As of December 31, 2019 I officially retired from the WV House of Delegates.
Happy New Year… 2019
Dear Friends and Neighbors in North Berkeley County,
As we begin a new legislative session, there is a feeling of optimism in our region and across parts of our state as the economic picture improves. This is a result of our job picture getting better and the revenues that will pick up as a result, but we still have a way to go in some parts of West Virginia.
Changes in Washington allow us to better utilize some of our natural resources with the jobs and taxes they will generate. Over the long term this should allow salaries of our state workers to be more competitive with our neighboring states.
This year I will complete an unprecedented 1/3 of a century in the West Virginia House of Delegates (the only delegate to cross the 30-year threshold, much less 34 years). We have made many changes and improvements in the process during that time. We used to pass legislation on a voice vote and I am proud to have changed our rules so that all bills on passage are recorded votes so there is increased accountability for the public to know how we represent them. I also changed the rules so that instead of only two sponsors on a bill, it be can now have 11, thereby showing greater support for an issue. I have also helped lead the charge for more single delegate districts where the public has a better chance of getting to know their legislators and hold them accountable.
As a conservative, I believe decisions made on a state level are more responsive to the public than those made in Washington. I have an appreciation and confidence in the people, especially when they have the freedom to decide what is best for them and take responsibility for the consequences.
I have enjoyed meeting you and representing you as we continue our two-way communication. Please attend one of my Town Meetings during the first or second Saturdays in January and complete and return a Citizens’ Poll. This keeps me in touch with your views, suggestions and ideas. Our government works best when our citizens are active and involved. Also, be looking for the largest locust tree!
Best wishes for an outstanding 2018!
Delegate John Overington
Legislators from the Quad-State area met in Hagerstown this past summer for the 28 th year this time to discuss, identify and share solutions to regional concerns, especially the drug problems. The opioid crisis along the I-81 Corridor coming from Baltimore to Hagerstown, Martinsburg and other local communities affects us all. Federal, state and local law enforcement officials shared how they are responding to the Hagerstown crack, heroin, meth and fentanyl overdoses and deaths, including the daughter of a DEA agent.
Also covered was tourism and the Hagerstown/Washington County CVB and its regional economic impact and its cultural benefits.
On Saturday, December 16, 2017 Delegate John Overington surprised Michael L. Noll, Apollo Civic Theatre President with Overington’s 19 th “Winners Award”. Noll had just finished singing “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” prior to the start of the play “A Christmas Carol”. He was them making announcements of future Apollo Theatre programs when director Amanda Hartman stopped him and called Overington to the state. Overington them congratulated Noll for decades of volunteer public service.
Through Michael’s leadership the theater has provided entertainment with quality programs to our region. Michael has been active in all aspects of the operations of the theater from the details such as lighting and sound to grant writing to helping acquire costumes and making the sets. He has also been active in organizing youth summer theater programs.
In addition he has been active in other organizations including the Mountain State Apple Harvest Festival, the Berkeley County Youth Fair, the Adam Stephen Foundation, the Inwood Performing Art Company, the West Virginia School of Dance, the Salvation Army, and St. John’s Lutheran Church.
Since being elected to public office, Delegate Overington has established and awarded the Winners Award periodically presenting it to an individual or group that has shown exceptional volunteer effort and community service. Recipients of the award have shown positive leadership and in finding solutions in ways to help people and improve the community.
In the past individuals and groups, including the Veterans Combined Honor Guard, volunteer firefighters, Crimesolvers, musical groups, those helping with litter cleanup, animal welfare, road improvement efforts, community beautification, water protection and food bank organizations have been nominated and awarded the Winners Award. Delegate John Overington welcomes suggestions for future nominations. Past Winner Award Recipients are:
(1985) Nancy Rutherford and the Jefferson County Animal Welfare Society for their efforts over several years in working toward building a shelter and in helping to improve conditions for unwanted and abused animals.
(1986) Pastor Charles Cathcart (Shepherdstown community activist including with the ambulance crew).
(1987) Crimesolvers President Granville Cole and Cpl. Kenny LeMaster for the group’s volunteer effort in making the area a safer place to live.
(1988) Polly Hockensmith, volunteer efforts including litter cleanup, church, 4-H, Homemakers.
