Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

January 21, 2012

Bills would move three Va. towns’ elections to Nov.

BLUEFIELD, Va. — A trio of bills moving through the Virginia General Assembly could bring change to the election day in two Tazewell County, Va., communities.

A charter change bill in the House of Delegates, HB 1251, patroned by Delegate James W. “Will” Morefield, R-Tazewell, would move Cedar Bluff, Va., town elections from May to November. HB 1251, including an emergency clause, cleared a house sub-committee on Friday and will move to the full committee next week.

State Senator Phillip P. Puckett, D-Russell, is patron on S.B. 142 and S.B. 149, charter change bills that would move town elections in Pocahontas, Va., and Bluefield, Va., respectively from May to November.

“The bills I presented also cleared through a sub-committee this week without any opposition,” Puckett said. “We put emergency clauses on our bills too so they will become effective as soon as the General Assembly takes action.”

“I don’t foresee any problems with any of the charter change bills,” Morefield said. “When Senator Puckett’s bills move in to the house, I’ll serve as co-patron on his bills and he has agreed to serve as co-patron on my Cedar Bluff charter change bill.”

“The change represents both a cost savings for us as well as the opportunity to have a better voter turnout,” Bluefield, Va., Town Manager Mike Watson said. If the charter change clears the General Assembly this session, the next Bluefield, Va., town election will be in November.

Bluefield, Va., has staggered terms. As a result, the mayoral election as well as two council positions will be decided in the next town election. “Hopefully, with the national election taking place at the same time, we’ll have a better voter turnout for this election.”

Greg Jones, Pocahontas town treasurer said that all of the towns in Virginia are moving in the direction of holding municipal election on the same date as general elections.

“For us, it’s more cost effective and we are also hoping to have a greater turnout if we hold the election in November,” Jones said.

The town of Pocahontas holds elections for its mayor and all four council members every two years. The bill amends the charter for Pocahontas that was adopted in 1918.

The town of Bluefield, Va., amended its charter a few years ago to allow for an elected mayor and to initiate staggered terms. All five council members and the mayor serve four-year terms with three council members elected in non-general election years and two council members and the mayor elected in the same year as the national general election.

Jim McGlothlin, Cedar Bluff town manager said the state shifted the cost of conducting May elections back to localities, but gave towns an opportunity to change their election date by ordinance or through the charter change process. “We already changed our election day by ordinance, so the bill before the house is a formality,” McGlothlin said.

There are five incorporated towns in Tazewell County. Bluefield, Va., Pocahontas and Cedar Bluff are in the charter change mix, although it is only a formality in Cedar Bluff’s case. Richlands, Va., has also changed its election day and it has been approved by the department of justice. However, Debbie Barrett, Tazewell County registrar said that she has yet to receive DOJ confirmation concerning Tazewell’s election day change.

“We held our public hearings, the council voted for the change following second reading and Tazewell has the intent of moving to November,” Jerry Wood, Tazewell town manager said. “It’s some place in the legal system now,” Wood added.

Puckett’s bills, as amended, were moved to the committee on Local Government on Jan. 17. The Senate’s Local Government Committee meets on Tuesdays.

— Contact Bill Archer at barcher@bdtonline.com

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