PARKERSBURG - The Wood County Republican Executive Committee has submitted a letter to the Wood County Commission as well as others within the county in hopes of naming the new justice center after the late Judge Joseph P. Albright, a Democrat, and the late Judge Arthur N. Gustke, a Republican.
"I sent a letter to the county commissioners quite a while ago - either in March or February - that suggests we call the building The Wood County Justice Center and name the two separate courtrooms after influential judges," said Beverly Lockhart, chairman of the Wood County Republican Committee.
In the letter, Lockhart asked the county commissioners to consider that because there are two courtrooms in the new justice center that each be named in honor of Gustke and Albright, respectively.
"To me, I would prefer the building to be known as the Wood County Justice Center," Lockhart said. "Because there are two courtrooms, I feel it would be only right to name each after (Gustke and Albright) to honor them both."
Earlier this month, the Wood County Democratic Executive Committee submitted a resolution to the commission to consider naming the new justice center after Albright, who had served on the West Virginia Supreme Court.
In the first formal request to the commission, about 16 individuals, including representatives of the executive committee, lobbied for Albright's name to be given to the planned new justice center.
The Hintgen building is scheduled to be turned into the new justice center, which will house a holding center, magistrate court and the law enforcement division of the sheriff's department. The project is slated to go out for bid in July and construction should begin in the fall after the Bureau of the Public Debt, the leasee, has moved out. Occupancy for the facility, situated next to the magistrate court building, is expected in the summer of 2011.
When he presented the resolution, Walt Auvil, chairman of the Wood County Democratic Executive Committee, said the decision was not partisan or political, just that the resolution would honor the judicial association and note the accomplishments of Albright.
Albright, who passed away March 20, 2009, was one of three Wood Countians elected to the state Supreme Court. He was originally appointed to the Supreme Court by Gov. Gaston Caperton in 1996, then elected in 2000 and served as chief justice beginning in 2005. The other Wood Countians who served on the Supreme Court were Okey Johnson (1877-1888) and William N. Miller (1907-1928).
He also served as Speaker of the House and was instrumental in making Blennerhassett Island a state park, according to Auvil. Wood Countian Frank Moats (1903-1905) also served as Speaker of the House, according to the resolution submitted Thursday.
Albright is the only Wood Countian to have served as Speaker of the House and justice of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals.
Gustke, who passed away in September, served as a judge on the 4th Judicial Circuit Court in Wood County for 18 years, twice as chief judge.
During his judgeship, he looked to improve the lives of troubled youth, which led to the Arthur N. Gustke Shelter for Youth in Parkersburg being named in his honor.
Lockhart said she had been looking for a way to be fair in naming the new justice center and both men held admirable qualities.
"I don't think anyone in the Republican Party wants to diminish the work of Albright and I don't think anyone in the Democratic Party wants to diminish the work of Gustke," she said. "I think naming the courtrooms for the judges is the right thing to do."