The new mayor of Moundsville, Sara Wood-Shaw, has a background from around the world she hopes will help her rebuild her hometown.
Wood-Shaw worked in community development in Africa, in Ghana and Tanzania, and moved back to Moundsville in 2016. “I’m a West Virginia by birth and by choice,” she writes in a Facebook message. (That statement echoes former state pen director Suzanne Park in our PBS film Moundsville.)
That in itself was a political statement that transcends party affiliation. “Each year we lose more and more young people to out-of-state education, jobs and opportunities,” she writes. I didn’t want to be part of that statistic. I wanted to be part of the solution.”
After she was chosen as mayor last month, Wood-Shaw pledged to increase community engagement. “I want to be an accessible mayor,” she told WTOV9. “I share my cell phone number with all of my constituents.”
City council members should be accessible, she said. “We want people to feel like they are able to approach their city council members, not just coming to a meeting, but calling them directly if they have any issues or concerns and, again, we’re looking forward to moving forward to the new city building in the new year and continuing with all of our projects.”
Wood-Shaw is hoping to be a role model. “I believe we need my generation and younger to step up and when you do that, the hope is that others join you. When I was elected in 2018, I was the youngest member of Council by 25 years. Diversity on a City Council is a good thing. It brings new ideas and fresh perspectives. The future of Moundsville is bright!”
As Chair of the City of Moundsville Arts & Culture Commission, Wood led the creation of events including Jefferson Fridays (a street fair along Jefferson Ave.), Appalachian farm to table dinners, holiday programming and movie nights. “These events bring hundreds of people to our community,” she writes. “I hope to continue to grow our offerings if I am re-elected. We need to continue to bring people into our community and while they are there, show them how special Moundsville is and what a wonderful tight-knit community it is to raise your family.”
The city is revitalizing its parks and recreation system, including, up next, Riverfront Park. “The Riverfront Park is prime recreational real estate that has always been underutilized,” says Wood. “Outdoor recreation is a booming industry that is a large draw for residents and non-residents alike and this is an area I would like to see our city continue to invest in.”
In a profile last week for his excellent Wheeling-based online newspaper Lede News, Steve Novotney profiled Wood and her father, David Wood, who serves on Moundsville’s council, representing the second ward.
“We are lucky parents, that’s for sure,” said David. “Our (two) sons live close, too, and me and my wife (Linda) wish all our friends had their kids live close, too.”
Wood-Shaw, though, has made an impact on Moundsville, and a positive one at that.
“Sara has always been a very active person. Anytime there was something going on at school, I knew she would be a part of it,” David recalled. “She played sports, was in the Girls Scouts, and she was always very social and always had a lot of friends. Her grades in school were great, too.
“Because I like to tease people from time to time, I have been asked if I was sure she was my daughter because of how nice and pleasant Sara always is with others. Trust me, she’s never had a problem with jumping in to help others when people need help,” he said. “She’s always up to date with all of the issues locally and nationally so she is able to talk about those things to us on council.”
“So far, Sara has helped start some very nice programs here in Moundsville and people have a lot of fun with them,” David explained. “But that’s only one reason why our residents and the other council members listen to her. Sure, she is the youngest person on council, but she is always calm and collected when it comes to her sharing her ideas and thoughts.
“Sara makes sense when she is explaining how she feels about this and about that, and when she has brought to the other council members a new idea, they stop and listen because she’s proven to them that she is very serious about making Moundsville a better place for everyone,” he said. “Not just for people her own age, but for everyone who lives in our city. She makes me and her mother very proud.”
Wood-Shaw has been accepted, too, by the municipality’s residents, a citizenship that owns a median age of 49 years, wrote Novotney.
“Some of Sara’s ideas … well … I’m a little older than she is so some of her ideas have to be explained because I’m not as up to date as she is most of the time,” David said. “But, after she’s explained everything to me and to the others, there usually isn’t much of a debate because she always comes to our meetings as prepared as anyone can be. That’s just how she goes about it and it works very well.”
But they fight, right? They have to at least squabble, right?
After years of debating curfews and allowances, and the almost 40 years in age difference between the father and daughter, certainly issues like a noise ordinance or live music events cause fiery public debates, right?
“We may both be very stubborn, but neither one of us is a shouter,” Sara insisted. “My father has been a member of council for more than 20 years, and when I decided to run for a position four years ago, he was unopposed so I knew if I won we would be serving together. It’s been a very special experience, that I will tell you.
“I do sit right next to him during the meetings so we go back and forth a good bit, but we do not argue at all,” she confessed. “We do work together very well.”
So, who gets the credit for Sara’s personality, her demeanor, and her dedication to civil service?
Finally, this father-daughter duo disagrees!
“I always give my wife Linda most of the credit for Sara because they are so much alike,” Councilman Wood insisted. “When they are together, just watch them. People see it very quickly.”
Moundsville’s Vice Mayor, however, offers a differing opinion.
“From time to time, my mother will say, ‘You are so much like your father’,” Sara said with a chuckle. “It’s a good thing, too, because we both like to be involved with a lot of things that make our community a better place. That’s always been our only goal.”
Wood-Shaw wants to continue “our focus on addressing dilapidated properties” and “increase relationships with businesses and industry, focus on business district revitalization, continue to prioritize unique programs that benefit our citizens (ie: the homeowner assistance grant), strengthen our relationship with our non-profit partners to assist our community members struggling with substance use disorder through the post overdose response team.”
John W. Miller