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McQuade — Democrat for County Commission

By Staff | Apr 30, 2010

Ruth McQuade

Democrat Ruth McQuade of Shepherdstown knows how to get along with others. She grew up in Nicholas County, W.Va., the tenth of 15 children. And her family dynamic helped her understand early “the meaning of justice, or lack of it,” she said.

The importance of mediation, negotiation and building consensus have shaped her core values, McQuade said, noting she hopes to bring this skills to the Jefferson County Commission.

If she is elected, McQuade – who lives in the Fernbank subdivision off Shepherd Grade Road – wants to focus on economic development, sound budget practices, historic resources and heritage tourism and land use planning.

“The County Commission is the entity that has the most direct impact on the daily lives of the residents of Jefferson County,” McQuade said during an interview at the Chronicle. “It controls so many facets of government,” including parks and where they are located, fire and police service and many other government functions. “If you want to impact that, you get on the County Commission.”

McQuade faces democrats Commissioner Jim Surkamp and hopeful Paul G. Taylor in the May 11 Primary Election in Jefferson County. The winner of the primary will face Republican candidate Walt Pellish in November.

In 2006, after a 25-year career in the Department of Justice as a federal prosecutor, McQuade returned to Shepherdstown, where she had lived for about a year while assigned a special detail as one of two prosecutors working out of the Federal Courthouse in Martinsburg. She earned her law degree in 1979 from Antioch Law School in Washington D.C.

She was appointed by the County Commission to the Water Advisory Committee and the Jefferson County Criminal Justice Board – created to develop a Day Reporting Center for Jefferson and Berkeley counties, in which offenders can obtain education, drug and alcohol treatment, and work, instead of incarceration at the Eastern Regional Jail, with the aim of reducing recidivism as well as county incarceration costs.

She also is a board member of the county League of Women Voters and the Shepherdstown Men’s Club board. McQuade decided to step down from some of her leadership roles in those groups, though she remains a member, to devote herself to campaigning for public office.

She notes she wants to work with, not against, her fellow commissioners, constitutional officers employed in the county and residents.

“I felt that we needed a level of civility that was missing,” she said of her observations of the Commission’s meetings. “If you have aims and goals, you can’t achieve those if you’re not working together. . . . When you become dysfunctional that really hurts the county and hurts its residents. . . . I’ll tell you, we’re off track.”

One of the self-described fiscal conservative’s prime concerns is that the county budget be balanced and fair to taxpayers.

“They seem in March to prepare a budget only to discover in July these unknown revenues,” McQuade said. “They should be better in estimating their revenues.” The current commission has shown a lack of financial planning and a lack of knowledge about the ways various county agencies work and use public monies, McQuade said.

She pointed to a budget actions last year in which funds were cut from various services only to have the Commission discover in July 2009 they had a $1.5 million surplus. “(The cuts) may not have been necessary,” she said. “They acknowledge that they don’t have the necessary information from the agencies they have oversight of.”

McQuade said the Commission has committed to better budgeting in the future. “I want to make sure they do it,” she said, noting she wants to get back to saving money to put into capital improvements. The county also needs “a system of deciding why and how” it provides funds to non-profit groups, she added.

McQuade said she looks forward to helping develop the 2014 regional comprehensive plan that is required for the county. She helped lead a public education effort about the recent zoning plan that was defeated by county voters. Only a plan that is clearly explained to the voters will pass, she noted. A key flaw in the county’s attempt to pass update land use rules was the release of an early draft that contained many elements Commissioners themselves didn’t understand and that planners did not even intend to implement here, she said. That led to a “lack of confidence” in the document and the commission’s ability to pass good zoning laws, McQuade added.

McQuade worked with the Department of Justice in various jurisdictions throughout the country on environmental crimes, mail fraud, money laundering and other financial crimes. While in Martinsburg, she also worked cases related to drugs, sexual abuse and firearms violations, she said.

She also has worked as an attorney representing small and large businesses, and she wants the Commission to be seen as “an ally to business.”

“Businesses need to know what the rules are and that they’ll get a fair reception,” she said.

“My whole legal career has been directed towards trying to solve problems,” she said, noting she possesses the focus and ability to plan and coordinate to achieve goals.

McQuade made an unsuccessful bid in 2008 in a close race for Jefferson County Prosecutor. She then began a small law practice representing clients in child abuse and neglect cases.

McQuade holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Marshall University, where she also served as director of the undergraduate social work program. In the early 1970s, she earned her master’s degree from Columbia University.

Though she has never married, McQuade is proud of her title “Aunt Ruth.” She has more than 45 nieces and nephews.

“I’ve been told that even if I disagree with somebody, I will at least listen to what they’ve got to say,” she said. “I’m committed to fixing problems that I’ve seen and learned about.”