St. Albans election: Mayoral candidate takes hands-on approach
ST. ALBANS, W.Va. -- St. Albans mayoral candidate Scott Russell doesn't mind being described as "flamboyant."
"That probably came from my mother," the 55-year-old business owner said. "She worked 35 years at a law firm. The way she dressed, everyone thought she was an attorney. She was the bookkeeper."
Russell appears in his campaign literature dressed in a cowboy hat, leather vest and a shirt emblazoned with the American flag. It's not so much for show, as Russell said he dresses that way all the time, and is not above changing clothes three times a day.
But at the same time, the owner of Scott's Home Repair and lifelong St. Albans resident is perfectly willing to wade in and get dirty.
"I'm not afraid of work," he said. "If a guy's digging a hole I'll jump in with him."
Russell faces off against incumbent St. Albans Mayor Dick Callaway on Saturday for the St. Albans general election. Polls are open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Russell said his parents moved to St. Albans when he was 5 years old. A St. Albans High School graduate, he got a reputation as a hard worker and currently runs a home repair company that does everything from plumbing to roof repairs and light construction work.
"I even buried a dog once," Russell said. He was doing some work in a neighbor's yard when someone asked if he'd be willing to help inter the animal. The owners agreed to pay, but Russell turned them down.
Russell's wife, Vicki, said he's just like that.
"We're always doing charitable things for people," said Vicki Russell, an ordained minister.
Russell said he was first asked to run for mayor 25 years ago, but he didn't feel the need. "This time I thought I'd better do it," he said. "We need too many changes. There's too many people who are being left behind.
"All we've been doing for the past seven years in St. Albans is Band-Aids."
Russell plans to take the same hands-on approach to city government that he brings to everything else. When trying to talk to city officials, "I keep hearing we can't do that. We've never done that," he said. "I'm not that way."
He wants to bring a restaurant along the Kanawha River, a steakhouse and other businesses to town, put a police and fire station in underserved Ordnance Park and set up mentoring and tutoring programs for local school kids. The last idea came from talking with local school principals. He wants to fix streets and crumbling sidewalks and work on the city's water and sewer systems.
Scott and Vicki Russell say they've talked to a lot of people recently. In 15 days, they visited 1,000 homes, many in more neglected neighborhoods like Ordnance Park.
"It's a close-knit neighborhood," Scott Russell said. "It just needs cleaned up."
The Russells make no bones about their religious faith, even on the campaign trail. "We prayed for five people the first night," Scott Russell said. "We prayed for a drunk couple one night. They were sitting out drunk on the porch."
Russell says he'll take the same personal, grass-roots approach to running the city if elected. "People are already calling me to do things, because they can't get the mayor or the city to do anything," he said.
Reach Rusty Marks at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1215.