FAIRMONT - Eight years ago when the Ward 4 City Council seat opened mid-term, Andy Lucas was encouraged to try for it. Now he's encouraging others to step forward.
Lucas is not running for re-election. Filing for council begins July 31 and runs through Aug. 14. Ward 4 covers northern Fairmont.
Also open this election season are the seats for Ward 2 and the at-large position. Incumbents Harlan Gorath and Wes Clerc both plan to file.
"Overall it was a good experience - a great experience - I'm glad I did it, " Lucas said, "but when Dec. 31 rolls around, I'll be ready to step down."
"Change is good," he said, hoping a new person on the council will offer a fresh perspective.
"If I can survive eight years on the City Council, anyone can," he said.
Over the years, Lucas certainly had his moments as odd man out. One frequent sticking point for him has been the way the city chooses to support certain nonprofit organizations but not others.
In January 2009, after questioning whether the city should continue giving the Fairmont Youth Hockey Association $30,000 each year, Lucas walked into a council chamber packed with upset parents and players.
He was expecting it. He didn't back down, but it wasn't easy. Looking back, it's a moment he still readily recalls.
"I didn't take this job as a popularity contest," he said. "When I felt strong about something, I knew I needed to take a stand. I would have felt worse when I went home if I didn't say anything."
But the accomplishment he is most proud of is the annual meetings with his constituents. Every May, he invites the residents of Ward 4 to get together and share their concerns and ask questions, and usually about 50 show up.
When Lucas first started the tradition, he went door to door asking people to attend. Talking with those people who attended the meeting was a wake-up call.
"Going through life you kind of live in your own world," he said. "Meeting and talking with my constituents, I realized the disparity of income for people in Fairmont."
The realization made him cautious about imposing mandates. For example, in August 2008, Lucas cast the lone vote against a prohibition on parking on lawns, worrying it would cause problems on the north end of town for people who live on smaller lots.
"If you own your own home, and you're doing the best you can, it's hard to say, 'You're doing this wrong and this wrong, and now you've got to pay to fix it.'"
Regardless of how a vote goes, the council has an unofficial agreement that what's done is done, so despite any past disagreements, the group has worked together on a number of projects over recent years. In Lucas' tenure, the council built a new municipal liquor store, created trails for bikers and walkers throughout town, launched construction of a water treatment plant and much more.
"Credit needs to go to administration and city employees," Lucas said. "And there are a lot of citizens on the different commissions. ... A lot of people are working together to get things done."
To anyone thinking about running for council, Lucas offered some advice: "Be yourself. If you're considering running, do it because you're hoping you can make a positive difference."
If your heart is in the right place and you've done your research, the rest will come easy, Lucas says, from being on air during the televised council meetings, to speaking up to voice your opinion.
"If I feel passionate about something, it's easy. You just say what's in your heart."