David Haarberg 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, specifically for this position?
I’m running for city council because Martinsburg is my home, and I want to help make Martinsburg a better place to live and work. Seeing my interest in this cause, some friends and associates encouraged me to step up to the plate and offer myself as a candidate. I’m running specifically for an at-large council seat because Mr. Anderson had decided to vacate the seat he has held, and I saw it as an opportunity to participate more directly in city government without running specifically against any of our fine sitting councilpersons.
When I moved into the city a few years ago, I made up a list for myself of challenges the city faces and some things I thought that the city could work to improve. At the time, I had no intention of running for office. I just wanted to have a clear idea of what I wanted to advocate as a citizen. I titled the list, “Make Martinsburg Better,” and I know that I was not the first person to think of these things. I shared that list with my councilperson and have addressed some specific items in letters to the mayor and council and during the citizen petition portions of city council meetings. I also addressed some of those issues in my response to the Garner Report survey in 2012. Although considerable progress has been made in broad terms, the items on that list, many of which are reflected on my web site, www.VoteHaarberg.com, remain essentially the same, and they have been the same for years before I moved here. I would like to see more forward momentum.
How does your position help promote healthy and sustainable communities?
The city government provides a framework of rules, taxes, infrastructure and essential basic public services within which the community can either thrive and grow or under which it must labor and struggle. We should be constantly looking for ways to improve those essential city government functions. Innovation and striving for excellence in delivery of city services should be standard operating procedure for city government. It is not enough to just keep the lights on, or do the same things we’ve always done the same way we’ve always done them. We must be responsive to the needs of the residents and businesses in the city and justify what we do based on outcomes and measurable standards of progress. The city government is a customer service organization and needs to behave like one. We can change, and the transformation underway in the Martinsburg Police Department since the recent hiring of a new Chief of Police demonstrates what can be done with vision, planning and initiative.
What does community mean to you?
Community is people helping and relying upon one another for mutual support and friendship, sharing ideas and resources to build and improve their quality of life. I am encouraged to see organizations such as Miburg, What’s Next Berkeley County, the Ward 2 Neighborhood Association, and others, both new and long established, like Main Street Martinsburg, working along similar lines. Solutions will come from the bottom up. We just have to listen to and encourage one another and make it happen.
What would you say is the biggest issue facing your position today?
The biggest long-term issue for Martinsburg is economic development and revitalization. This is at the root of the more immediate and palpable problems we now face, such as the heroin epidemic, prostitution, vacant business and industrial properties, broken families, and poorly maintained housing, especially some rental properties. Economic development can bring the investment needed to restore and reuse our wonderful historic assets and bring hope and opportunity to city residents.
What do you think is one solution to this issue?
The city needs to consistently demonstrate it is willing and able to change, and needs to make being business-friendly a top priority. Wherever paperwork and processing impedes or discourages economic activity, it should be overhauled to be customer-friendly. We’ve seen some of this put in practice recently in making it easier for vendors at events to pay the B&O tax.
What do you want people to know about you?
Please see my biography page on my web site, www.VoteHaarberg.com.
What is your vision for the future of West Virginia?
The Eastern Panhandle is geographically advantaged in proximity to Washington, DC and east coast transportation routes, and the fastest growing part of the state, so one thing we will see is more population, more economic activity, and more Eastern Panhandle influence in Charleston, similar to the way northern Virginia has become a powerhouse of Virginia. Martinsburg is at the heart of this Eastern Panhandle powerhouse, and we need to capitalize on the opportunities this presents.
Although coal extraction has been the single most important industry in the state for generations, the rise of the Eastern Panhandle, which has no coal and traditionally had farms and orchards, will be another sign of the natural gradual decline of coal in importance. Coal is not a renewable resource, and we will not be able to build long-term economic progress by digging deeper mines or removing more mountaintops. We also cannot continue to export our educated youth along with our coal.
If we want a glimpse of our potential distant future, we should look at what we have in our favor as if there were no coal in the ground, because eventually, there won’t be. We have natural beauty, good water sources (if we protect them), good location in the Mid-Atlantic, moderate weather, and some good farm land. New cash crops or truck farming, tourism, technology, and education (University of West Virginia – Martinsburg?) come to mind. The DC suburbs have been moving westward, and I hope we can capture some of that suburban industry and economic development along with the population and residential subdivisions.
You can learn more about David on his website, www.VoteHaarberg.com.