BECKLEY, WV (WVNS)– With around 17,000 residents, Beckley is the hub of southern West Virginia. The town has an annual budget of about $25 million and employs almost 300 workers. But like most other places in the state, the majority of registered voters don’t head to the polls on election day. Not only is voter investment low, but elected officials say that virtually anyone who pays a filing fee can run for mayor.
“At my last election I had five opponents and with only 4500 voters, you always run the risk of getting a mayor perhaps with good intentions but little or no experience in municipal government,” said Beckley Mayor Rob Rappold.
Rappold said that if Council appoints a city manager, it ensures that somebody with experience is overseeing the city’s day-to-day operations and budget. When that happens, the mayor will become a voting part of the Council. Members of the Council pointed out that most larger cities in the state, including Charleston, already have city managers. Fayetteville and Oak Hill in Fayette County have also hired managers.
“The City of Beckley is a business,” said Councilman Tom Sopher. “There’s a lot of money you know that goes through the doors in and out so it takes a knowledgeable person to do this.”
Councilman Sopher and several other members of the Council said they’re likely to support a change to a city manager form of government. Mayor Rappold said the change is likely to happen within the next two years.