The Political World of a Small Town: A Mirror Image of American Politics

By Everett Carll Ladd Jr.; Nelson Wikstrom | Go to book overview

4
West Point: Government, Politics, and Public Policy

The town of West Point, whose present municipal charter is based upon acts enacted by the Virginia General Assembly in 1973 and amended in 1981, operates under a mayor-town council-manager form of local government. The charter provides that the town council may appoint a chief administrative officer, who is called the town manager. Since Virginia is not a "home-rule" state, West Point only enjoys those powers that have been expressly bestowed upon it by the commonwealth. 1

This chapter provides the reader with an analysis of West Point's governmental structures, politics, and public policy. The first part presents a description of the institutional and organizational features of the local government, centering on the powers and responsibilities of the mayor, town council, town manager, and various appointive boards. This description is followed by a discussion of the character and dynamics of municipal elections in the community. The third section of this chapter is largely concerned with a socioeconomic profile of elected and appointive office holders. The concluding discussion centers on the revenues, expenditures, and service delivery system of West Point, and argues that the community provides us with a miniature instructive motif of American politics.

West Point is governed by a mayor and a town council composed of seven members. Prior to the municipal elections of 1982, the mayor and the town council members (each of whom was and continues to be elected at large) were elected to a two-year term of office. Under charter amendments adopted in 1981, the mayor is elected for a four-year term and, in order to ensure the continuation of experienced personnel, council members are elected on a staggered basis and serve a four-year term of office. In order to effectuate the latter change, the revised charter provided that the four

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