MORGANTOWN — Monongalia County Commissioner Ed Hawkins said “thank you” to a long list of people on Wednesday.
But he didn’t say goodbye.
Hawkins, who has served as the body’s president for the past year, gaveled the final meeting of 2020 to a close, and in so doing ended his tenure on the commission.
“Thank you,” he said. “Until we meet again.”
Jeff Arnett will begin a six-year term in the Eastern District seat when the commission returns to business in 2021, after defeating Hawkins by 194 votes in November — 19,937 to 19,743.
“I want to thank the citizens of Monongalia County, who allowed me to fulfill this destiny of public service as your county commissioner the past six years,” Hawkins said, recognizing the former and current commissioners with whom he’s served — Eldon Callen, Tom Bloom and Sean Sikora.
“This was the best assembled and elected commission in over 30 years. Not because I served on it, but because there was never an odd man out. I believe this is true friendship. We have worked for Monongalia County, not for individual recognition,” he said.
Sikora said Hawkins has set a high standard in his work for the county.
Bloom recalled he forgot Hawkins’ name when the pair sat for their first meeting together in January of 2015.
“He has put the interests of the county first and he’s been a strong vocal spokesperson for subdivision regulations, 4-H programs, Camp Muffly and agriculture and, again, I want to thank Ed. People do not realize his service, dedication and commitment to our county,” Bloom said.
Before the commission bid adieu to Hawkins, however, it closed the book on a year that saw a number of highlights tempered by the unprecedented challenges posed by the rise of the ongoing pandemic.
“I hear all the time that we really don’t have power to do a lot,” Sikora said, referencing the commission’s COVID-19 efforts. “But we really do. We have the power to bring people together and to communicate. To that end, that was probably the most successful effort of this past year, bringing people together, communicating, speaking in one voice and letting our professionals at the health department provide guidance, and then working with them to carry out that guidance.”
Bloom agreed, noting the commission’s work to combat COVID-19 not only strengthened relationships with surrounding agencies and other government bodies, but proved government can be nimble in the face of changing circumstances.
“People talk about government moving slowly. We disproved that statement,” he said.