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Friend, Marlin vying for Westover Council seat, Lucci ready to lead the city forward

MORGANTOWN — Early voting for Westover’s June 14 municipal election opens Wednesday.

And while there are five seats on the ballot, only one — that representing the city’s 2nd Ward — is contested, as incumbent Jeffrey Friend faces a challenge from Gary Marlin.

Friend, 63, retired from the U.S. Army and works as regional manager for a railroad company. He’s lived in Westover for six years and served on the city’s planning commission prior to being appointed to council, in December.

Marlin, 74, moved to Westover in 1975 after a stint in the U.S. Army. An organic chemist, Marlin took a job at BorgWarner in the Morgantown Industrial Park, which was called Adavant at the time of his retirement. 

Marlin said he’s been attending council meetings off and on since he moved to Westover.  He said he’s generally in support of the initiatives spearheaded by Mayor Dave Johnson, but both Johnson and council lost him with the handling of the police misconduct allegations recently settled by the city for more than $1 million total.

“So that’s when I decided to run,” Marlin said. “Both of the officers involved had prior behavior issues that should have kept them off the police force to start with … And no justice was really done. One is still on the force and the other was on paid leave for two years. If I’d done that, I’d be in jail. I don’t understand it.”

Friend said he’d like to extend his time on council because he has the leadership experience to help turn around a lot of the negativity that’s plagued the city of late. He said he considers himself “the new guy” as so many of the people involved with the city are lifelong residents. That, he said, can be good and bad.

“I see a lot of people saying I’m unqualified. It’s not that I’m unqualified, I’m new. I don’t think people realize I’ve been on there five months. I’m still trying to learn the people and the councilors and figure out where they’re coming from and what their purposes and causes are,” Friend said. “I’m not going to go into anything and, day one, start running my mouth about things that I’m probably not very aware of.  And a lot of the things that have been going on are way before my time.”

Both Friend and Marlin pinpoint the Holland Avenue project as critical to the city’s future. Friend said he’d like the city to continue stepping up code enforcement to deal with dilapidated and abandoned properties. Marlin said he’d like to see the city more actively pursue grant dollars for things like a sidewalk along Fairmont Road and the city’s parks.

Neither have ever run for public office.

Asked why voters should support him, Friend said he’s not beholden to anyone.

“I’m here to make a change and I’m not afraid,” Friend said. “I know the other members of council personally, but I’m not in anybody’s group. I don’t socialize with any of them. I really try to keep it professional. I want to make a change for this city. I will make a change.”

Marlin said he wants to help Westover thrive in ways beyond the balance sheet.

“I want to see Westover be better — be a community more than just a place to live,” he said. “I want to build some community spirit in Westover.”

While the 2nd Ward seat is the only contested race, the ballot position marked “Mayor” is also noteworthy in that it will be the first time in recent memory Johnson’s name will not appear.

Robert Lucci is unopposed for the position.

Lucci, 68, retired as chief of the Morgantown Police Department after 32 years on the force. He said he’s lived in Westover since he was a child.

“We’re Westover people. I think it’s a great place,” he said. “The city is growing by leaps and bounds. So with Dave not running anymore, I just thought it was time for someone to try to keep the city moving forward, and I really think I can do that with the help of the citizens and council.”

Lucci said his first priority will be to keep the Holland Avenue project on track.

He said he’s ready to put the past in the past and move forward with the existing and incoming members of council.

“If there are problems, with council’s help and the citizens’ help, I want to deal with them promptly and correctly. I’m not one to let stuff keep hanging. That’s just not in me. That’s what I know,” Lucci said. “Keep moving forward and do the best you can for the citizens. That’s why we’re all here. It’s not a speech or whatever. It’s just fact.”    

Other uncontested races on the ballot include council-at-large (Duane Tatar); 1st Ward (Alli Jackson) and 3rd Ward (Shawna Cross).

Early voting will begin Wednesday and run through June 11 from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. both Saturdays.

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