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Charles Town, W.Va., city councilman says he won't run again

March 29, 2007|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.VA. - After eight years on the Charles Town City Council and some heated meetings, Matt Ward has decided it is time to step down.

Ward, who often cautioned city officials about the consequences of unbridled growth and who had his core of supporters in and outside of the city, said this week that he will not run again for his Ward III seat in the May 24 city election.

Ward, 37, said he will not run again because he wants more time to spend with his wife, his eight children and his work as a lawyer in Washington, D.C.

"My calling right now is to my growing family, my thriving career and to broader commitments in the community," Ward said in a statement.

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"I am very pleased that a great group of Charles Town citizens has emerged to carry on a tradition of progressive local leadership," Ward said as he threw his support behind council candidates Ann Paonessa, Michael Slover and Marylois Gannon-Miller.

Ward crusaded against uncontrolled growth, and it made for some contentious council meetings.

The council moved ahead on major projects like a multi-million dollar downtown revitalization, but Ward sparred with council members over issues like annexation policies. And last year, a group of council members tried to censure Ward over comments he made on a local radio station alleging fellow council members had their campaigns financed by developers.

Some council members called his comments slanderous and suggested that it might be time for him to resign.

At the time, council member Amy Schmitt said council members are elected to do a job for city residents, "not to bad-mouth and stonewall each other on city business."

Councilwoman Lacie Mumaw has had concerns about Ward's actions.

Mumaw declined to comment Wednesday night about Ward's decision not to run, other than to say Ward is an "individual all his own."

Ward gathered supporters like Nancy Lutz, who was among a large group of county residents who opposed a proposed urban growth boundary by Charles Town that would have reached to Earle Road west of town.

Lutz said she has appreciated Ward standing up and bringing attention to issues that many people were unaware of.

"He knows when things aren't right. Matt's candor is the kiss of death for him," said Lutz, adding that Ward is often the "odd man out" on votes on the council.

Ward said he will continue contributing to the community, such as working on the Fisherman's Hall restoration and preservation of historic resources like the Happy Retreat home and the Harpers Ferry landscape.

Ward said he plans to consider other opportunities for public service, but he would not be specific.

Ward said that decision will depend on "where I can make the most difference."

The filing deadline ended recently for the city election and applications for candidacy had to be postmarked by March 25, City Clerk Joe Cosentini said.

In Ward's Ward III seat, Paonessa will run against Mark Meredith.

Nancy Schaffer is running for the Ward I seat and in Ward II, incumbent Tim Robinson will run against Gannon-Miller, Cosentini said.

In Ward IV, Mumaw will run against Michael Slover.

The seats held by Mayor Peggy Smith, Schmitt, Sandy Slusher-Smith, Don Clendening and Geraldine Willingham are not up for election until 2009, Cosentini said.

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