(1990) Jim Webber for years of effort to improve Grade Road, keeping traffic counts and accident data, assisting in coordinating meetings with highway officials and focusing on safety.
(1992) Bedington Volunteer Fire Dept. firemen William “Peanut” Markey, Andy Martin and Charles “Sonny” Martin for their heroic effort in trying to save two young children from a burning mobile home.
(1994) Sparky Twealt painted several dozen fire hydrants; volunteered at a nearby hospital as well as at the Marlowe I-81 rest stop.
(1998) Martinsburg Senior Citizens Kitchen Band for providing entertainment to a wide variety of groups; proving cheer, encouragement, enthusiasm and an enjoyable experience to young, the old and those in between; from those in nursing homes, grade schools. They do this with no charge.
(1999) Morris Young Retired Mens Chorus organized 22 years ago and providing entertainment, encouragement, joy and cheer ever since…at the Senior Citizens center, nursing homes and a variety of places in the area. Submitted by those that have seen them in action and enjoyed their music.
(2000) Ronald L. Butts for taking a lead in re-establishing the Soap Box Derby after a 49 year lapse. The highly successful June 10, 2000 downtown Martinsburg event drew several hundred including about 30 participants. Ron spent countless hours pulling the event together and is already working hard on the 2001 event to avoid any more 49 year lapses.
(2002) Rose Caudell for spending a good part of a year planning and preparing for her ALL-PLASTIC Fashion Show, packed the Martinsburg High School Auditorium with 600 people. The audience spent a fun- filled evening viewing Rose’s fourth fashion show that she also wrote, directed, and emceed. This was Rose’s fourth fashion show. Ken Mays, President of the Berkeley Senior Center Board of Director recommended.
(2004) Bill Stubblefield for seeing many local needs and volunteering to put his leadership skills including his Pd.D. in geological oceanography and service as a Rear Admiral with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to work in our area. His volunteer service to the Eastern Panhandle includes President of Berkeley Community Pride; Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Berkeley County Public Service Water District; co-chairman of the Berkeley County Source Water Protection (SWAP) study; Chairman of the Water Advisory Committee to the County Commissioners; represents the county on a bi-state regional water policy committee; serves on the Fund Distribution panel for CFC/United Way for Berkeley and Morgan counties, and is an Elder at First Presbyterian Church in Martinsburg.
(2005) Tom Misiewicz helped with Food Bank Service for our area from 1988 to this last year including serving as Director of Lighthouse Community Food Bank, delivering food to those in need in the area. He has also served as Advisor to the Board, Washington County Food Resources, Inc. and is on the Board of Directors at Mount Hope, Inc. Tom has also served as Prison Chaplain from 1978 - 1997 at MCI, MCTC, Berkeley & Jefferson County Jails, Eastern Regional Jail, as a Director of Emmaus Prison Ministries and as a member of American Jail Association and American Correctional Association.
(2007) Cheryl Rodgers, tireless advocate and volunteer for library services for the northern part of Berkeley County, a regular volunteer for the Berkeley County Historical Society, an active officer and supporter of the Falling Waters Battlefield Association.
(2009) Barry R. Rude who has provided many hours of volunteer service using his professional expertise in architectural and engineering building projects to assist in making the Spring Mills-North Berkeley Library Branch become a reality. He also has been active in promoting and assisting Boy Scouts and in promoting local areas with community identification signs such as the one on Rt. 11 for Marlowe.
(2011) Gary Gimbel has provided leadership and much time in promoting local history through the Berkeley County Historical Society and various publication, journals and newspapers. This includes Civil War activities, especially building on and expanding the impact of the Falling Waters Battlefield Association in North Berkeley and across our region. We see the plaques and markers at Stumpy’s Hollow, along Rt. 11 at the Stonewall Jackson Monument as Gary has generated interest in history and tourism as we celebrate our Civil War Sesquicentennial. Gary has focused on this early battle in the Civil War through programs, lectures and tours.
(2012) Allen Henry for helping with the many infrastructure challenges as Berkeley County has dealt with decades of growth. Allen has stepped up to provide assistance in dealing with these challenges including his help with the Spring Mills library and donating land for the facility, to assisting in getting a traffic signals at the busy intersection of Rt. 11 and 901, to historic preservation with the Falling Waters Battlefield Association to assisting with labor and building materials for schools and local organization improvements.
