Voting Them Out...

Wood County voters have often had their own version of "term limits".

In my more than 30 years at WTAP, I have seen several instances where local voters have voted out incumbent office holders.  And sometimes, they haven't waited until the general election.

That might be a bit of perspective, with the local primary coming up.

In 1981, at the end of the first term of often-controversial Parkersburg Mayor Al Smith, city voters defeated him not in the election that year, but in the city primary, which then was held only two months earlier.  Many of the incumbent members of Parkersburg City Council, a couple of whom had been in office for more than one term, also were defeated in that primary.

Smith's successor, Pat Pappas, often battled with city council in her one term in office, and decided not to run for re-election in 1985. (One factor in that decision might have come in late 1984, when the crowd booed her when she was introduced at a rally for then-President Ronald Reagan during his re-election campaign.)

The whims of local voters, however, have been more noticeable when it comes to the West Virginia Legislature.

In 1982, then-delegate Keith Burdette was the choice of voters over State Senator Frank Deem, who then was the Republican leader in the Senate. They did an about-face in 1994, when Deem defeated Burdette to get his old job back.  Burdette, at that time, was Senate President (his successor in that post was Earl Ray Tomblin, who served as Senate President until succeeding Joe Manchin as governor two years ago.) Deem was defeated-again in the primary-by Vienna Mayor David Nohe in 2010.

Wood County at one time also had the Speaker of the House of Delegates (Joe Albright, defeated for re-election in 1986) and the House Finance Chairman (George Farley, defeated in his 1990 re-election bid).

This year, the ballot includes as candidates for re-election Parkersburg Mayor Bob Newell, who has been the target of endless criticism over-among other things-the city's establishment of a user fee, and Wood County Sheriff Jeff Sandy, who a former deputy tried to remove from office last year.  A three-judge panel ruled against that petition, but one of the judges harshly criticized the sheriff, citing some of the allegations made in the removal effort.

All this, to the outsider, might indicate things are not well in the Mid-Ohio Valley. That isn't really true. New busiiness has come to downtown Parkersburg and other parts of the city for the first time in years (in spite of the recession and the slow recovery), and Wood County is mentioned as one of the safest counties in West Virginia.

But the recent past indicates that doesn't always mean the incumbents will stay in office this year. Unlike in state and national races, there are no reliable polls to indicate whether they're in trouble, but no one is likely to bet against the fact that Wood County voters might pull off a surprise this year.

In May rather than in November.





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