Burkhart makes brief return to commission

July 26, 2002|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Two Berkeley County Commissioners were enough Thursday morning to handle discussions about rabies shots and cable television service and to interview an applicant for a job with the Economic Development Authority.

It's been that way for almost four months while Commissioner Robert Burkhart has stayed home, recovering from an April 6 stroke.

When the commission took a brief recess just before noon Thursday, Burkhart was waiting in the hall in a wheelchair outside the meeting room.


County employees, commissioners and the media effusively greeted Burkhart, who has served about 30 years on the commission since 1962. He is not running for another term.

"Remember this place?" County Commission President Howard Strauss asked.

"Yeah, I've been here once or twice," Burkhart cracked.

Someone laid a wooden ramp on the floor in the meeting room, allowing Burkhart's wheelchair to roll up to the dais. He took his familiar place on the far right and the meeting resumed.

"It is indeed a real pleasure to have Mr. Robert L. Burkhart back on the county commission with us," Strauss said.

"I've never really been off," Burkhart said, referring to frequent discussions he has had with commissioners and county staff about business while he's been home.

"My hopes and prayers will be for a total recovery," Commissioner John Wright said.

Burkhart's presence was particularly important at the tail end of Thursday's meeting. The commission voted 2-1 to let county Prosecutor Pamela Games-Neely give additional raises to her assistants. Burkhart voted in favor.

Burkhart has limited use of his left side, but he was his usual sharp self, offering details and dates, nibbling on the tip of the arm of his glasses.

At one point, Strauss lamented that he was getting old and forgetting things.

"Conveniently," Burkhart quipped, drawing laughs.

Strauss acknowledged after the meeting that he alerted Burkhart in advance that Thursday might be a good time to come back because of the discussion about raises.

"It didn't happen accidentally," Strauss said.

Burkhart's daughter, Bobbi Miller, who brought him to the commission meeting and watched, said he was anxious to be there, but reluctant to make a big splash, so he just showed up.

Burkhart promised to attend other meetings whenever he could.

"A little bit at a time," he said.

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