2017 Biggest Tree Winner
In continuing his tree contest for 2016 for the eighth year in the Eastern Panhandle, Del. John Overington is looking for the biggest Beech tree. As done previously, if the tree you nominate is the largest in Morgan, Berkeley or Jefferson Counties, Overington will donate $500 to you or the charity of your choice.
The deadline to enter is June 30, 2016. Call Del. Overington or Heather Ishman, Education Outreach Specialist at the Eastern Panhandle Conservation District at 304-263-4376 with your entries. Forester Herb Peddicord checks the trees using the criteria of the West Virginia Big Tree Program. Points are determined based on the tree’s circumference at 4.5 feet above ground, total height and crown spread, and the tree with the most points wins the contest. Pictured are Peddicord, Overington and 2015 winners George and Patti Folk next to the Wild Cherry tree.
This past summer I co-hosted with our West Virginia legislators the 26th Quad-State Legislative Conference held in Martinsburg with 20 lawmakers from Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia and Virginia participating The focus was on how we are tied together by I-81 which enhances our attractiveness for economic development. We also discussed the challenges of dealing with the heroin epidemic that limits job opportunities by requiring passing a drug test for most employment.
Topics covered were the scourge of drugs up and down I-81 labeled the “Heroin Highway” as well as rehabilitation efforts and drug courts in Berkeley County. We also discussed economic development and the effort behind bringing Procter and Gamble to Berkeley County and the jobs it will create to our area, benefiting all in the Quad-State region.
We received an update on the planned improvements and status of I-81 and the Potomac River Bridge. The project is expected to take about 2-1/2 years to complete with two lanes each way kept open most of the time. I-81 will also be widened to six lanes from Marlowe to Williamsport.
Last fall in the House of Delegates Chamber at the state Capitol in Charleston, Delegates Gary Howell and John Overington, were recognized by the National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution with the organization’s distinguished Silver Good Citizenship Medal. Created by the society in 1939, the medal is the highest honor it can bestow on private citizens, recognizing outstanding and unusual patriotic achievement and service at the state level.
The Sons of the American Revolution is a historical, educational and patriotic nonprofit organization. It seeks to promote the institutions of American freedom, an appreciation for true patriotism, respect for national symbols and the value of American citizenship in an effort to inspire succeeding generations to promote and defend those freedoms through public service.
“This society works to promote the ideals of good citizenship and respect for our American institutions,” Overington said. “I’m truly honored to accept this award.”
“It was a privilege and honor to be presented this Silver Good Citizenship Award. Our Founding Fathers and the soldiers that fought and died for the freedom and independence that led to this great country should be recognized for the sacrifices they made.”
“We must continue to preserve these same principles and ideals. For over 40 years I am proud to have been a member of the Sons of the American Revolution through my ancestor, Van Swearingen. On the back of the medal it reads ‘Our inspiration is from the past; Our duty is in the present; Our hope is in the future.’ We and future generations have an obligation to fight for these same values.”
On December 7, Del. Overington was one of 97 state legislators to attend the Convention of States (COS) at the home of the Father of our nation, George Washington’s Mount Vernon home. State legislators from 32 states met to start the process for laying the foundation for that cooperation between states, for beginning the process of establishing rules in that process. Delegate Eric Householder also attended this historic meeting and is pictured with Overington.
Since the mid-1980’s Overington has worked for a Balanced Budget Amendment to stop federal runaway spending, including introducing resolutions calling for Article V convention to do this. Our Founders studied governments from around the world, saw the pattern of abuses and centralization of power. They anticipated that the federal government could grow in power beyond its intended constitutional authority and provided the Article V mechanism in reigning in potential abuses.
This COS and Mount Vernon Assembly are part of a growing national effort to provide a process for the states to assert their rightful authority to fix the process as Congress has been unable or unwilling to do. With increasing awareness that Washington, DC government is broken and out of touch with state and local government and the people themselves, a national movement is growing that state governments must assert their proper role returning government to the people, by the people and for the people as our Founding Fathers had envisioned.
