GALLIPOLIS — The City of Gallipolis has welcomed Dow Saunders as its new city manager.
Saunders served two terms as a city commissioner following his father’s terms when he was 26 years.
“I was pretty involved in projects and had been president and we had a lot of different things get completed,” Saunders said. “But it’s completely different now. You understand processes as a commissioner, but when you come in and that’s actually the operation, it’s different.”
Prior to taking the city manager position, Saunders spent his career in hospital social work. Saunders worked at Pleasant Valley Hospital, Holzer Medical Center and retired in April 2021 from Select Speciality Hospital in Charleston, W.Va.
Saunders did not necessarily plan to work after retirement.
“I thought that maybe I might do something part-time,” Saunders said. “I wanted to have a break to the end of the year, [was] what I was thinking and just get rested.”
Saunders spent years driving back and forth from Charleston, and said it “wore him out”, keeping him from being involved like he was before.
“I wasn’t really out in the community like I had been before,” Saunders said. “So, you kind of get where you feel like you’re a little bit out of touch.”
Saunders wasted no time after retirement.
“After I retired, I started walking around the city and going in certain places and just kind of get reconnected with the community,” Saunders said. “The prior city manager resigned that summer and during that period, I thought that it might happen, but I always thought it would’ve happened eight or 10 years ago, not now. The timing of it’s probably good, because I was able to, kind of get recharged over the summer and then [in] October, it looked like, maybe me.”
Saunders said he hopes to continue the work of improving the city, including keeping up the work around the Gallipolis City Park.
“That’s [the] center of our community and we want it to be the shining star,” Saunders said. “The city crews did a really nice getting the downtown [ready]. It’s challenging when your number of employees that you have in this area, they’re doing a bunch of things. We were able to get some crosswalks painted. We got all the sidewalks cleaned up.”
Saunders said he has been shocked at the number of people each night attending Gallipolis in Lights and appreciates the work the volunteers put in the event.
The businesses around Gallipolis and the park have also stayed busy, Saunders said.
“Nobody else has a park like ours,” Saunders said.
At this point Saunders has spent most of his time as city manager checking out facilities, making introductions and catching up on things.
“I went around initially, but what I’m trying to do now is kind of a deeper dive into how everything operates, what your ideal is and what’s the minimum of how we can operate,” Saunders said.
Saunders has several things he hopes to work on during his time as city manager.
“I have always been a proponent of building the community from the center out,” Saunders said. “I really would like to explore how we can get the streetscape back to the condition that we have enjoyed. I think the visual appearance of the communities is essential. I’m one of those that I don’t think that you can paint or clean enough.”
Saunders said there are new commissioners coming in and he looks forwards to prioritizing things and setting goals.
“Initially it’s going to be an operational review with the commission on budgetary review,” Saunders said. “I’d like to see if we can rebuild our general fund some with conservative management, but I think they’ve already done a lot of that.”
Saunders said a big thing will be looking into funds for the federal infrastructure.
“One of the things that we need to start on is with the federal infrastructure, identify what grants or what programs we might be able to be eligible for, with the city water,” Saunders said. “All [of] our water lines are, some of them are probably 100 years old. So, we really need to work on the infrastructure in town.”
Saunders hopes the city can get into a position to do a five year plan in place.
Saunders has also been working with the Downtown Revitalization Project on discussing the next steps in planning the possibility of bringing a Downtown Outdoor Refreshment Area to Gallipolis.
While Saunders has many ideas and goals, he knows the work ahead.
“You kind of have a wish list in your head, but then you to have to [look at] what’s realistic of what we can do,” Saunders said.
Saunders hopes to continue working with the community and have an open door policy. He said he would like to be proactive with programs and help others see all of the assets Gallipolis has to offer.
“I thought the honor of a life time was being a city commissioner,” Saunders said. “I never imagined this.”
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Brittany Hively is a staff writer for Ohio Valley Publishing. Follow her on Twitter @britthively; reach her at (740) 446-2342 ext 2555.