Mayor-elect Damon Tillman has a very important job to do as soon as he picks up that gavel for the first time in July.

By Liz Beavers
lbeavers@newstribune.info
Tribune Managing Editor
Mayor-elect Damon Tillman has a very important job to do as soon as he picks up that gavel for the first time in July.
He needs to slam it back down - hard.
For some time now the Keyser city meetings have been what can best be described as a free-for-all. While the officials at the table try to conduct the business of the city, often bickering with each other, the audience is either abuzz with several individual and often unrelated conversations, or select people in the audience are interrupting the proceedings with questions or comments.
And quite frankly, those comments are often confrontational, argumentative, and disrespectful.
I have covered Keyser City Council on and off (mostly on) for going on 40 years. I’ve seen controversies come and go, and I’ve seen irate citizens stand before them and either insist they help them with a particular problem or accuse them of something they did or didn’t do.
Never, have I ever, seen the absolute hatred and mistrust that has boiled over during this last election.
It came close several years ago, when Randy Amtower first took office as mayor, and a group of citizens, fueled by the keyboard warriors at Eye on Keyser, accused him of several things, from conflicts of interest with his business to harassment of city office employees.
Richard Kerns was covering the council at that time, and we wrote an editorial urging Amtower to take control of the meetings and get the acidic atmosphere calmed down.
As I recall, the format of the meeting was tightened to include shorter time periods for citizens to address the council, and some uniformed officers were even kept on site until the anger died down and those in the audience realized they were not the ones in charge.
Well, unfortunately, it has gotten just as bad, if not worse, in recent months.
Let me be very clear: I do not in any way blame mayor Ed Miller for the current atmosphere at the city meetings. I have a lot of respect for Ed; he was on the council when I first started as a reporter and he has spent much of his life dedicated to helping make the City of Keyser a better place.
I do blame some of the other people on the council who either have done nothing to calm things down or have allowed themselves to be baited into participating in the vicious exchange of insults - either in person or online.
And I especially blame the people in the audience who seem to think they run this city when, in fact, they do not.
Remember the old black and white Frankenstein movies where the torch-wielding mob comes after the monster? Yeah, it’s a lot like that.
And before you start on me, I am not saying we should accept everything that an elected official says or does. We as citizens and I, as a reporter, have a right to question, dig deeper and scrutinize when it is needed.
But delivering those questions and comments in a hateful and arrogant manner does nothing but get both sides fired up and then absolutely nothing gets done.
Believe me, throughout my career of covering the Keyser City Council, Mineral County Board of Education, Mineral County Commission, and occasionally Piedmont, Westernport, Ridgeley and Carpendale, I have had plenty of questions and things that I felt needed further investigation.
But I also have done so respectfully and professionally.
I would ask that the people in the audience do the same so the newly configured mayor and council can get on with the job they were elected to do.
For those of you who have never been to a Board of Education meeting, if you wish to speak to them, you must be signed up at least 15 minutes in advance. You are recognized by the president and given a time limit to speak. Once that time has lapsed, you are done. No more comments, no more questions.
And if the topic you were addressing is not on the agenda for that particular meeting, there is no more discussion at all until it is on the agenda for a future meeting.
I am not saying the Keyser mayor and council should be that strict.
As mayor-elect Tillman said Wednesday, sometimes different opinions help you come up with better decisions. I am one who has always believed in that philosophy. Often times here at the paper I have disagreed with co-workers or even with my boss, but we’ve hashed it out, worked through it, and come up with the best way to attack what ever the problem is.
But through that entire process, we still respect each other.
There has to be a respectful exchange of ideas and opinions with government, as well.
You want to speak during the city meeting? Sign up. If something comes up and you didn’t sign up but still want to speak, at the very least raise your hand and ask to be recognized.
This practice of interrupting, shouting, muttering under your breath and talking amongst each other during the meeting has got to stop.
Mr. Mayor-elect, the patients can no longer be allowed to run the asylum. Use that gavel!