A number of states are calling for resolutions to work together to provide a counterbalance to federal intrusion. I suspect our Framers of the Constitution would be surprised that we have gone over 200 years without having to do this before. In 2013 a third of the West Virginia delegates supported HCR 99 calling for a Balanced Budget Amendment through this process.
At the Eastern Panhandle Conservation District Annual Awards Banquet Wednesday, Delegate John Overington announced the winner of the 2013 Tree Contest. Tony and Bobbi Corbin, of Gerrardstown found the largest Tulip Poplar tree, the tree species designated for this year’s contest.
There were two dozen entries that were submitted, including ones from all three Eastern Panhandle counties. Forester Herb Petticord used a scientific criterion to determine the largest tree, the one with the most points. Points are determined based on the tree’s circumference at 4.5 feet above ground, total height and crown spread. The Corbins received the $500 prize and a copy of the poem “Trees” by Joyce Kilmer.
The origin of the contest from Overington’s lifetime interest in trees was due in large part to his grandfather, Fred W. Besley. His maternal grandfather was appointed by President Theodore Roosevelt to help determine whether forestland could be best managed through a state or federal system. His grandfather became Maryland’s first state forester. He served 36 years in that capacity and became the nation’s longest serving state forester.
Overington, who serves on the state legislature’s Forest Management Review Commission, says that he and his wife JoAnn have planted thousands of trees on their farm in the Bedington area. “Trees have a special meaning for me, and I am glad this contest is becoming an annual event.” Overington says he hopes to help increase the public’s appreciation of the benefits of trees. “As humans we use oxygen and give off carbon dioxide, trees and plants do the opposite.”
Previous winners of the contest are Mike Bochinski finding the largest pine tree last year, Diana Suttenfield in 2011 found the largest maple tree in the area which also happened to be the largest Sugar Maple tree in the state. Other past winners include Kaitlyn Price who in 2010 found the area’s largest oak tree, a Chinkapin oak tree that was 20 feet in circumference, and Dan DeSarno who found the largest tree in 2009, a sycamore tree near Ranson.
Overington plans to continue the contest next year with a different species of tree for the 2014 contest.
“(Read this story on The Journals Website)”:http://www.journal-news.net/page/content.detail/id/599832/Largest-Tulip-Poplar-Tree-found-near-Inwood.html
When Diana Suttenfield submitted her nomination for this year’s Big Tree Contest, little did she know it would set a state record for the largest sugar maple.
She just knew it was big and had probably even seen a lot of local history.
Since this year’s hunt was for the largest sugar maple in the three-county area, Suttenfield felt the tree on her mother’s property - located outside of Shepherdstown - might be a good choice.
“Over the years, people were always telling me that I should get it measured. But I didn’t know how to do it. … So it was really happenstance when I saw an article in The Journal about the Big Tree Contest and I called,” Suttenfield said.
“I do like to think about what this tree witnessed over the years, some of the historic events such as the 1775 Beeline March when the soldiers met at Morgan Springs to march to Boston to meet up with George Washington for the Revolutionary War. … I really do feel very patriotic about it,” she said.
Despite competition from about 30 other entries, Suttenfield’s sugar maple submission won this annual event sponsored by Delegate John Overington, R-Berkeley, and it was announced at last month’s Eastern Panhandle Conservation District Awards banquet.
At that time, Overington presented her with a $500 check and a copy of Joyce Kilmer’s poem “Trees” - just as he has done for the two other individuals who’ve won since he organized the contest in 2009.
Charles Town resident Dan DeSarno won for a sycamore tree outside Ranson in 2009, and Kaitlyn Price was the winner last year for a Chinkapin oak growing along Shepherd Grade Road.
“I think this contest is wonderful because I think it really does get people thinking about trees,” Suttenfield said.
Herb Peddicord, the state Division of Forestry Chesapeake Bay Watershed forester who helps with the contest, said there’s no doubt this is now the state’s largest sugar maple.
As a result, it will be entered in the state’s database of the largest trees, which now includes 91 species, Peddicord said, adding that the sugar maple is the state tree.
All 50 states have Big Tree Programs, and there also is a National Register of Big Trees, he said.
“This one moved up to the top of the list. … It has already been turned in to the state,” Peddicord said.
