From the Editor's Desk: Don't judge a person by their mistakes

Staff Writer
Mineral Daily News-Tribune
Liz Beavers

By Liz Beavers

Tribune Managing Editor

Sometimes in this job I find myself having to write stories I don’t necessarily want to write about people I’ve known for a long time, or have respected for what they’ve done, but suddenly they find themselves on the wrong side of the law.

Some of the cases have involved good friends and it has been quite painful for me to report on the events that have turned their lives upside down.

Sometimes I get accused of being biased because I am writing things that those people and their friends and family don’t think I should be reporting. Or they don’t think I’m telling “the whole story.”

I told a member of a council I was covering one time several years ago that when I was reporting on the accusations that he was making against his fellow elected officials, he thought I was the best reporter in the world. But when the tides started turning and fingers were starting to point towards him, I was the most one-sided, terrible reporter he’d ever seen.

It’s all part of the job that has kept me going for the past almost 40 years.

With the latest incident - the embezzlement conviction of William Zacot and his apparent ouster from the Keyser City Council - it is no different.

Although I knew of Billy for years through the Keyser Fire Department and youth league sports, I really wasn’t around him all that much until he was elected to the council and lit a fire (pun intended) under the city’s Parks and Recreation Department.

There is no question about it, he and his volunteers have been good for the children and youths of Keyser. I agree wholeheartedly with Shawn Snyder and Cathy Bridges who spoke during Wednesday’s Keyser City Council meeting about his good work and dedication to the children of the community.

When Billy took over Parks and Recreation and also started sponsoring events through Faith Productions, there was a definite spike in energy and enthusiasm among the young people and young families in the community. Jennifer Junkins had previously worked hard at keeping the city’s parks open and up to par, but Billy had the backing of his friends … friends who stepped up and helped him get things done, and friends who have continued to support  him through his court ordeal.

My husband told me once, if you’re someone’s friend, you’ll be their friend even when they make a mistake.

Snyder said Zacot made a mistake. It may not have been an “oops” mistake, but it was certainly a mistake in judgement.

We all make mistakes.

Unfortunately, this particular mistake has been a costly one. He has lost a position he worked hard to attain and now the children of the community will suffer because of it.

Please don’t misconstrue these thoughts as my condoning his actions. What he did was wrong and I believe he knows that. And although I have not personally heard him admit guilt, based on some comments I’ve seen him make on social media, he is owning up to his actions and has learned from his mistake.

I like BIlly. I really do. Since he took office I have had some conversations with him about youth activities and other things and I truly respect his dedication to the children of Keyser.

And I might add, even when his friends and family were roasting me on social media for writing about the court case, Billy has been nothing but professional with me and has even told me he understands I am just doing my job.

That is what social media calls “adulting,” folks.

Perhaps Jennifer Junkins’ suggestion of keeping him on the volunteer Parks and Recreation Committee is not a bad idea. While he does his time, so to speak, he can also continue to do what he does best - support the children of the community.

Perhaps something good can still come out of this horrible mess.

Liz Beavers is managing editor of the Mineral Daily News Tribune and can be reached at lbeavers@newstribune.info