Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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June 18, 2014

Candidate vacancies: Tazewell County ballot disappointing

— — While we realize that voter fatigue is setting in across the region, we are still quite disappointed in the now finalized November ballot for Tazewell County’s five municipalities. Voters will have slim to few choices come Nov. 4.

The deadline to file for the town council and mayoral races in the towns of Bluefield, Va., Tazewell, Pocahontas, Cedar Bluff and Richlands passed last week and several ballot slots were not filled. That means write-in votes will be necessary to fill council vacancies. And if that wasn’t bad enough, only one council race among the five towns will be contested. Otherwise, all of the council and mayoral incumbents are running unopposed for re-election. While these incumbents may be doing a good job, it is disappointing to see that no one else in these five towns is interested in becoming involved in local government and public service.

The lone contested race is in Bluefield, Va., where four candidates are vying for three seats on the Bluefield, Va. Town Council. The candidates include incumbents Stephen M. Danko, James H. “Jimmy” Jones, R. Lee Riffe and challenger Ron D. Holt II.

The situation is further aggravated in the town of Pocahontas where four council seats are up for grabs but only two candidates will be on the November ballot. They are incumbents Michael H. Gibson and Jerry C. Gravely. The remaining two seats will have to be filled by whoever gets the most write-in votes. And no, Mickey Mouse or Bill Clinton won’t count. The names of actual town residents will be necessary to fill the two vacant slots by write-in votes.

The same problem has occurred in the town of Cedar Bluff where three council seats will be decided but only two candidates will appear on the ballot. They are incumbents K.M. “Kenny” Shepard and Richard E. “Rick” Widener. The third council seat will, once again, have to be filled by a write-in candidate.

And in the towns of Tazewell and Richlands, all of the incumbents are running unopposed. Again, that’s not to imply the incumbents aren’t doing a good job, because they are. But it is still sad when no one else in these five towns is interested in serving their community.

Yes, we know voter fatigue is setting in. It seems like we go from one election to the next. We have also been constantly bombarded with a seemingly never-ending influx of mud-slinging attack ads. We realize this is a turn-off for a lot of individuals.

But public service — and the ability to elect our leaders — is still one of the greatest freedoms we enjoy. It is a necessary part of our proud democracy. We would hope in the future that a few more individuals would take an interest in running for public office regardless of whether it is at the local, state or federal level.

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