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Sparks fly among county commissioners

January 04, 2002

Sparks fly among county commissioners



By DAVE McMILLION / Staff Writer, Charles Town


MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The new year got off to a rocky start at the Berkeley County Commission meeting Thursday when Commissioners John E. Wright and Robert L. Burkhart traded barbs over who should be president of the commission in the coming year.

Commissioner Howard Strauss, who has been serving as president, said he wanted to step down from the post.

Strauss said it has been a rewarding experience, but he believes the position should be rotated.

Strauss nominated Wright for president.

Burkhart said he would second the motion, but only if Wright agreed to share the responsibility of appearing on some of the radio shows in which the commissioners participate.

Wright said he wouldn't do it.

"If you want to do it, go do it," Wright told Burkhart. "I don't like radio."

With Burkhart refusing to second the nomination, Wright then nominated Strauss for president.

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Strauss said he would accept the president's position only if the commission continues to make progress in areas in which he is interested, such as developing new subdivision regulations, holding night meetings to encourage public input in county government and hiring a county planner to oversee the planning commission.

Burkhart and Wright said they would agree to improvements in the planning commission office.

Burkhart seconded the motion to nominate Strauss, making him the commission president.

Wright and Burkhart continued to argue with each other during the meeting.

Wright, a Republican, complained about Burkhart "always having a plan" and referred to the Democratic commissioner as the one who was appointed by a "Democratic Supreme Court."

The West Virginia Supreme Court awarded Burkhart a seat on the commission in a case that centered around a controversy over district boundaries.

Burkhart complained he often cannot reach Wright by telephone, but Wright disputed that.

"You don't know how to operate a telephone," said Wright.

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