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Dougherty named distinguished citizen in Jefferson County

April 16, 2007|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Growing up, Pete Dougherty remembered that he "could have gone either way" in life.

Dougherty said he was raised in a poor household but he was thankful he had positive influences from great teachers and adult mentors that set him on his path.

Dougherty has worked as a parole officer in the Eastern Panhandle, as a Jefferson County magistrate, served for more than 10 years in former West Virginia Congressman Harley Staggers' office and has been a longtime member of the Jefferson County Board of Education.

When Dougherty worked for Staggers, he oversaw the congressman's subcommittee for veterans affairs at a time when there was a lot of focus on homelessness among the nation's veterans.

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Dougherty is now the director of Homeless Veterans Programs for the Department of Veterans Affairs in Washington, D.C., and the effort involves providing health-care assistance and other help to tens of thousands of veterans across the country.

Dougherty's contributions to the community and other areas were honored Saturday night when he was presented with the annual Distinguished Citizen award by the Shenandoah Area council of the Boy Scouts of America.

The award is given in recognition of someone who makes outstanding contributions to Scouting and the community, according to organizers. About 150 people attended a dinner at Independent Fire Co. in Ranson, W.Va., to see Dougherty receive the award.

The dinner was also a fundraiser for the Boy Scouts through the $75 per-plate admission.

Roger Dailey, a friend of Dougherty's, said Dougherty always has been active in the community, particularly in the local school system and his church, Asbury United Methodist Church in Charles Town.

Dougherty is active in youth programs at the church and his work represents the values that Scouts promote, Dailey said.

"He's always interested in the youth," said Dailey, of Summit Point, W.Va. "He's dedicated in what he does."

In his work as a parole officer beginning in 1975, it was Dougherty's job to do presentence investigations of people convicted of crimes. The information is presented to the courts to assist judges in their decisions on what type of sentences to issue.

When people were released from incarceration, they reported to people like Dougherty to make sure they cooperated with their parole programs.

Although Dougherty has been away from the job since 1976, Dougherty said he still sees people he worked with and they often relate how they are doing in their personal lives.

"That's the relationship I had with them," Dougherty said.

Dougherty was appointed to a county magistrate seat in 1977 and re-elected in 1978 and 1980. In 1983, Dougherty decided to work for Staggers and represented the congressman in West Virginia cities including Martinsburg, Morgantown and Lewisburg.

"I've known hundreds of people in public service but I think he's one of the best we've had," Dougherty said of the Democratic congressman.

Dougherty continued the work he started on homeless programs for veterans in Staggers' office and his department today helps veterans deal with complications from combat, including post traumatic stress disorder.

The condition often leads to depression, and relationship and employment problems for veterans, Dougherty said.

"People don't know how to deal with them, tolerate them, and they let them go," Dougherty said.

The good news is that the homeless rate among veterans has decreased by 25 percent and veterans are being seen earlier for stress disorders as they return home from areas like Afghanistan and Iraq, Dougherty said.

Dougherty has been a member of the Charles Town Kiwanis Club since 1976 and he is involved in an annual awards ceremony that honors eighth-grade students for progress in academics and citizenship.

Dougherty was elected to the board of education in 1984 and was re-elected president six times before leaving the board in 2002. He was re-elected to the board in 2006, and is back in the president's seat again.

Dougherty said he thinks the current board is a good working group "with no real ego problems" and he is encouraged that the board will be able to deal with growth-related pressures in the school system in the coming years.

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