Three candidates for office in the March 29 Upshur County Republican primary spoke to a meeting of the Cherokee Rose Republican Women Tuesday at the Old Brick Creamery.
They were Larry Webb, running for sheriff; Frank Berka, candidate for Pct. 3 county commissioner; and Cynthia Ridgeway, running for county GOP chairman.
Webb told the 13 others present that citizens tell him, “I ask for help (from the current Sheriff’s Office). . .(but) all I get is the pass-around or I don’t get my questions answered.”
If elected, he said, he would visit citizens in their homes if they don’t want to come to his office. And “if you call, you won’t hear that we have no units available. . .We’re coming” at some point.
Webb, who is among four candidates in his race, also said the current Sheriff’s Office has to call in other agencies to investigate major crimes, such as murders. He said he assumed that was “because they (the current office) don’t have people trained to do that, I imagine.”
Calling in outside entities to investigate such matters will eventually catch up with an agency, Webb maintained.
Concerning another matter, deputy sheriffs’ pay, Webb said he believed “it is fair” for the “services they’re doing.” He said people don’t get into law enforcement for money, and that he did so to “serve and protect.”
He said compensation time is sometimes abused, and that he proposed a cap on how much a deputy could accrue.
Webb opposes incumbent Anthony Betterton, who is seeking reelection; Donald Willeford; and Greg Mandreger in the May primary.
Berka said a false rumor was circulating that, if elected, he planned to remove the retirement account and medical benefits for county workers.
He said Upshur County employees must now put seven percent of their pay into their retirement account, although the state only requires four. Berka said employees should be allowed to choose to put in only four percent if they wish, and spend the other three percent “on gas and food if they need to.”
After the meeting, he said he favored allowing employees the option of continuing a seven percent contribution, as well.
Berka also told the women’s group that two county employees have told him that Longview hospitals said the employees must “pay up front because Upshur County doesn’t pay their bills.”
He said he was obtaining free legal help for county workers whose medical bills were turned over to a collection agency.
Berka also said that working on animal control is part of his platform.
He opposes incumbent Lloyd Crabtree, who is seeking reelection.
Mrs. Ridgeway was introduced by Upshur County Conservative Coalition Chairman Wayne Arnold, who endorsed her for the position.
“If you read the newspaper. . . (you see that) integrity, honesty and trust does not exist in all Republican leadership” in the county, Mrs. Ridgeway said.
“Our money’s been misused,” she said, referring to Upshur GOP funds. “Some candidates have received special favors.”
“I’ve given the voters a choice and a voice,” she maintained. “I will treat each citizen with equal respect. . . I will be available to you as county chair,” pledged Mrs. Ridgeway, who said this is her first run for office.
She also said she has been told that she comes across as “not really very strong,” but that isn’t true.
Although Ken Ambrose, who is seeking reelection, is county chairman, Mrs. Ridgeway said she had been “acting county chairman” for more than a year and was given that title by the county GOP Executive Committee.
(Mrs. Ridgeway and her supporters hold separate quarterly committee meetings from Ambrose and his supporters because the two sides cannot agree on who is supposed to call the meetings. Neither side recognizes the other’s meetings as legitimate, and he does not recognize her as the county GOP’s elected vice chairman, as several committee members do.)
“I’ve given every candidate a fair opportunity to campaign at our party functions,” Mrs. Ridgeway told the Cherokee Rose group, of which she is a member. Besides her and Ambrose, Chuck Mears is also running for county chairman.
Said Cherokee Rose President Nancy Miller, “We’re trying to put people into office that will hear our issues and handle them properly.”