No stranger to forestry, Overington originally started the contest in recognition of his grandfather, Fred W. Besley, who was Maryland’s first state forester. Besley started the Maryland Big Tree Contest in 1924 and helped take it nationally in 1940 - an effort that evolved into the National Registry of Big Trees, Overington said.
Overington said he plans to continue this contest next year when folks will be asked to help locate the area’s largest evergreen/pine tree.
“We’re hoping there will be good participation again because this is fairly recognizable for most folks. So we’d like for them to get started looking now,” Overington said.
“(Read this story on The Journals Website)”:http://www.journal-news.net/page/content.detail/id/570357/One-large-tree.html
Delegate John Overington presented his 15th “Winners Award” to Barry R. Rude at the Spring Mills North Berkeley Library on December 3, 2009. The award is given to a person or group committed to helping others, who gives time and energy to make the community a better place. Barry was nominated by Cheryl Rodgers.
“Barry has provided many hours of volunteer service using his professional expertise in architectural and engineering building projects to assist in making the Spring Mills-North Berkeley Library Branch become a reality. I am convinced that without his assistance we would not be standing here in this library filled with books, computers and staffed five days a week,” Overington stated.
“We are indebted to Barry’s spirit of community service that has helped make this happen. That dedication is what this Winners Award is based on: seeing a solution as a way to overcome a problem for the benefit of all.”
Barry has also been active in assisting Boy Scouts and in promoting local areas with community identification signs such as the one on Rt. 11 for Marlowe. He and his son were instrumental in getting the welcome sign installed and assisted with signs in other communities as well.
Barry and his wife Susie live in Falling Waters. He epitomizes the motto of “Good, Better, Best, Never let it rest, ‘Till your good gets better and your better gets best!’” .
Since being elected to public office, Delegate Overington has established and awarded the Winners Award every year or two to an individual or group that has shown exceptional volunteer effort and community service. Winners show positive leadership in dealing with problems. They find solutions in ways to help people and improve the community.
In the past individuals and groups including volunteer firefighters, Crimesolvers, musical groups, those helping with litter cleanup, animal welfare, road improvement efforts, community beautification, water protection and food bank organizations have been nominated and awarded the Winners Award.
The last Winners Award was presented in 2007 to Cheryl Rodgers, tireless advocate and volunteer for library services for the northern part of Berkeley County, a regular volunteer for the Berkeley County Historical Society, and an active officer and supporter of the Falling Waters Battlefield Association.
With the enthusiasm generated last year in finding the Eastern Panhandle’s largest tree, Del. John Overington announced he is continuing the contest. For 2010 he is looking for the largest oak tree in Morgan, Berkeley and Jefferson Counties as a way to encourage the identification of different species of trees. Similar to last year he will donate $500 to the person or landowner who can find the area’s largest oak tree measured by its height and its diameter a few feet off the ground. The winner will also receive a copy of the poem “Trees” by Joyce Kilmer.
In last year’s contest 56 people submitted over 60 entries in seeking to find the largest tree in the Eastern Panhandle including Dan DeSarno who submitted the winning entry, a huge sycamore tree outside of Ranson, that was over 20 feet in circumference.
Conservation District Education Outreach Specialist Sara Wuertenberg (contact her 304-263-4376 x116 with your entry) and Forester Herb Peddicord will again assist in compiling and evaluating the entries. Submit your entry by June 15, 2010 with the circumference of the tree at 4 feet above the ground and estimate the height.
Over the years Del. Overington and his wife JoAnn have planted thousands of trees. His grandfather Fred W. Besley was Maryland’s first state forester. He served in that capacity for 36 years (1906-1942) becoming the nation’s longest serving state forester, launching the Maryland Big Tree Contest.
A total of 78 persons submitted 82 entries in my Second Annual Tree Contest to find the largest oak tree in the Eastern Panhandle. My thanks to Sara Wuertenberg and Herb Peddicord for their assistance.
Kaitlyn Price from Hedgesville was the winner who received the $500 check. This Shepherd University senior found the tree in the Shepherdstown area off Shepherd Grade Road. Next year’s contest will focus on finding the largest maple tree in Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan counties. You can start looking now….
New light, turn lanes planned in Bedington
October 17, 2010 - By Misty Higgins / Special to The Journal
MARTINSBURG - As one of the fastest growing areas in the state, Berkeley County has the challenge of keeping up with infrastructure needs, including road issues.
