BUCKHANNON – The top vote-getter in the city election has served three full terms on Buckhannon City Council, and on Tuesday night, he earned a fourth.
Councilman David Thomas, who has been a member of city council since 2008, amassed the highest number of votes – 394 – Tuesday night in the May 10 municipal election, which took place in conjunction with the May 2022 Primary Election. A field of five candidates vied for two spots on council, and Thomas and former mayor David McCauley emerged victorious.
McCauley, who served as mayor from 2016-2020, collected 373 votes to incumbent Shelia Lewis-Sines’s 345, Laura Foulks’s 193 and Jim Valenson’s 127. You can view the full results of Tuesday’s election here.
Thomas and McCauley will each serve four-year terms as city council members, and incumbent city recorder Randy Sanders, who ran unopposed, also secured the city recorder slot with 629 votes.
Thomas said he’s happy with the result but wishes more people would vote. Voter turnout countywide was just 31.4 percent.
“I was honored I was re-elected,” Thomas said Tuesday night. “It made me feel very good, but there was a very low turnout from what I understand, and that is something that is very concerning to me. We need to stand up for what we believe in and for our community – that’s very important. I also ask that people give some consideration, especially the younger people, to run for an office where they can make a difference. I’ll probably say more later on; I’ve got four more years. I think we live in a great community. It’s just phenomenal.”
Thomas said he wants to focus on working with community stakeholders over the next four years, including the Upshur County Commission, West Virginia Wesleyan College and St. Joseph’s Hospital.
“I want everybody to come together and make this a wonderful place,” he said.
After the results rolled in at the courthouse, McCauley said he believes this is the first time in city history a former mayor has won a seat on city council. He said unfinished projects – namely, the Colonial Arts Center and the Stockert Youth & Community Center’s multipurpose addition – prompted him to throw his hat in the ring in 2022.
“It just seemed to me that there had been a number of years going back to the early 2000s where we hadn’t done bigtime projects — we built that new million-gallon water tank and we poured all these sidewalks — but the two biggies that I started were the Colonial Theatre (Colonial Arts Center) and the new building at Stockert. The Colonial is 75, 80 percent done and Stockert, by God, we’re going to break ground on that one way or another,” he said. “When I lost to [current mayor] Robbie (Skinner) in 2020 by 150 votes, you wonder if you’ve still got it, and there is also a vindicating element to it that you can still prevail.”
McCauley said he’s eager to get back to work with his colleagues on council.
“I’m very highly pleased about the results tonight because I didn’t get in the mud trough with anybody,” he said. “I wanted to finish projects. So much we do is about the kids, and there are still a couple of things that need to be done down at the Public Safety Complex. Randy Sanders, Pam Bucklew and CJ Rylands are some of my best friends, and I hugely look forward to working with them again.”
Councilwoman Shelia Lewis-Sines, who missed retaining her seat by just 28 votes, thanked her husband, Ray; family and friends; colleagues; and supporters. She also expressed appreciation for mayor Robbie Skinner; Thomas; Sanders; and councilman Jack Reger.
Sines was appointed to council in August 2021 to fill the unexpired term of former councilwoman Mary Albaugh, who moved out of the area.
“Thank you to the citizens of Buckhannon for allowing me to be a representative for you, and the privilege to make thoughtful decisions for our beautiful community,” Sines said in a statement. “It has been a pleasure and an experience that I will forever cherish. I am not angry, nor do I have regrets … God must have a different plan than what I thought, and that works for me.”
Because Sines was appointed to an unexpired term, the City of Buckhannon on Tuesday reached out to the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office for guidance on whether McCauley’s term would begin after the votes are canvassed on May 16 or on July 1, 2022. City attorney Tom O’Neill said Buckhannon’s charter and West Virginia State Code were unclear on the issue.
Late Tuesday afternoon, city officials received a response advising that Sines serve until June 30, and McCauley assume office July 1, 2022.
O’Neill thanked Sines, saying she served the Buckhannon-Upshur community well.
“She always got engaged in the issues and asked the hard questions,” O’Neill said. “She was a very good and strong public servant for the city, and people should acknowledge that and appreciate her for her service. She did a really good job on council.”