Mason Prepares for December ’16 Retirement
Long-time commissioner Donald Mason will bid farewell to his elected seat on Dec. 31, 2016. His final day will finish up 18 years as a county official.
When asked why he has decided to not run for re-election, Mason said the decision, made a year and a half ago, stems from wanting to see what retirement is like.
“I want to travel with my wife, Nettie,” Mason said. “Commission is a full-time job. You have to be in the courthouse everyday. It’s a 24/7 job.”
Before serving on the Wetzel County Commission, Mason worked for PPG for 15 years in the research department and for Columbia Cement Company. Mason returned to New Martinsville from Massilon, Ohio and went into the retail business with friend Sam Winer. Mason operated a clothing store until 1999.”
Mason served in public office for four years as the mayor of New Martinsville, beginning in 1989, but adds that being a public official and in retail business didn’t mix very well. Therefore, he decided not to run again. However, Mason was approached by residents who encouraged him to run for county commission in 1998. Mason was approached by residents who encouraged him to run for county commission.
The commission has certainly accomplished quite a bit in the past 18 years. Mason said the most important endeavor taken on by the commission was probably when an ordinance was issued to implement the Enhanced 911 service. Mason said surprisingly the commission was met with some resistance regarding the ordinance due to the $2.95 per month fee on each residences telephone bill. However, It’s been very beneficial, Mason said of the E-911 system.
Mason noted another highlight of his time with the commission would be the new Mollohan building at Wetzel County’s 4-H grounds.
“When I first became commissioner, Wetzel County was a distressed county,” Mason said. “Fortunately, I think since 2008-2009, due to Marcellus Shale exploration and taxes from that, we are now able to provide a lot more services to the county.”
Mason said some residents take exception to the fact the county commission has not funded Wetzel County’s municipal governments with funds they need to operate the municipalities.
“The disposition of the county commission is we feel we have this money coming in, and those people living in the municipalities are living in Wetzel County. We do anything to help, within reason. Our attitude is to address those things which we think will be beneficial for all citizens of the county. Fortunately, with revenue coming in we can help a lot of food pantries. There are about five or six of those we fund.”
Mason explained that the county was also able to build up a rainy-day fund to the max. “We are well prepared if there are any disaster situations in the county.”
This past year, the commission has undertaken two major projects, one of which included substantial improvements to the Wetzel County Courthouse. Mason said the courthouse is currently undergoing an electrical upgrade and installation of central air and heating, along with a new sprinkler system.
Additionally, the commission has also agreed to install three new cabins out at the 4-H grounds. Mason said the former 4-H cabins were in poor condition, with floors caving in and deteriorating windows. Mason noted the commission decided it would be more cost effective to put into place three new cabins.
Mason said he’s sometimes disappointed when individuals requested “impossible things” from the commission, such as road repairs. Mason said the roads are under the jurisdiction of the highway department.
“We’ve helped with bridges,” he said. “We put a new bridge in at Hundred, rehabilitated the Brooklyn Bridge on Main Street, and paved the road out Pine Grove, by the high school. Things like that we are able to do because of Marcellus Shale drilling.”
And in regards to the Brooklyn Bridge . . . Mason noted the situation involving the bridge rehabilitation was likely his “most trying time” as commissioner.
“You have to sympathize with those residents in New Martinsville who had no way to get out of Brooklyn because of the train track,” Mason said. Mason gave credit to state legislators Larry Edgell and Dave Pehtel, along with Governor Earl Ray Tomblin for moving the project to the top of the list of statewide bridge projects.
“People were a little impatient. I can understand it. That was probably my most trying time as a commissioner,” Mason said.
The June 2012 derecheo was also a noteworthy time of Mason’s career as commissioner.
“I credit Ed Sapp and the Office of Emergency Services for their response to the derecheo,” Mason said. “The fire departments and EMS stepped up and supported the Public Service Districts.”
Mason credits the county getting tasks done to the cooperation amongst elected officials, as well as among the commissioners themselves.
“We try to help the people out Wetzel County,” Mason said. “It gives us a common goal. we have our disagreements but work those out. I’ve been very fortunate. I can tell you this, form my experience, the elected officials are very dedicated to the people of Wetzel County.”