St. Albans election: Mayor has cultural side
ST. ALBANS, W.Va. -- St. Albans Mayor Dick Callaway moved to town in 1978 to run a couple of radio stations and liked it so much he decided to stay.
"We had some friends in St. Albans who said it was a nice place to live," said Callaway, 70. The former radio newscaster and station owner had bought radio stations in Charleston and Madison, and thought St. Albans was strategically placed in between the two.
"We liked the area and we liked the people," Callaway said. Although he sold the radio stations in 1989, Callaway and his wife, Elizabeth, stayed on.
Callaway, in his seventh year as mayor of St. Albans, faces challenger Scott Russell in the city's general election on Saturday. Polls are open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Callaway grew up in Raleigh County, where in high school he developed an interest in theater and the arts. During college, he helped work on the outdoor drama program for Theatre West Virginia, whose musical productions "Honey in the Rock" and "Hatfields & McCoys" remain popular.
Callaway holds diplomas from Beckley College, West Virginia Tech and Marshall University. He developed a broadcasting program for Beckley College, whose formerly student-run radio station, WVPB, became part of the fledgling West Virginia Public Radio network.
He became involved in St. Albans city government over concerns about the city's struggling and financially strapped utility board.
"When I was first approached [to run for office] they were having a lot of trouble with the utility commission," Callaway recalled. Being new to politics, he decided to run for City Council at-large.
Callaway must have done a good job. In 2006, when former Mayor Greg Jones died unexpectedly during his first year in office, Callaway was appointed to fill out Jones' unexpired term.
That was seven years ago. Callaway finished out the last three years of Jones' term, then was elected mayor.
Callaway also took over management of the Municipal Utilities Commission, a move he said saves the city more than $70,000 a year. "At that point, [the utilities commission] was a real problem," he recalled. "Now we've got a handle on it."
During his tenure, Callaway said he's overseen a $10 million project to upgrade the city's water plant and water system. He has helped get $500,000 in grant money to fix up sidewalks and streetscape programs. Though more work needs to be done, Callaway wants to continue fixing streets and sidewalks and working on the city's infrastructure needs.
But Callaway is also proud of the Alban Theater and Alban Arts Academy, an idea he had soon after taking office to help bring a cultural element to St. Albans.
The theater stages six productions a year, from comedy to Shakespearean plays and is available for rent for cultural events. The academy offers 12 to 15 arts-based classes every year.
"That came from my own experiences in theater," Callaway said. "I was raised in theater."
In addition to providing outlets for local actors and audiences, "It brings people into St. Albans who would not be here otherwise.
"I have a vision for our community," Callaway said. "We want it to be a safe community. We want it to be a healthy community, both physically and psychologically."
In the end, Callaway hopes to make St. Albans a regional destination that people from all over the area want to visit, he said.
Reach Rusty Marks at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1215.