New year to keep Hancock County busy

NEW CUMBERLAND – There’s no rest for a county commissioner.

Every year, the first meeting of the new year serves as a reminder that more is expected of Hancock County commissioners than just county business.

“We’re quite busy sometimes,” Commissioner Jeff Davis said.

Commissioners serve on various other boards and commissions whose meetings and business keep them occupied far beyond their day jobs and county duties.

On Thursday, commissioners approved the annual slate of personnel and committee appointments for Hancock County – some of them required by statute and some part of longstanding tradition. Davis alone serves on 11 such bodies.

“I’ve come to like them all,” Davis said. “If I ever lost interest in a particular board, we have the ability to trade off with other commissioners.”

Davis acknowledged that some appointments require more energy and attention than others. Of the litany of assignments approved on Thursday, Davis said one – SARA Title III (LEPC) – is a bit of a mystery.

“That group never meets, to be honest with you,” he said. “That was handed to me, and I have no idea what it’s about.”

SARA, which stands for Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act, was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan in 1986. It provides for the establishment of Local Emergency Planning Committees which are responsible for informing residents of chemical hazards and accidents in their area.

Other bodies on which Davis serves include: the Brooke-Hancock-Jefferson Metropolitan Planning Commission, the Brooke-Hancock Regional Planning and Development Council, the Business Development Corporation of the Northern Panhandle, the Hancock County office of the West Virginia University Extension Service, the Hancock County 4-H Foundation, the Hancock County Planning Commission, Hancock County Parks & Recreation, the Hancock County Sheltered Workshop, Senior Citizens on Aging, and Kings Creek Watershed.

The latter, Davis said, meets only occasionally.

“It’s not necessarily a monthly meeting, but anything that involves creek bank restoration, I’ve been the commissioner that’s headed that up,” he said.

Even the most perfunctory appointments can take two to three hours of a commissioner’s time each month, Commissioner Dan Greathouse said.

“Anything that affects the county, if we can, we try to be on that board,” Greathouse said.

Not all the appointments involve being a voting board member, Davis said.

“Each one is different,” he said. “Some don’t take any time at all; some take a fair amount of time.”

Greathouse, in addition to being director of the Top of West Virginia Convention and Visitors Bureau, serves on the 911 Advisory Council and the Northern Panhandle Workforce Investment Board. He also is vice chairman of the Brooke-Hancock Regional Planning and Development Council.

Commissioner Mike Swartzmiller serves on the Hydroelectric Committee and the Top of West Virginia CVB.

Davis said he has never asked to be taken off a board assignment.

“Those were designated to me at the beginning of my career as a commissioner. I’ve just taken the ball and run with it on certain committees,” he said.

(Huba can be contacted at