Delegate John Overington, R-Berkeley, said Bedington Crossroads is one of those troublesome areas plagued by high traffic volume, accidents and close calls, and it is slated for an upgrade early next year.
Left-turn lanes and a traffic light are part of the plan for the area of U.S. 11 at its intersection with Bedington and Nipetown roads.
Construction is set to begin early next year, Overington said. An e-mail communication forwarded by Overington from Marvin Murphy, state engineer with the Department of Transportation, stated that it is estimated that the project will be advertised by the end of this month for the 2011 federal fiscal year.
“This is an active project, and we don’t see any reason for it to not move forward,” the statement read.
Brent Walker, Division of Highways spokesman, said the project he describes as intersection improvements should begin as scheduled in late December or early January and be completed by June 2011.
“There are no signs that it won’t,” he added.
According to Overington, he has been contacted by many of his constituents who pass through the area and are concerned about safety issues. He noted that growth in terms of new housing developments has increased traffic through the area.
“The biggest problem is in the morning and evening with people meeting at that intersection. People take more risk there than they should,” he said. “There has been a number of accidents there, and the number is increasing. The issue has come up time and time again.”
Kim Barrett, an employee of the Bedington Crossroads store, lives just down the road from the intersection and said it is always difficult to get out onto U.S. 11, especially during peak traffic times.
“That would be really good if they put a light there,” Barrett said.
Joann Sowers, 50, has lived in the area between Bedington Crossroads and Berkeley Station all her life. She travels through U.S. 11 at Bedington and Nipetown roads quite often and describes the traffic situation as “treacherous.”
“You just got to have patience,” she said of attempting a left turn from one of the cross roads onto U.S. 11. “You have to wait your turn and sometimes people take your turn.”
Overington said the planned upgrades have come as a result of citizens who demand change.
“Citizen involvement in their government makes a difference as it has with getting the bridge over Opequon Creek on Scrabble Road or the curve on Grade Road and Nestle Quarry Road upgraded.”
Other road projects that Overington is hoping the highway department will look at include the Grade Road intersection on U.S. 11 as well as at Broad Lane, in Marlowe. He said growth in the area continues at a lesser degree but still presents many challenges.
“I will be keeping on the highway department so there is no further delay with the Bedington Crossroads project. Once we are at the point where it is irreversible, I will put my attention to the Marlowe area. I can see from traffic counts this area has needs for upgrades in infrastructure and highways.”
“(Read this story on The Journals Website)”:http://www.journal-news.net/page/content.detail/id/550009/New-light–turn-lanes-planned-in-Bedington.html?nav=5006
Eastern Panhandle Census Data and Redistricting.
“Click Here(Eastern Panhandle Census Data and Redistricting)”:http://www.overington.com/downloads/pdf/BerkeleyCountyPopulationGrowth-U.S.CensusData.pdf to View or Download this Document.
Berkeley County was once again West Virginia’s fastest growing county growing by 37.2% over the last decade according to official U.S. Census data. Attached are also charts on our state’s legislative districts changes - Congressional, State Senate and Delegate districts.
“Largest Counties and Cities Changes(Largest Counties & Cities Changes)”:http://www.overington.com/downloads/pdf/2010cCensusLargestCounties&Citieschanges.pdf “Congressional Change(Congressional Change)”:http://www.overington.com/downloads/pdf/2010cCongressionalChangePDF.pdf “County Population Changes(County Population Changes)”:http://www.overington.com/downloads/pdf/2010cCountyPopulationChangesPDF.pdf “House District Changes(House District Changes)”:http://www.overington.com/downloads/pdf/2010cHouseDistrictChangesPDF.pdf “Senate District Changes(Senate District Changes)”:http://www.overington.com/downloads/pdf/2010cSenateDistrictChanges.pdf
The day before Thanksgiving, the final judgment on redistricting came down from the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia.
The score was Political Class, 1; people of West Virginia, 0.
The court had played politics, protecting the political insiders and elite by a 4-to-1 margin in a decision that will put the public at a disadvantage for the next decade.
Redistricting started out with lofty goals and a fair process with the interests of the people to be paramount. Committee Chairman Brent Boggs, D-Braxton, espoused a process that would come from the local level up, from the counties to Charleston - not Charleston dictating down to the rest of the state.
