public service water districts in the county.

A drought two years ago left some parts of the county without water, while others had enough. Dunham and other officials sought to merge the districts to provide coordinated service.

"That was a tough thing we had to deal with, shut down three districts and move them into one," he said.

He's also been active in discussions over the location of fire stations with paid personnel and in the discussions of how paid and volunteer firefighters and emergency medical service personnel will work together. That has been a contentious issue, but is a key to the county's future, he said.

Dunham also worked to improve the Berkeley Senior Center on High Street during his six years on the commission.

The county has put hundreds of thousands of dollars into upgrading its buildings to make sure they meet building codes.

"But that's not nearly the answer," he said.

Dunham believes a new judicial building on King Street almost certainly will be needed. Had he stayed on the commission, it would have been a top priority, he said.

He gets high marks from Greg Ahalt, one of the Republicans who helped recruit him.

"He campaigned against zoning and he has kept his commitment to his constituents to control that 'z' word," Ahalt said.

Democratic Commissioner Robert Burkhart served with Dunham over the past four years.

"He's done a good job and been easy to work with," Dunham said.

Dunham said he will spend more time with his family and in his garden, but he didn't rule out another try for public office in the future.

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