CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In his Charleston office, Andy Richardson proudly displays a color drawing of his alma mater, Charleston High School, beside prints of West Virginia University and the WVU College of Law.
In a desk drawer, Richardson still has the program from his 20-year high school class reunion.
He says he's not nostalgic, though friends would disagree.
Richardson, 52, is running for the office of Kanawha County commissioner, challenging incumbent Dave Hardy in the May 11 Democratic primary election.
Richardson, senior vice president for Wells Fargo Disability Management, said county officials need to look forward while planning the county's future path. But that doesn't mean there aren't lessons to be learned from the past.
"I remember what Charleston and the Kanawha Valley were, and that's a good thing," Richardson said. "That also reminds us of what we can be.
"We need a sense of urgency to grow Kanawha County again," he said, pointing out that the county has lost 60,000 people over the last 50 years.
"My God, that's the size of Mountaineer Field!"
Richardson grew up in South Ruffner hollow, in a house he owns today. "I live in a neighborhood where some of the people have known me my entire life," he said. "It's comfortable and familiar. It keeps you grounded."
The area is not known as one of Charleston's wealthiest neighborhoods.
"We were one of the old Kanawha Valley families, but never one of the more affluent Kanawha Valley families," Richardson said. His father spent 41 years working in the chemical industry, and Richardson's mother worked for a time as a secretary at Piedmont Elementary School on Charleston's East End.
Richardson went to Charleston High School, which was one of the state's most racially diverse schools during the 1970s and 1980s. Graduating in 1976, Richardson played baritone horn in the Mountain Lion band and managed the school basketball team.
"Who you are is a lot about your environment," Richardson said. "[Charleston High] was a melting pot." He said kids at Charleston High became adept at getting along, no matter their backgrounds.