HUNTINGTON – For Buckhannon’s mayor, Thursday might have been just another day and just another awards ceremony.
But for David McCauley – who’s well-known for his penchant for proclamations that recognize outstanding people, places and landmarks in the City of Buckhannon – Thursday’s awards luncheon at the 2019 West Virginia Municipal League Conference was a little different.
This time, the tables were turned, and McCauley, who was elected mayor in May 2016 after serving as city attorney for more than three decades, was on the receiving end of the laurels.
He was selected as the 2018-2019 recipient of the West Virginia Municipal League’s Mayor of the Year.
The awards luncheon took place at the 50th annual Municipal League conference – held this year in Huntington’s Big Sandy Superstore Arena – which began Aug. 6 and wraps up Friday.
City finance and administrative director Amberle Jenkins said city attorney Tom O’Neill, who attended the conference along with councilman Robbie Skinner and city recorder Randy Sanders, had contacted her about McCauley’s big win.
“Our Mayor Dave McCauley received the award for Mayor of the Year at the WV Municipal League Conference today in Huntington,” Jenkins wrote in an email to city employees and the media. “We are so proud and happy to hear this.”
Reached via cellphone, McCauley said he was humbled and “kind of trembling” when his name was called as the award luncheon’s end drew near.
“I heard them read them, ‘He’s been serving in municipal government for almost 40 years, he reorganized the city government with the directorships, he’s trying to make Trader’s Alley an arts district, he bought a theater, and he’s trying to build a gym,’ and I thought, ‘that sounds familiar,’” McCauley chuckled.
McCauley said the award was more about his predecessors – such as former mayors Elizabeth J. “Binky” Poundstone and J.D. Hinkle Jr. and decorated former employees like the late Harley Brown – than about him.
“It’s just such an outstanding organization if you start thinking about it,” he said. “It’s also more about the 85 employees that do the work in the trenches. I show up and cut the ribbons and break ground, but it’s about them, it’s not about me.”
Almost daily, McCauley walks the streets of Buckhannon taking photos of progress on municipal projects and posting them to his Facebook account, always with a date. He’s spearheaded the purchase and renovation of the old Colonial Theatre. He’s collaborated with ART 26201 and business owner/city architect Bryson Van Nostrand to begin transforming the once run-down Trader’s Alley into a vibrant arts district.
And he’s also lobbying local businesses and other donors for money to build a new multi-purpose gymnasium and auditorium add-on to the Stockert Youth & Community Center.
“He’s done an awful lot for the city,” Jenkins said. “Anybody can put in a nomination (for Mayor of the Year), and some of us did. From what I understand, some other citizens who aren’t employees of the city did as well.”
Jenkins likened McCauley to “the Energizer bunny.”
“He comes in like the Energizer bunny, and one of the first things he does is take down that platform that put council and the mayor’s seats above everyone else,” she said. “That was really symbolic. It was all about being inclusive and saying, ‘I’m not any better than any of you.’ So, when he says, ‘we’re all in this together,’ he really means it.”
The mayor’s and Buckhannon City Council members’ seats were previously situated on an elevated platform in city hall until McCauley instructed public works director Jerry Arnold to literally level the ground between council and the audience.
Jenkins joked that after a few months in office, some elected officials “settle down” and aren’t as gung-ho as they were the day they were elected.
“After a few months, usually they kind of settle down, but not him. I can’t take a breath,” she laughed. “There’s the Colonial Theatre and turning Trader’s Alley into an arts district, which sets your city aside from the others, and then he’s one of the only mayors that actually got this capital campaign (for the SYCC add-on building) off the ground and running.”
“I think he deserved it, and obviously [the Municipal League thought he did, too,” she added.