KEYSER - Mayor Damon Tillman has admitted there were “some missteps” when he first took office in July, but says he did what he thought was best for the City of Keyser.

By Liz Beavers
lbeavers@newstribune.info
Tribune Managing Editor
KEYSER - Mayor Damon Tillman has admitted there were “some missteps” when he first took office in July, but says he did what he thought was best for the City of Keyser.
Since Tillman was elected in June and even before he took office two weeks later, rumors circulated about some tasks being handled improperly, especially in the hiring of a new dispatcher for the police department and the appointment of the new chief of police.
Following an executive session during the Aug. 8 council meeting, council member Terry Liller said part of the reason the closed-door meeting was called was “to address some things which Damon graciously admitted” had not been done properly.
In a recent sit-down interview with the News Tribune, Tillman said not only was he under extreme pressure to get people in place in the police department as quickly as possible due to the  retirement of chief Karen Shoemaker and long-time dispatcher Tom Roy, but he also went into the situation with the thinking that much of the process was handled by the police department.
“In the past, they had said the police department does their own thing with hiring,” Tillman said, adding that he did approve a raise for the dispatchers  because it has been difficult to keep them at the previously lower wage.
He addressed the accusation that he had “hired” a dispatcher before he even took office.
“Did I hire her? No. But I did ask her if she was interested in coming to the city. I wanted my ducks in a row,” he said.
“Did we hire anyone illegally? Absolutely not,” he said.
Tillman added that, had the city not been able to get a dispatcher on board quickly, they probably would have had to consider at least temporarily turning the dispatching duties over to Mineral County 911.
He also asked retired DEA officer Tom Golden early on if he would be interested in becoming the chief, and once Tillman took office, Golden was appointed by the council, without an agreed-upon salary ever being mentioned.
“It did seem odd to me that none of the council asked what his salary would be,” city administrator Buck Eagle said.
“I believe it’s in the codified ordinances that the mayor can set salaries,” long-time streets supervisor Jim Hannas said, noting that the Water Board and Sanitary Board can set salaries for the water and sewer departments.
According to Tillman, the new chief’s salary is less than the previous chief’s pay.
Tillman says the issues have helped him to learn - the hard way.
“I really thought I’d come in and do whatever I wanted to do, and I did. But I know now you’ve got to go though council,” Tillman said.
Eagle says most of the issues have arisen because there are so many new people trying to figure out the proper way of doing things.
“We’ll get there, but most of us are still trying to figure out what’s going on,” he said. “It’s been a very steep learning curve.
“But every day there’s a little light that keeps getting brighter,” he said.
The next council meeting is 6 p.m. Wednesday.