In the coming weeks, local and state officials will explore what a vote last week by the Fayette County Commission means to county elections in 2022 and beyond.

In a regular meeting a week ago Wednesday, county commissioners unanimously adopted proposal No. 5 in a magisterial redistricting realignment process. They also approved voting precinct changes.

According to Fayette County Clerk Michelle Holly, the realignment has potential impacts on possible candidacies for both the Fayette County Commission and the Fayette County Board of Education, although the impact is unclear depending on a potential ruling by the West Virginia Attorney General's office on candidate eligibility beginning with the 2022 primary election.

Proposal 5 aligns the majority of Oak Hill and Fayetteville together as the Plateau District, while the current Valley District will add Mount Hope and the Glen Jean area, and the New Haven District will tack on part of old Precincts 56 and 61, in the Beckwith area, along with the area across the river from Adventures on the Gorge in Lansing.

The other proposals featured various other precinct and boundary tweaks of the existing magisterial districts. At the Wednesday, mayors from municipalities along the U.S. Rte. 60 corridor broached their own proposal, which would have included an area covering from the western end of the county in Montgomery along Rte. 60 through the Ansted/Hico area, as well as other smaller portions of the county. Those mayors discussed the economic hits the Valley has taken over the years, including the relocation of WVU Tech from Montgomery to Beckley, the closure of Valley High School and a local YMCA, and other economic downturns such as the closure of car dealerships and other businesses.

The mayors asked that the Valley towns be given some time to bond and focus on current projects that are aimed at breathing some life back into the district.

Under the adopted realignment proposal ultimately adopted by the commission, four current members of the Fayette County Board of Education reside in the Plateau District, but two is the maximum number of members from each district that can be included in the board makeup.

Board president Pat Gray, who is one of the three members whose term is up in 2022, remains in the New Haven District. Plateau District representatives Cindy Whitlock and Gary Ray stay in their current district, and New Haven District BOE member Marion Tanner and Valley District BOE representative Steve Slockett both also will be in the realigned Plateau District because of their place of residence.

In addition to Gray, the terms of Ray and Tanner are also up in 2022.

Current county commissioners Allison Rae Taylor and Tom Louisos will both be in the Plateau District under the new alignment, and each of the three districts must be represented by one commissioner.

The Valley District commission representative, John Brenemen, is the commissioner whose term is up in 2022, so Holly says the realignment "won't necessarily affect the commission race in 2022."

Since some members will now be in other districts than ones into which they were elected, local and state officials have a difference of opinion on whom actually can run for reelection among the board and commission members, Holly said, as well as the district they will represent.

The West Virginia Attorney General's Office has been asked to "issue an opinion on how that will be interpreted (for the 2022 board race) and looking ahead to 2024, how that would affect the commission race," said Holly.

Holly is of the hopes that, if the attorney general's office does weigh in, an expedited opinion can occur.

"Obviously we need to have it before the filing deadline," she said.

The 2022 primary election is set for May 10, and the candidate filing period will run from Jan. 10-29.

Although Holly and her office staff toiled to produce the various realignment proposals, she says, "The work of the clerk's office kind of starts now. Now our job is to get these new lines into the software so we can start notifying voters and get voters placed in the right precincts, so when 2022 comes we have everybody ready for the election."

Taylor commended Holly for her "hard work" in breaking down the magisterial district proposals for the commission and for the general public.

"It's been an interesting process," said Holly.

Recent discussions Holly has had over the effects of the magisterial district changes on candidate eligibility have occurred with, among others, Fayette County Prosecuting Attorney Anthony Ciliberti Jr. and Donald M. Kersey III, General Counsel, Deputy Secretary of State.

Email: skeenan@register-herald.com or follow on Twitter @gb_scribe

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