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Mayor increases presence at Charles Town City Hall

November 08, 2004|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - If you see someone moving around in an office at the top of Charles Town's City Hall some night, don't be alarmed.

It's probably Charles Town Mayor Randy Hilton taking care of business.

Now that he has retired from his full-time job, Hilton said he sometimes comes to City Hall at the corner of George and Washington streets at night because it's a quiet place to work on town business.

Hilton retired in June and has decided to spend more time at City Hall to address the needs of the city.

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He set up his own office in an unused room upstairs. The place has a striking setting.

It sits at the top of a curved window that looks across the street to the main entrance of the Jefferson County Courthouse.

Along one wall is a row of windows that looks down on the City Council chambers below.

Before the city bought the building in the 1960s, the Bank of Charles Town was in the building.

Hilton presumes the loft-style office was used by the bank president so he could look over and see the tellers.

But Hilton emphasized he is not in the office to supervise city business.

Hilton said he wants to spend more time at City Hall to work on issues that are important to him, such as economic development for the city and county, protecting historic buildings in town and working on challenges that crop up as a result of growth.

One of those challenges in coming years will be dealing with increased traffic in town, Hilton said.

"Whether we like it or not, growth is coming. Hopefully, it will be quality growth and it will be well-planned," Hilton said.

Hilton, a native of Baltimore, worked for more than 30 years for Montgomery County, Md., government as a human resources specialist. His job involved resolving disputes between management and union officials.

Because he could retire after 30 years with Montgomery County, Hilton decided to leave his job and set a different course for himself.

"I think I'm fortunate. Not many people can retire at age 55. I had an opportunity to give something back to the community," Hilton said.

So room was made for Hilton at City Hall.

The floors in the old office were refinished, revealing a rich-colored red hardwood surface. The city bought a desk for Hilton and he brought some red-, gold- and blue-striped upholstered chairs from his dining room. The chairs are placed around a circular table for a conference area.

It's a place where constituents can talk to the mayor, but don't expect Hilton to be there all the time.

Hilton said he expects to be out in the community working on issues. Hilton said he wants to work with the Jefferson County Development Authority on attracting business to the county and to Charles Town. Hilton said he wants to do whatever he can to keep Jefferson Memorial Hospital in nearby Ranson, W.Va., to make sure dilapidated buildings in town are improved and make sure city boards have the people they need to operate.

In the downtown area, Hilton said he wants to see more "niche retail," which are business that offer something unique. Businesses such as those, along with restaurants, will help attract more people downtown and bring more economic vitality to the area, Hilton said.

"We know we are not going to compete with Wal-Mart. We need specialty stores," Hilton said.

Hilton said he is happy with the $7.1 million revitalization of the downtown area, which included new sidewalks, streetlights and other features like a historical interpretive area beside the courthouse.

Hilton said he believes the revitalization was significant because if government does not take an interest in downtown, no one else will.

"There is a lot more to be done, but this is a great start," Hilton said.

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