Jeff Molenda is running for the At-Large position on the Martinsburg City Council. Jeff is one of six candidates for the two At-Large positions, currently being held by Gregg Watchel and Donald “Don” Anderson. The municipal elections for Martinsburg will be held on June 14th. Miburg contacted each of the candidates running for office and sent them the following questions:
What motivates you to run for office, and specifically for this position?
I am running for Martinsburg City Council (At-Large) because I think I can help this city meet the serious challenges it faces, as well as building for the future, based on its strengths and advantages. I have worked as a trial lawyer in many different settings in West Virginia since 1993 and that work has always been accompanied by an effort to be of service to the community outside of my employment. It has taken different forms, such as serving on my church board, and serving as the church teen group leader, as well as serving on the boards of local, state-wide and regional non-profit organizations.
What is the biggest issue facing the Martinsburg City Council today?
When I came to Martinsburg in 2009, I found a city with a very interesting history and terrific people, who were struggling with the recent economic downturn, as well as the longer term loss of the city’s manufacturing economy, which had taken place over the course of several decades. The city seemed to be in a state of entropy—a slow decline away from stability.
Since 2009, I have seen the City leadership trying to cope with an economy, and a social and political environment, that demands change, adaptability and creativity, by doing the same things it has always done, and hoping things get better.
Two things illustrate where we are today: On the negative side, Martinsburg, the Eastern Panhandle and the region face a very serious drug problem. The City’s administration has responded has by trying to block the County’s efforts to establish a drug treatment facility, but won’t meet with the County to make positive efforts to solve the problem.
On the positive side, Procter & Gamble is building a huge new manufacturing plant in Berkeley County, and the city needs to take affirmative action to make sure it benefits from that great good news as much as the surrounding area will.
In regard to the drug problem, I want to help Martinsburg take the lead in working with law enforcement at the city, county and state levels, as well as working with the surrounding counties in West Virginia, local health care, including WVUH East, as well as the local and state health departments and anyone else who will help, to develop a comprehensive plan to deal with the issue. We can’t arrest our way out of the problem, we can’t just do a rehab facility, and getting into an expensive, lengthy lawsuit between the city and county, which is where it looks like we are heading now, absolutely is not the answer.
What does community mean to you?
When I think of community, I think of caring-for each other, and for this place where we live. We don’t have to agree about everything, and differences of opinion are certainly healthy. As long as we care, and act on our caring, we are a community.
How can the Martinsburg City Council promote a healthy and sustainable community?
An active, engaged city council, working within the city, and in a wider collaborative coalition with other private and governmental agencies to solve problems, and meet new challenges in the areas of health, educating our children, and making an economy with good jobs, is the promotion of a healthy and sustainable community.
What is your vision for the future of West Virginia?
I have great concern for the future of West Virginia. In many ways, the state is doing what the city is doing; trying to solve new problems with tools that are inadequate, or outdated. The most recent legislative session makes me think that the state is going to get into a much deeper hole before it starts to improve, unless people retire the leadership to face the problems, and devise new solutions. It is my firm belief, that the cities in West Virginia, like Martinsburg, are going to lead in problem-solving and the state may be able to follow.
What do you want people to know about you?
I have just started my own mediation and collaborative law practice. I’m excited by the new possibilities in that endeavor, and I am just as excited about the possibility to be able to help lead Martinsburg to new solutions as it moves forward.