Eight seek Berkeley County magistrate positions

October 29, 2008|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A state family court case coordinator, a retired special federal agent and a county sheriff are hoping to unseat one of the five state magistrate court judges who are up for re-election on Nov. 4 in Berkeley County. Berkeley County magistrates are paid $50,000 annually by the state and are elected to four-year terms.

Ywatta "Nessy" Mitchell, 36, of Martinsburg, has worked for the state's family court system since 1996 and was the tri-county's first family court case coordinator in 1999. She currently is the case coordinator for one of the 25th Circuit's two family court judges.

"I just want to let the voters to know that I'm a competent candidate for the position," said Mitchell, of her 12 1/2 years experience with the state court system.

"I would be fair and impartial and I make sure that it would be equal justice under the letters of the law," she said.


Berkeley County Sheriff W. Randy Smith, 61, of the Martinsburg area, is completing the second four-year term as the county's sheriff. Before being elected, he worked as a private investigator and bail bondsman and was county sheriff's deputy for 12 1/2 years.

"The reason I'm running is because I like being in and around the political system and the court system," Smith said of his past experiences.

"I'm experienced with personnel issues and personnel problems and being a subcontractor and a landlord, I can relate to a lot of the problems that the working public has," he said.

Robert L. "Rob" Lowe II, 59, of Martinsburg, worked as a U.S. Treasury Department special customs agent for 28 years before retiring in 2000. A Vietnam veteran, he also served six years in the U.S. Marine Corps.

Lowe said he was running for magistrate to "preserve the integrity" of the position, which he believes should be a nonpartisan race with term limits.

"When people run for elected offices, they need to have integrity and credibility for the offices that they're running for," Lowe said of his experience as a federal criminal investigator.

Jim Humphrey, 57, of Martinsburg, is running for his first four-year term after being elected in 2006 to complete an unexpired term. Appointed to the bench in April 2005, Humphrey was a West Virginia State Police trooper for 21 years, served six years in the U.S. Marine Corps and also worked as a court bailiff and chief correctional facility officer.

"I love to serve the public, that's the only life I've ever known is serving the public," Humphrey said.

"I hope that the citizens vote for the candidates with the best qualities, not only the qualifications, the best qualities," he said.

JoAnn Overington, 61, of the Martinsburg area, said she decided to seek re-election to a second four-year term because she enjoyed serving the public.

"I have found the job challenging, interesting and hope to have another four years," said Overington, who retired in 2001 from Washington County, Md., Schools after a 30-year career in teaching.

"I hope that I have treated people fairly and that they would feel that I have done a good job and would consider voting for me another four years," Overington said.

Harry L. Snow, 63, Hedgesville, W.Va., said he would continue to try to do his part to reduce county taxpayers' burden of paying for skyrocketing jail fees if re-elected to a third term.

"I think I've saved the taxpayers of Berkeley County thousands of dollars by placing people on home confinement ...," said Snow, who worked in the Martinsburg Police Department for 21 years, served four years in the U.S. Navy and was in the Air National Guard for more than 18 years before being elected to the bench.

"I think I've made a big difference in the magistrate system since I've been elected to that position ... I believe it's time for me to try to help the people of Berkeley County as much as they have helped me over the years."

Sandra L. "Sandy" Miller, 63, of the Hedgesville area, is running for a fifth term. She was elected in 1992.

"I enjoy serving the citizens of Berkeley County," Miller said. "I still like my job. I like being here. And I feel I feel that I am fair and honest and impartial and I want to remain another four years," Miller said.

Before running for magistrate, Miller said she worked as a magistrate assistant for three years and worked with the public defender's office for one year.

Joan V. Bragg, 60, of Martinsburg, is seeking a sixth term and is the most tenured of the five incumbent magistrate judges. Before being appointed and then elected to the bench in 1988, Bragg worked for the City of Martinsburg for 13 years, two as City Recorder.

"I really enjoy the job I do," Bragg said of her reasoning for running for magistrate again. "I feel that I have worked hard over the last 20 years to make sure that I processed my cases in a speedy manner and I try to always be fair and impartial in all of my rulings."

"...There are five of us here now who work very hard - all of us," Bragg said.

"I think that I can handle the job for another four (years) if the public would so desire me to do that," Bragg said.

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