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Former Charles Town mayor says Jefferson Co. should secede

February 23, 2007|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.VA. - The state of Jefferson?

D.C. "Doc" Master doesn't think it's such a far-out idea.

Over the years, as Jefferson County politicians have dealt with growth-related issues and grown frustrated over the state's inability to help, they sometimes have joked about Jefferson County seceding from the state of West Virginia.

Master, a former mayor of Charles Town who has interjected himself in all sorts of controversial issues over the years, told county officials Thursday he thinks secession should be considered again.

With the rise of thorny issues such as rapidly increasing property taxes, Master told the Jefferson County Commission Thursday that he thinks the county could deal better with issues on its own if it were a separate state.

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Master said Charles Town officials began talking about secession as early as 1964. Master said officials in Morgan and Berkeley counties have had the same frustrations over the years and officials in those counties at times have said "take us with you. The more I think about it, I think we should do it alone," Master said.

In one of the upcoming elections, Master said he thinks the commissioners should put a question on a ballot asking county residents if they support secession.

The question would be a survey "just to get a feel" if there is support for it, Master said.

That sparked a bit of humor.

"Could it get violent if we secede?" asked Commissioner Jim Surkamp.

"You could be general," responded Commissioner Dale Manuel.

Commission President Frances Morgan said it was an intriguing idea.

Master expressed frustration over state-related issues as his reason for exploring secession. One issue was a proposal in a casino table-games bill being considered in the Legislature that would require Charles Town Races & Slots to pay an annual $2.5 million fee to the state each year for being able to offer the games.

"With the track, we can pave the streets gold. We've got our own university and a new president," said Master, referring to Shepherd University and the school's decision this week to hire its first female president.

"We can't go back to Virginia because they can't accept the casino and the table games," said Master.

Jefferson County was part of Virginia before West Virginia was formed.

Master said he is not sure how difficult a secession process would be. He suggested letting county residents have input and "go from there."

Manuel said after the meeting that he doubts there would ever be a serious effort to separate Jefferson County from the rest of the state. He said he does not know if there is a process for separating, although he said Master gave the commission some information on the issue that he obtained from West Virginia University.

Manuel said he understands Master's frustration. Local people get upset about bills not being acted on in the Legislature and a myriad of troubles facing local schools.

When the issues "sort of stack" up, people get mad, Manuel said.

"People are frustrated, very frustrated with it," Manuel said.

Master was mayor for 22 years before losing to former Mayor Rufus Park in 1990. Master captured headlines over the years with his ideas, including that welfare mothers should be sterilized, and drugs should be legalized to dry up profits from the illegal drug trade.

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