Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Columns

May 15, 2013

Important decisions fast-approaching for voters in Bluefield, Princeton

— — An important mid-year election is fast approaching for citizens living in the cities of Bluefield and Princeton. If you live in either city, mark the date June 4 down on your calendar. That’s election day for the cities of Bluefield and Princeton. And that means you should vote.

At the newspaper we are in the middle of conducting editorial board sessions with the candidates — 21 in total — from both cities. The editorial board sessions continue today, and again on Thursday. All of the favorite hot topics as of late — pit bulls, economic development, the flood-proofing of Stafford Drive and prostitutes — have come up or are expected to be discussed.

Princeton has eight candidates vying for four council seats. Each of the city’s four wards will be contested. In ward one, incumbent Shawn Vest will face Jacqueline “Jackie” Rucker. In ward two, incumbent Marshal V. Lytton is being challenged by Ryan B. Blankenship. In ward three, incumbent Chris Stanley is being challenged by Jim Harvey. In ward four, incumbent Tim Ealy is being challenged by Andrea Washington.

It is rare to see all four wards in the city of Princeton contested. But such is the case this year. And that’s good for the city and its voters, who will have choices at the polls. It also shows renewed interest by the citizens in their local city government. All too often the number of seats that are empty far outnumber those that are full at city council meetings in both Bluefield and Princeton.

The Princeton City Council is composed of seven members. The city currently has approximately 3,700 registered voters. The winners of the June 4 contest in Princeton will take office on July 1.

Voters also are reminded that early voting in Princeton begins on May 22. It will continue until the last Saturday before the election.

In Bluefield, the ballot is even more crowded. The city has 12 candidates vying for five seats. The contest is shaping up to be an interesting one. Voters in Bluefield will certainly have plenty of candidates to choose from come June. 4.

In district one, incumbent board member Mary Frances Brammer is being challenged by former mayor Rev. Garry D. Moore Sr. and Barbara Thompson Smith. In district two, incumbent Mayor Linda Whalen is being challenged by Steven P. Coleman and Ellen Peters Light.

In district three, Michael Gibson is apparently running unopposed after David Smith told this newspaper he was dropping out of the race. Five candidates are vying for the two at-large seats on the board. They include Thomas J. “Tom” Cole, Charles “Chuck” McGonagle, incumbent Pete Sternlof, Willie C. Hunt and Richard Lee Dillon.

Two incumbent board members —  Deb Sarver and Dr. Tom Blevins — did not file for re-election. That means we are guaranteed at least two new city board members — if not more.

The winners of the June 4 election in Bluefield will take office on Aug. 1. We are often asked about the mayoral slot in Bluefield, and whether the mayor is elected. The mayoral slot in Bluefield is not determined by popular vote. Instead, the five elected board members vote to appoint one of their fellow council members as mayor.

The city of Bluefield has approximately 6,000 registered voters who are eligible to cast a ballot in the June 4 contest. That number is a little troubling when you consider that the city’s population is still above 10,000. Are their 4,000 citizens in the city who simply don’t bother to vote? Why are they not registered to vote?

Those who don’t vote have no right to complain about their elected leaders. And we’ve seen our fair share of complaining about Bluefield-related issues in recent months.

We will learn a lot about the candidates over the next three days and where they stand on the issues. Stories will follow in the days ahead with photographs. It is our hope that these stories can educate the voters about the candidates, and help them make informed decisions at the polls.

City elections are just as important as state and national elections. Everyone who is registered to vote in the two cities should cast a ballot. If you have a beef with city hall, but fail to cast a ballot, what right do you have to complain?

If you aren’t sure if you are registered to vote or if your voter registration status is still valid, call the clerk’s office at city hall, or the voter registration office at the Mercer County Courthouse. It’s as simple as that. And with the advent of early voting, you don’t have to wait until June 4 to cast a ballot.

Voting nowadays is quite easy. And failing to vote is simply unacceptable.

Charles Owens is the Daily Telegraph’s assistant managing editor. Contact him at cowens@bdtonline.com. Follow him @BDTOwens.

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