HAGERSTOWN — A final, emotional round of “commissioners’ reports and comments” was delivered in choked voices Tuesday morning as three outgoing Washington County Commissioners thanked their colleagues and families while reflecting on their time in office.
“I hope in the future citizens keep in mind that it’s not easy to sit in this chair, and there’s no easy answer,” outgoing Commissioner James F. Kercheval said, his voice wavering as he urged citizens to “treat the new board with civility.”
That new board — which includes the newly elected Ruth Anne Callaham, Jeff Cline and Bill McKinley, as well as current panel President John F. Barr and Commissioner Terry Baker — will be sworn in Dec. 7.
Tuesday’s meeting was the final one for Kercheval and Commissioner William J. Wivell, who did not run for re-election, as well as for Commissioner Kristin B. Aleshire, who lost in the Nov. 2 general election.
During an open house reception following the meeting, county employees and other community leaders took turns thanking and presenting gifts to the departing trio.
Aleshire joked in his farewell remarks that former state delegate “Paul Muldowney swears I’m a robot, so I probably won’t shed a tear here.”
Nevertheless, Aleshire grew emotional as he complimented Barr, described his struggle to balance county work with family and reflected on a controversial “robocall” that targeted him just before the election.
Aleshire alluded to comments by Del. Christopher B. Shank in which Shank, describing the robocall, said that “politics is a contact sport.”
“I’ve never taken my position lightly; I’ve never seen it as a game,” Aleshire said Tuesday. “I always think that public service is a very serious business meant for the benefit of the community, and I cannot, for the life of me, understand how we are ever to advance as a nation if we elect leaders that believe we are in a constant political civil war among one another, simply because of party affiliation.”
Aleshire went on to address “other individuals” who might have been involved in the robocall.
“I hope that they can find some common ground in moving this community forward, and do so as diligently and fairly as they have unfairly torn this good community servant down,” Aleshire said.
Aleshire acknowledged the importance of the county’s staff, boards and commissions and called Barr “one of the most selfless people I’ve ever met,” an “outstanding leader” and “a good steward of the community trust.”
Aleshire, a former Hagerstown City Council member, said he tried to bring a municipal perspective to county government with “mixed results at times,” but thought the county’s overall relationship to the municipalities had improved over his four years in office.
He said he was looking forward to some “much needed time” to catch up with his family.
Wivell, ending his third term as a commissioner, said despite his belief in the importance of term limits, leaving office was not easy.
“It really becomes a part of you, and it was very difficult to walk away from,” Wivell said.
Wivell ran for state delegate, but lost in the primary.
He thanked his wife and family, the citizens, and county staff.
“I’m always accused of voting no, but I think I’m ... somewhat of a perfectionist,” Wivell said. “The reason I would vote no and not support something is I always wanted it to be right.”
For his part, Kercheval praised volunteers on county boards and commissions, who he said “hold this county up,” and called the county’s staff “the best group I’ve ever worked with.”
Kercheval, ending his second term, said he appreciated the other commissioners with whom he had served.
“I know we had a lot of issues...” he said. “Those go back and forth, and they are debated, and there’s a lot of emotion sometimes, but I think we kept a nice, civil form.”
Kercheval will soon begin his new position as executive director of the Greater Hagerstown Committee.
Kercheval’s wife, Clair, and two of his sons, Garrett, 9, and Jacob, 12, were in the audience at Tuesday’s meeting.
Garrett, dressed in a suit, gave the invocation at the start of the meeting, and Jacob led the pledge. Each of the boys spoke during the citizen participation portion of the meeting, wishing their dad and his fellow commissioners good luck.
“I know some of you are gonna stay in the job, and my dad is gonna leave and have a new job, and good luck,” said Garrett, who revealed after the meeting that he wants to be a county commissioner when he grows up.
The boys have shared their father with his county office since they were very young, Clair Kercheval said.
“This has pretty much been their life, so I thought that it was important, for the last meeting, for them to come and see what he actually does,” she said.