Retired mail carrier challenges incumbent Doyle

October 08, 2004|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - The general election on Nov. 2 will pit a longtime local lawmaker who says he has been able to make effective change during his tenure against a retired mail carrier who says he is concerned about the state's spending practices.

Del. John Doyle, D-Jefferson, is seeking his seventh consecutive two-year term by going up against Republican Robert Murto in the race to fill the 57th District House of Delegates seat in the state Legislature.

The job pays $15,000 a year.

John Doyle

Doyle, 62, said he has been successful in pushing for better public education, health-care and land-use programs and looks forward to continued success if he is re-elected.


Doyle said he was instrumental in securing $25 million in state funding to help build a second high school in Jefferson County. He said that is significant because it represents the largest amount of money ever given to a county for a new school by the state.

In May, Jefferson County voters approved a $19 million bond to help pay for the second high school, which will be built at the Huntfield development about a mile south of U.S. 340.

The project, which will cost about $48 million, will include a renovation of Jefferson High School.

As a member of the Legislative Oversight Commission on Education Accountability, Doyle said he has been able to push for stronger curriculum in public schools. A required civics course was added at the high school level by state education officials following efforts by Doyle to add the course, and Doyle said he now wants to increase the number of required science courses at the high school level from three to four.

Regarding health care, Doyle said he was a sponsor of successful legislation that will bring down the cost of prescription drugs for state residents.

Doyle said he was a sponsor of state farmland protection legislation which has now led to the protection of 788 acres of farmland in Jefferson and Berkeley counties.

If re-elected, Doyle said he will continue to push for "locality pay" for local state workers. Locality pay is increased pay for local state workers to help them offset the higher cost of living in the Eastern Panhandle.

Despite his long stint in the Legislature, Doyle said an election is not something he takes lightly.

"I take every opponent seriously. So I've been out knocking on doors and doing whatever I can to win it," said Doyle, who works as a real estate agent and radio talk show host for WRNR radio station near Martinsburg.

Robert Murto

Murto said he is running for the delegate seat because West Virginia is "first in all the bad issues and last in all the good issues."

Murto, who retired after working as a mail carrier for 30 years, said he is particularly troubled by the state's high level of debt and ways lawmakers choose to spend tax money.

Lawmakers typically dole out money for projects in their districts every year through a mechanism called the state budget digest. Murto said instead of distributing the money, lawmakers need to direct the funds to pay for new schools, an issue that gets a lot of attention in the rapidly growing Eastern Panhandle.

Murto, 56, of 887 Cherry Run Road, Harpers Ferry, W.Va., said local governments need to have more control over their affairs, such as those related to land planning and garbage disposal.

Murto, who has never held public office, referred to large annexations that have been completed recently by the towns of Ranson and Charles Town. Ranson has grown by 3,000 acres and county officials have expressed concern about towns gobbling up prime development land and creating confusing situations by having town boundaries extending irregularly into the county.

Murto said the Jefferson County Commission needs the ability to veto annexations if they believe they are not in the best interest of good land planning.

Murto said local governments also need the ability to hire other garbage waste haulers to deal with garbage disposal problems in the area. Because the Waste Management landfill near Hedgesville, W.Va., has hit its monthly tonnage limit regularly this year, trash has backed up at times in the area.

Local communities can do little to correct the problem because garbage hauling is controlled by the state Public Service Commission, Murto said.

"This whole state is controlled by Charleston. There are a lot of issues in this campaign. This is not a simple thing," Murto said.

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