As someone who had gone through two previous redistricting sessions, I was truly encouraged by this commitment.
However, the first ominous sign occurred when Speaker of the House Rick Thompson, D-Wayne, appointed only four of the designated 10 Republicans that the minority leader had selected.
Instead Thompson chose the other six Republican members himself.
Republicans, making up 35 members of the 100-member House, were entitled to pick at least 10 members of the 30-member redistricting committee.
As far back as I can remember, Republicans always selected their members on committees, as Democrats selected their members.
This is true whether it is state legislatures or in the U.S. Congress. Each side chooses their strongest team to represent them.
But Thompson, in selecting the other six Republican delegates to be on the committee, did not allow the Republicans to choose their own team.
Can you imagine the outcry that would occur if the Pitt Panthers were able to select who could play on the WVU team in the Backyard Brawl?
But this is exactly what Thompson did. With this unprecedented abuse of power, Democrats showed that their commitment to fairness and the public interest was not a priority in the redistricting process.
Next came the pressure to avoid single-delegate districts. The state Chamber of Commerce reported that over three-fifths of the legislators support this good representation tool to give voters more accountability.
The chamber’s 2010 legislative candidate questionnaire stated and then asked: “Research suggests elections would be cheaper and issues explained in more depth if citizens had a legislator who was simply responsible to the voters in his/her district. Do you support single member legislative districts in West Virginia?”
Over 60 percent responded with “Yes.”
Imagine the partisan political pressure on members to have them not honor their written commitment, especially when a plan with 100 single-delegate districts was proposed, including offering to amend the plan if boundaries for the 100 individual districts needed to be adjusted.
Offers to break up several multi-member districts were also rejected.
It will be interesting to see if the chamber and other groups endorse and fund candidates who did not honor their commitment.
A broad cross-section of groups had endorsed the concept of greater accountability and participation through single-delegate districts - from the Farm Bureau, which was also concerned about loss of rural representation, to business groups, pro-family groups, taxpayers and everyday citizens.
At the one public hearing held on the issue, none of the citizens and interested voters testifying spoke against the single-delegate districts. All favored it.
Then came the slicing and dicing of counties and precincts, communities and towns to provide political benefits to the Democrats in power.
Accountability was lost or weakened when communities of interest were split up to avoid incumbents from having to run against each other; or when incumbents schemed to keep potential future opponents out of their districts; or when districts were strung out without any geographical continuity.
My sorrow on Thanksgiving Day was for the people of West Virginia. Lincoln’s statement of government “of the people, by the people and for the people” had instead become Democratic government of, by and for the politicians.
Three petitions challenging the House redistricting plan were filed before the Supreme Court.
The House of Delegates plan is so badly gerrymandered that in many areas it resembles an abstract work of art (e.g. Districts 64 and 65).
The House leadership behind it, Thompson, Boggs and Vice Chairman Mike Caputo, should have hoped their plan would be rejected. Now this monstrosity is their legacy for the next 10 years.
When voters ask how could this have happened, and why some districts look like a Rorschach inkblot test, the answer will be:
It was their baby, Thompson/Boggs/Caputo’s legacy - solidly on their shoulders, a legacy of arrogance, of self-serving politics.
I suspect there will be snake oil salesmen trying to defend the product or saying that if the Republicans were in power they would be doing the same thing.
However, on the Republican side many of us have advocated redistricting being done by an independent board that does not know where incumbents live. This is represented by our own House Bill 2833, similar to what is done in Iowa, where the people are put ahead of the politicians.
The focus would be geographical continuity, keeping communities together for the benefit of 1.8 million West Virginians, not for the self-serving agenda of incumbent legislators.
But ultimately, the people will have their say on whether government is really of, for and by the politicians or its 1.8 million people on Nov. 6, 2012.
Thanksgiving Day is a day of personal thanksgiving for good friends, food and our many blessings. This year it was also a sad day for West Virginia.
With 27 years of service, Overington, a Republican from Berkeley County, is the longest-serving member of the House of Delegates.
“(Read this story on the Charleston Daily Mail Website)”:http://www.dailymail.com/Opinion/Commentary/201112050134