“It was a very big honor,” said Chad Edwards, Shinnston City Manager of the award conferred to him last week by the West Virginia Municipal League.
Edwards received the Tom Oxley Heart of the Community Award. The League named the award for a longtime member and past president of both the West Virginia Municipal League and the West Virginia City Managers’ Association. Oxley served many years as both a city councilman and city manager for Oak Hill.
The award also carried personal meaning for Edwards, due to the fact that Oxley’s leadership in those organizations always extended to helping those who were new to the organizations. Oxley took time to give the benefit of his experience to those trying to acquire knowledge, skills, and information to do the job.
Oxley, unfortunately, passed in May of this year. Edwards said “he was a really nice guy,” then showed that he followed his example, saying “I do everything I can to make people feel comfortable.”
Of the League, Edwards shared that “I think it is a wonderful institution. It serves to help cities of all sizes from a city of 300 to a city of 48,000” by providing networking opportunities, resources, information, and advice.” They play a vital role, he said, because “government changes all the time.” Even experienced city officials find vital help from League or its members.
“When I was in Sistersville,” Edwards shared, “I relied on them a lot.”
Edwards has always looked to serving the community as a way to work and give back. He started as a volunteer working with the Humane Society, saying that “my other passion is animals.”
He opened his career in city management for the Tyler County town of Sistersville. The Mid Ohio Valley city had approximately 1,400 people during his tenure there, which lasted from 2015 to 2018. Edwards said “I learned that most people just want you to hear what they’re saying and to care about what they are saying.”
He shared an anecdote from his first days in office there. Edwards explained that the city manager’s office there was at the top of a staircase. A sign warned townspeople to not go to the office without an appointment. A baby gate even sat at the top of the stairs to keep people away. Edwards took the opposite approach, bringing a screwdriver to his second day on the job to remove both the sign and the gate. One of his predecessors in the office “was not a listener,” he said, and “generated a lot of animosity.”
Like many West Virginians opening a career, he took a job out of state for a time to experience “something different.” The position in Gordon, Nebraska, however, was neither a good fit for him, nor the town. He eventually left the position with a severance package from the town. Cornhusker country is rural, but different than the Mountain State, and both sides felt more differences than similarities. Edwards said of his time there, “you learn as much from bad experiences as good ones.”
In his return to West Virginia, he took a part time position with Sistersville that saw him working for his former assistant. The team oriented Edwards put his former staffer at ease, but soon heard from a Shinnston City Council member. He had interviewed for Shinnston at the same time as Gordon and chose Gordon. Shinnston’s hire also did not fit what they needed, so they offered the post to Edwards and he has been there ever since.
Edwards explained the limits of the city manager position, saying “for democracy to work, people in my position need to know their place. Elected officials run the show. Bureaucratic rule is just China.” He also refrains from participating in local elections to prevent any conflicts of interest.
Should a new administration want to put its own management team in place, Edwards says “you do what you can to help the person out who took your job.”
He also shared his respect and feelings for the city that he serves, saying “Shinnston has been an absolutely wonderful experience. I love the people. I love the businesses. It’s just a wonderful place to live.”