The lede in a recent edition of the Spirit of Jefferson newspaper in Charles Town read as follows: “Is contentious, dysfunctional Washington, D.C.-style politics coming to Jefferson County?”
The short answer is, yes.
The commission is embroiled in a very public dispute over the appointment of a replacement to fill a vacancy on the five-member commission. The county Republican Executive Committee has put forth a list of three candidates.
However, two members of the commission—Jennifer Krouse and Tricia Jackson—object to how the process was conducted, and they believe Commission President Steve Stolipher is trying to push through his choice.
Stolipher has placed the appointment to fill the vacancy on two regularly scheduled commission meetings and two special meetings dating back to September 21st. However, none of the meetings could proceed because Krouse and Jackson did not attend, leaving the remaining two commissioners—Stolipher and Jane Tabb—short of a quorum.
And now there is a legal fight, too.
The Martinsburg Journal and reporter Toni Milbourne reported that the question of whether the county Republican Executive Committee acted appropriately is now before the courts.
Milbourne also reported that Krouse emailed Stolipher asking that the appointment be removed from the meeting agenda until the selection process is resolved. “We need to reach an agreement allowing us to conduct county business while putting aside our differences for the moment,” Krouse wrote.
That has not happened so far.
The inability to conduct regular business is having an impact. The Spirit quoted Jefferson County Administrator Makayla Zonfrilli explaining that the county lost out on a $50,000 grant for courthouse renovations and maintenance because the county was “unable to secure the signatures in time.”
Notably, Stolipher, Krause and Jackson are all Republicans. Tabb was elected as a Republican, but she has changed her registration to Independent. Yes, as the Spirit said, this does sound like Washington-style politics. Just look at what is happening now with the Republicans in the House of Representatives.
I won’t get into who is right or wrong in this dispute. Maybe each side has good points or maybe the players are being obstinate. The voters of Jefferson County can make those decisions at the next election.
But this is not the way government is supposed to work, especially on the local level. City and county politicians typically run for office because they want to serve their communities. Currently the Jefferson County Commission is failing to do that.