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Long-serving mayor stays focused on Bath

July 21, 2009|By TRISH RUDDER

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. -- Town of Bath Mayor Susan J. Webster says she "never wanted to be perceived as fluff."

Webster, who has been serving her constituents since 1996 when she was appointed mayor and then elected every two years since, is beginning her 14th year.

"I'm just getting started," Webster said.

She is proud to be the first woman elected as mayor of the Town of Bath.

Learning on the job

From the beginning, Webster learned from other woman leaders by watching them. "I never wanted to be perceived as 'fluff,'" she said.

She believes any mayor has to keep focused or persistent on their goals in order to get things done.

"I actively listen to my constituents, my council members, other mayors and other municipal officers," she said.

The West Virginia Municipal League advocates municipal interests. Webster has been a member for 14 years and served on its board of directors, as treasurer, secretary, vice president and is to become president this year, she said.

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She has learned you have to exploit your existing strengths as mayor, Webster said.

In Bath, which has a population of about 680 residents, according to the last U.S. Census estimate, is having a good police department and adding to it.

For the past five years the department has received awards from the American Automobile Association (AAA) Traffic Safety Program. Webster is the department's police commissioner.

The town-owned water department, Berkeley Springs Water Works, is an economic engine for Morgan County, Webster said.

"We are the water company for Morgan County. New water lines equal economic progress in the county," she said.

The town has become more proficient with using available resources, Webster said, such as getting financial assistance with grants, loans and supplies.

In late 2004, with the help of U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., a $200,000 federal economic development streetscape grant was awarded to the town.

The funding was issued in 2005, and the town began forming a committee to help utilize the funds to make the town more walkable with sidewalks, signage and lighting.

Local residents and business people volunteered to participate on the committee, and Webster praised their efforts.

More to do

Webster wants to bring more improvements to the community, she said.

"There is much more left to do," Webster said.

She wants the town council to move forward and be more aggressive by becoming involved in legislative issues and learning to draft bills. 

She said she wanted the finance committee to take an active role in bringing in new business into the town -- "to be an Economic Development Authority for the town," Webster said.

More annexation into the town will help town residents, she said.

"They are footing the bill. We need more people living in the town limits," Webster said.

Even though property taxes are higher in town, Webster said there are benefits to living there, such as more police protection, more representation from the town council, the town has an efficient and effective sanitation system, and it promotes its community.

Webster began serving the Town of Bath as a council member in 1993. She was elected to serve as town recorder in 1995 and was appointed as mayor the next year.

"Any problems you face you just chip through them. Constructive criticism is nothing to fear. It will help me to be a better mayor," she said, "because I'm flexible in looking for the best answer."

Bath Town Recorder Irene Hedrick said Webster "has done a very good job, she works very hard, she's dedicated as mayor and she enjoys her work."

"She has grown into the job and she is very professional," Hedrick said.

Other long-termers

Two other nearby long-serving mayors serve Martinsburg and Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.

Mayor George Karos of Martinsburg began his 10th year on July 1. He has been elected to three four-year terms. He served 26 years as a council member before becoming mayor, said city recorder Sharon Flick.

Mayor Jim Addy of Harpers Ferry, W.Va., began his fifth two-year term on July 1. Addy said he chaired the planning commission before he ran for mayor.

She has been a business owner in the community for 25 years. She and her husband, Pete Moss, own and operate Olde Town Holding Co.

Webster said she has been an entrepreneur, business owner and employer in Morgan County for 34 years. For the last three years, she and Moss have owned and operate Herb's Quality Used Cars and Trucks.

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