Some time ago, while listening to an argument about metro government, it occurred to me that no two people I ever met seemed to mean the exact same thing when they used the term. So, we asked several Kanawha County elected officials to write down for us in their own words precisely what they see when they imagine some future metro government in the county.
The first one is Damron Bradshaw, mayor of Chesapeake since 1991. He previously served on the town council and as town recorder. He is executive director of the Upper Kanawha Valley Enterprise Community, pastor of the Racine United Methodist Church and worked for 32 years at Dupont. Chesapeake has about 1,600 residents. It was incorporated on Nov. 1, 1948 and is named for the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway.
How do I see metro government?
By Damron Bradshaw
Mayor of Chesapeake
My vision of metro government in the sense of Charleston-Kanawha County is truly akin to what I saw when I twice visited Louisville, Ky. Being mayor of one of the small towns in the Upper Kanawha Valley, I see a metro government that does not take away the autonomy of the towns. The towns do not change their structured form of government, but besides that have a representative to the new metro government.
If the 190,000 inhabitants of Kanawha Valley are evenly divided by population and each “new district” has representation to the metro government, then I think that there is equal representation. I see a diversity of representatives by race, age and gender coming together for the good of all.Â But, the big thing is, “How will the unincorporated areas perceive metro government as it relates to them?”
I do not want to see the unincorporated areas have a new tax structure that befriends the urban areas without having a basis of better living for their areas.
This will be a slow process.Â Questions to be answered include:
— How might the Sheriff’s Department and the Charleston Police Department merge?
— What becomes of the County Commission?
— What happens to elected officials of the county if the new metro government has to have the same structure and officers?
— Consolidations around services are easy. Look at the merged Housing and Sheriff’s patrol already in smaller towns, the Emergency Dispatch System and Health Departments. How will the Volunteer versus the Paid Fire Departments merge and/or co-exist?
I know that the thought is to merge and then work out the details, and that can be done as long as the representatives have the people at heart. No area will lose its identity, and the reward will be much greater than anything that has to be relinquished.
I see greater opportunities for garbage, public service districts, police, sewers, storm drains, planning, floodplain management, youth programs, recreational facilities, and the metro government will be an example for other areas in West Virginia to follow suit. I see the business community as the leader, as opposed to the political community, for the campaign to merge.
Yet, when the vote is taken, I would like to see a greater percentage than 50 percent-plus to adopt the concept.Â If that does not happen it will be a hard task to complete.