By MATTHEW UMSTEAD
9:15 PM EST, March 6, 2013
A Martinsburg attorney who has led efforts to preserve and redevelop the 19th century Baltimore & Ohio Railroad shops in Martinsburg for more than 15 years said it’s time for the next generation to take over the project.
Clarence E. “CEM” Martin III, who has chaired the Berkeley County Roundhouse Authority board since it was created in 1999, said Wednesday his resignation letter to Berkeley County Council President Tony Petrucci was delivered Monday.
Martin’s wife, Judy, who has served with her husband on the Roundhouse Authority for as many years, said separately Wednesday that she, too, had sent a letter of resignation to the county this week.
Martin, 66, said he and his wife are spending more and more time at their second home, away from Martinsburg, and that they also want to travel more.
Petrucci said he was made aware of Martin’s resignation letter and was deeply saddened by it.
“I’m not one bit happy,” Petrucci said of Martin’s resignation letter. “I think losing him now would be a travesty for the board — in my personal opinion.”
While work on the project has been “a labor of love,” Martin also admitted he was kind of “burned out” and had been thinking about stepping down from the board for a couple of years.
“It’s not been an easy project,” said Martin, who headed a committee that was organized to spearhead preservation efforts before state lawmakers created the public corporation to preserve and redevelop the 13.6-acre industrial site.
“I’ve probably been at this for 16 years,” Martin said.
Martin said his resignation is effective immediately, but indicated he was willing to remain available to make sure there is a smooth transition. Both of their three-year terms on the Roundhouse Authority expire in September 2014, according to county council records.
Given the couple’s future plans, Martin said he realized the project deserves more time and attention than he would be able to devote to it.
Judy Martin, who has served as secretary of the board for several years, said their departure comes at a “really good jumping off point” because the Roundhouse Authority has improved its financial standing and is about to begin work on a much needed bathroom project, which will make it attractive for events.
Martin said her husband has been a driving force for the project, but added that “new energy is really vital” and believes the change will be good going forward.
Martin said she and her husband have made a lot good friends in the time they have been part of Roundhouse Authority, recalling past Rail Day celebrations and the Russian ballet fundraiser in 1998.
“We really enjoyed our time that we had on the Authority,” said Judy Martin, who described the couple’s service together on the board as “a team effort.”
Council member Elaine Mauck, who serves as the council’s representative to the Roundhouse Authority, said Martin would be missed.
“We appreciate his service,” Mauck said.
Martin, who was in Charleston, W.Va., for legislative lobbying business, said he is “very, very proud” of the work that has been done to restore the historic B&O shops, which replaced similar structures that were burned during the Civil War.
Martin said he also appreciates the community’s recognition of the need to preserve the site, which is where the first national strike of rail workers began in 1877.
While $8.2 million in grants have been awarded for the project since 1999, architects have estimated millions more are needed for completion.
The Roundhouse Authority has been able to resolve about $400,000 in outstanding debt since the board entered a commercial lease agreement last year to provide storage space at the complex for the West Virginia National Guard.
“Things are in order,” Martin said.
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