By Angela McGill
On Sept. 20, a meeting was held at the Alderson Community Center to allow to community to address Travis Copenhaver’s position as mayor for the town, and if he will continue to serve after being charged with allegations of child neglect, conspiracy, burglary, and assault. These charges stem from an alleged incident that occurred on June 18 of this year.
According to a criminal complaint filed in Greenbrier County Magistrate Court, Copenhaver and Lloyd “Billy” Lightner of Alderson approached a woman parked in her car before Lightner allegedly opened her car door and “stroked” her arm and the back of her neck. In her statement, she noted that Copenhaver and Lightner were drinking beer. A man who arrived on the property said Lightner was “in his face cussing” while Copenhaver approached him from the other side, making him uncomfortable enough to call 911. The complaint states that when officers with the state police arrived on the property, it was found that Copenhaver and Lightner had allegedly rifled through a variety of personal items in the home. A minor was allegedly present during the incident. A rifle and compound bow found to be missing from the property, but were returned at a later time, and a bed had been urinated in.
Many Alderson residents expressed confusion and concern as to why Copenhaver was still permitted to perform mayoral duties, however, according to Richard Grady Ford, attorney for the Town of Alderson, West Virginia State Code outlines that council doesn’t have the power to remove Copenhaver as mayor.
Ford recited a statement from Copenhaver’s personal attorney, John H. Bryan, which reads, “I am counsel for Travis Lee Copenhaver in regards to the above styled criminal action currently pending in Magistrate Court of Greenbrier County, West Virginia. Accordingly, I have advised him to make no public or private statements to any individual or entity regarding the charges. This is a matter of routine in any pending criminal case. As always, the defendant in a pending criminal case in America is innocent until proven guilty. These are guarantees under the state and federal constitutions. My client absolutely maintains his innocence and is confident that after being provided with his constitutionally required due process, that he will be vindicated of the allegations. While this process takes place, my client will continue to serve as mayor of the town of Alderson as he has done for the past eight and a half years. He has resigned as a municipal judge in the town of Alderson, until such time as the pending charges are resolved.”
Other speakers at the meeting included a variety of residents, some of which mentioned Copenhaver’s previous indictment on criminal charges in connection to a shooting that paralyzed an off-duty police officer in October 2017, and how his actions “shed a bad light” on the community even then.
Ryan Keese took the podium to say, “We’re all tired of the drama, so tired of the drama. We want to go back to being a sleepy quiet little town; this is an embarrassment and black eye on our town.”
Roger Bennett stated, “I would hope that if I was ever in a situation such as the one that current mayor is in, I would have enough respect for the town that I supposedly cared about and step down as mayor, at least until the muddy water cleared. If he’s innocent, that’s the right thing to do. If he’s guilty, it’s definitely the right thing to do.”
“You hold your city employees to the code of conduct, why do you believe you’re above the standards put forth?” asked community member Jennifer Fry. “An elected official has a job to perform 24/7, 365 days a year. We all take pride in being citizens, we are all proud of our wonderful town and community. However, it starts from the top and it comes down. We need someone who is for the people of Alderson, not someone who believes they’re above the standards.”
Copenhaver remains mayor of Alderson and resumed his duties as of Sept. 20. He resigned as municipal judge after the case was filed.