Editor’s note: This is one in a series of stories profiling candidates for the Nov. 6 general election.
Three candidates are vying for two seats on the Berkeley County Council in the Nov. 6 general election.
Republican incumbent Elaine C. Mauck, 65, of 1000 N. High St. in Martinsburg, is seeking re-election to a six-year term. She was elected to a two-year term in 2010 when the council, formerly known as the Berkeley County Commission, was expanded from three to five elected members.
Democrat Mark T. Barney, 33, of 934 Nimitz Lane in Hedgesville, W.Va., and Republican James R. “Jim” Barnhart, 63, of P.O. Box 1133 in Martinsburg, also are seeking election.
Besides Mauck’s seat, the election also will determine who will win the seat currently held by council President William L. “Bill” Stubblefield, who is not running for re-election.
Berkeley County Council members are paid $36,960 per year.
“I’m running because I care, it’s where I live and I think it can be a whole lot better,” said Mauck, who owns senior care and antiques businesses. “You can say lot of things about me, but I’m passionate about Berkeley County.”
In her two years in office, Mauck said she has been thanked for “asking the hard questions,” and intends to continue to do so if re-elected.
A lifelong resident of Berkeley County, Barney said he loves the county.
Barney teaches civics and leadership classes at Hedgesville High School, where he has taught for 10 years.
“I feel like people who run for office (often) have an agenda,” Barney said. “I don’t have any agenda. I want to make it better. I want to work with people and try to make it better and hopefully engage people in the process.”
Barnhart said he’s been asked for 10 years by various people, including elected officials and citizens, to run for council, and refers to his campaign slogan, “Build a Better Berkeley,” when he talks about what he intends to adhere to if elected.
“I think my experience in county government is applicable to being a county council member,” said Barnhart, who retired after 39 years with the Berkeley County Health Department. “I’m honest and I’m reputable, and I think I’ll do a good job.”
Barnhart said the county’s budget and finances need to be prioritized, and the rising cost to incarcerate people in regional jail looms as the county’s most pressing issue as property assessments have declined.
“I want to insure that the priorities go to those agencies that directly impact the citizens — health department, (recreation) board, animal control, planning and zoning, those kinds of things,” Barnhart said.
Barnhart said he also would push for increased efficiency in government, looking at consolidating the bills for fire and EMS fees as well as working with the sheriff and assessor to tackle out-of-state tax collection and assessment challenges, particularly involving personal property.
Barney said the biggest challenge the county faces is maintaining a high level of services for the county’s growing population when commercial and agricultural growth has not kept pace.
Barney said he feels most strongly about the county’s financial well-being, and questioned a recent decision to hire four people this year, saying it “doesn’t stack up” with him.
“When the value of your home is decreasing ... your taxes should be a little bit less, but instead, in the last two cycles, they’ve been a little bit higher,” Barney said.
Barney said his spending priorities would be continuing to look at capital improvements such as the new public safety building and looking at consolidating county government operations.
Mauck said she feels the county’s most pressing issue is the increasing cost to incarcerate people in regional jail, and said she would work with state lawmakers to get sentencing guidelines, particularly for nonviolent offenders, “under control.”
“If we could assign them to the Day Report Center or home detention, it would sure help because that way, they would be paying the fees instead of the public paying,” Mauck said.
Mauck said the needs of the other elected officials need to be met, but said she also would focus on upgrading 911 central dispatch and establishing a larger public health department facility to handle the county’s growing population and replace the current facility, which was built in the 1980s.
“That’s a real crying need,” Mauck said.