Learning about a public trust

McKinley Murphy was Mayor Broughton’s guest at the Kump House Endowment Trust Board meeting Wednesday at City Hall. Ms. Murphy is a senior at Tucker County High School, and she asked to shadow the Elkins Mayor that day for her senior project because she wants to become involved in local politics and serve as a public official.

When Mary Gamble Kump prepared her will in the year 2000, she included directions for the establishment of a public trust. Such a trust requires a specific type of endowed fund that must be invested and monitored by a board of trustees including people representing institutions in the community.

Private trusts are managed by the friends and family of the donors who may or may not be reliable, but a public trustee must be public servants who are in positions of responsibility.

For example, Ms. Kump selected individuals who represented local institutions that Governor H.G. Kump, served during his lifetime in Elkins. He served as a lawyer for Davis & Elkins College and as an Elder in the Davis Memorial Presbyterian Church. Therefore, Ms. Kump stipulated that the college president and Presbyterian minister should serve on the board. H.G. Kump was elected Randolph Prosecuting Attorney, Elkins Mayor, and Judge of the Circuit Court, and these elected officials were listed as individuals who should be asked to serve on the board.

H. G. Kump also served as the first president of the Citizens National Bank, and the original trust was all invested in CBWV bank stock. Modern banking practices encourage fund managers to diversify the investments in a trust fund, and trustees have worked with an investment fund manager at CBWV to diversify the trust portfolio.

I realized that Wednesday’s meeting was the twentieth biannual trustee meeting since Kump House Trust formed in March 2009, and I was the only person who had attended all the meetings. I hoped McKinley would see the wisdom of setting up a public trust with public officials to oversee anything to be managed over time for the public good.

Over the last 10 years I have been impressed by the commitment and integrity of local officials serving on the Kump House Endowment Trust Board. These local individuals have helped to restore my faith in our democratic system. It is not a perfect system, but it is better than anything else.