Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV


October 6, 2013

Joe Coburn: A legacy of loyal service

— — Since his first job as a deputy sheriff in 1959, Joe Coburn was a loyal friend and tireless fighter for the good citizens of Mercer County. And he was no stranger to politics on both the local and state level.

A proud Democrat, Coburn was well known from the courthouse steps in Princeton to the statehouse in Charleston. But his journey into politics didn’t begin until a good decade after his law enforcement career. Coburn served as a deputy with the Mercer County Sheriff’s Department until 1961, and was then appointed as a state probation officer for the area. He worked as a probation officer until 1969, and then again as a deputy sheriff for a period of time.

A few years later Coburn was named as the chief of police for the town of Athens. By 1972, he was ready to enter the realm of politics, running for the county court — a position now more commonly known as the county commission. He was elected in 1972, and then re-elected again in 1977 — establishing himself as a strong voice for the region and the citizens of Mercer County in particular.

After two terms on the county commission, Coburn later served as a field representative for the state treasurer’s office, as well as a tax coordinator for the state. But his love of politics never subsided. Coburn would run again and a win a seat on the county commission in 1997. He was re-elected to the county commission again in 2002 and 2008.

During his years of service, Coburn was known as a politician who treated everyone equally. He never allowed political parties, or political differences, to get between him and those he was elected to serve. Simply put — Joe Coburn was a man of the people.

Coburn passed away Wednesday night at his home following a long illness. He was surrounded by family members and friends at the time of his death. Coburn was 81.

In the days ahead, commissioners Mike Vinciguerra and Gene Buckner will face the difficult task of appointing a temporary replacement to fill Coburn’s unexpired term, which continues through 2014. Whoever is appointed to the temporary post must be of Coburn’s political party — a Democrat — and must live in Coburn’s same Third Magisterial District, which is the greater Athens area. The full seat will then be up for election in 2014. But the temporary appointment is a critical decision, and one that Vinciguerra and Buckner must carefully consider.

But for now it is only proper to pay tribute to the memory and legacy of Joe Coburn. His service to the citizens of Mercer County will not soon be forgotten. His passing is a tremendous loss to our county and our region.

But his memory, and his many years of long and dedicated service to the region, will live on through his accomplishments over the past four decades.

In Mercer County, we will long remember and applaud the legacy of Joe Coburn.

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