Martinsburg elects first female mayor

Martinsburg Mayor-elect Harriet Johnson.

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Harriet Johnson has been elected Martinsburg’s first female mayor.

Johnson is a familiar face in the city. She currently serves on Martinsburg City Council and frequently attends local events, ribbon cuttings and grand openings.

In Tuesday’s municipal election, Johnson won with 35.32% of the vote. Other candidates were Jim Dailey II with 23.67% of votes, Dan Dulyea with 18.22%, Misty Francis at 11.52%, Robert Lowe II at 7.89% and Luke Loy at 3.38%.

“Being on council for four years, I understood how things do work in our city,” Mayor-elect Johnson said. “I’m very much involved in the whole city and the community. I will always reach out and be there for the people. That’s why I have to thank the voters and the volunteers that believed in me. I am so excited.”

Johnson said campaigning during the COVID-19 pandemic created challenges, but she improvised. She connected with Martinsburg residents virtually and supported local businesses as they reopened.

“That was a very difficult time and it still has to be taken very carefully. I chose to use a lot of my social media. I reached out to people as much as I could. Plus, we always still had city council meetings.”

Johnson replaces longtime Mayor George Karos. In November 2019, Karos announced he would retire after serving five consecutive terms spanning 19 years.

“My biggest thing is to be able to follow George Karos. He’s been a wonderful mayor and that is the direction I want to continue. We are prosperous and everything is coming together. I think people will see a big change in Martinsburg in the coming year.”

One of the biggest topics during the election was cleaning blighted properties throughout Martinsburg. Johnson said Wednesday on Panhandle Live, heard on MetroNews affiliates WEPM and WCST, she wants to explore options to help owners meet the city’s standards.

“We will be working through the code enforcement and seeing what we can do as a city. We have to work as a council. Sit down with the city manager and assistant manager and see how we can make this work.”

The municipal election brought another first to the City of Martinsburg. At 20, Cory Roman became the youngest person elected to City Council. Roman, alongside Stephen Knipe, take two open at-large seats.

“If we combine a caring community with innovative leadership, there’s nothing we can’t achieve,” Roman said in a Facebook post. “I believe Martinsburg’s best days are ahead of us.”

There were no changes in other races, such as Wards 1 and 5. Incumbents Dennis Etherington and Jason Baker, respectively, kept their seats. Mayor-elect Johnson and the new Martinsburg City Council members will officially take over on August 5.