By Sarah Mansheim
Greenbrier County Circuit Judge James Rowe donned his robe extra early Tuesday morning to swear in Lewisburg Mayor John Manchester, and Council members Beverly Johnson and Joseph Lutz, at a special 8 a.m. meeting of the city council, which was publicly billed as an “organizational session.”
The three were re-elected to their positions in last month’s municipal election, and Rowe thanked them each for their service, commending them for their dedication to “administering the public wheel.”
Following the swearing in, council did some quick housekeeping, approving the re-adoption of the rules governing official conduct of council and transactions of council business. These rules reiterated who would do what, and when, at city meetings.
One rule re-adoption approved by council confirmed that Manchester, who serves as both mayor and city administrator of Lewisburg, is to administer the meetings, only voting when there is a tie to be broken. Also, Recorder Shannon Beatty will continue to abstain from voting unless there is a need to break a tie or establish a quorum. Manchester noted that during both of their years in office, he and Beatty have each only voted once during council meetings.
Manchester was then re-approved by council to serve as city administrator. Lewisburg City Council recently approved an ordinance clarifying the role of mayor and city administrator, so that the law now states the city administrator answers to council. Earlier language stated the city administrator answered to the mayor.
This spring, the notion that Manchester was answerable to himself was challenged by Lewisburg citizen Terry Wodder, who called it a conflict of interest in a series of letters to the editor in this newspaper. The adjustment of the language in the ordinance followed Wodder’s objections he made in the press and to the mayor’s office. Wodder told the Mountain Messenger he had filed a complaint with the West Virginia Ethics Commission regarding the matter; however, the Mountain Messenger has been unable to verify that a complaint has been made or any ruling has been handed down by the ethics commission. Manchester was originally elected in 2003. He was re-elected to his third term in June, when he beat challenger Martha Hilton in the mayoral race.
Also during the meeting, a full slate of city officers were approved by council – all have been serving in their capacities and were re-approved for their positions, except Kelly Gwinn, who was newly approved as assistant municipal court judge and municipal court clerk.
The only other change announced at the meeting was that Director of Public Works Mark Carver has left the position to take another job. Beatty said the city will begin seeking a new director soon.