Milton leaders keeping city strong
MILTON — You won’t see any high-rise buildings towering above Milton, West Virginia, while driving past on nearby I-64, but what the city lacks in height, it more than makes up for in depth.
The city, which was incorporated into Cabell County by David Harshbarger in 1876, was named for landowner and postmaster Milton Reece. After nearly 140 years, Milton still maintains its small-town charm, while continuing to create and polish attractions to make the city a destination.
West Virginia Pumpkin Park may sit just outside Milton’s city limits, but it is home to perhaps the city’s most historic structure. The Mud River Covered Bridge, built in 1875, was transported from its original location within city limits to the park in 2002. The bridge was listed on the National Register of Historical Places in 1975. Another key landmark, which also sits just outside the city limits, is Blenko Glass Company. The world-famous glass company is one of the few left of its kind, a remnant of a time when handcrafts reigned supreme. Blenko has been located in Milton since 1921.
Its two largest tourist draws being just outside the city limits is great in bringing people to Milton, but creates challenges due to the city not being able to draw direct income from the landmarks, said Mayor Tom Canterbury. A key to Milton’s future is bringing in businesses to provide services to those either exiting from I-64 between destinations, or coming into town for Blenko events or the West Virginia Pumpkin Festival, Canterbury said. He said Taco Bell and CVS will have locations in Milton soon.
That vision is the reason Canterbury is one of Milton’s Community Champions. Part of this year’s Discover theme, the following individuals and organizations have been recognized as key players to the shaping their city for the better.
Tom Canterbury, Mayor of Milton
Canterbury was born in Charleston, but came to Milton more than 40 years ago for work. Not long after moving into town he met his wife, and the rest is history.
“I love the town of Milton and I wanted to see it grow and prosper,” Canterbury said. “I never thought about running for mayor, but after two or three people tell you it sounds like a good idea, you start to think they might be right.”
It is not always easy balancing his mayoral duties with his full-time job as owner of A-1 Wrecker Service. He said he’s fortunate to be the boss and can set his hours most of the time.
Canterbury has been mayor since 2009. He said helping to bring an Emergency Medical Services station to Milton is his best achievement so far.
Milton doesn’t have term limits, so Canterbury said he will continue serving Milton the best he can for as long as he’s able or the citizens will allow him.
Gerald Clagg, longest-serving city employee
Milton has a long history of helping surrounding communities in need, including providing water during the Elk River chemical spill in January.
While he hasn’t been around since the first pipe was put underground in Milton, Gerald Clagg, supervisor of the Milton Water Plant, has been serving the city for more than 30 years.
Milton’s longest-serving city employee said the sewer and water infrastructure has expanded in his three decades, but there are some things that have always stayed the same.
“You help people because it’s what you do,” Clagg said. “I enjoy my paycheck as much as the next man, but being responsible for keeping the water running is something I take seriously.”
Clagg said keeping the water flowing isn’t only important for drinking and bathing, but also for fire protection. While the pipes may have multiplied over the years, he said in the end it’s just different leaks, different days in different places.
But, while the leaks may change places, he said he has no intentions of doing so.
Woman’s Club of Milton
The Woman’s Club of Milton has been a fixture in the community since 1927.
Bobbi Swan, who currently serves as the club’s vice president, said members may not attend meetings in fancy hats and gloves anymore, but their commitment to bettering Milton is as strong as ever.
“Our main focus is working with special needs kids and the local (Narcotics Anonymous) group,” Swan said. “It’s a sad thing to think that a town as small as ours needs that kind of help, but we do. We’ve lost too many kids to drugs, and I think it’s our duty to do all we can to help get them treatment and on the right path.”
When they aren’t trying to save the city one soul at a time, Swan said the ladies are out serving hot dogs at Milton’s 4th of July celebration and so many other things she simply can’t remember them all.
The club still has around 20 members, but they are not getting any younger, Swan said. She said she understands there are more demands on younger women’s time these days, but wishes they would become more involved in helping the larger community.
Chris Preston, Ohio Valley Bank branch manager, volunteer
Chris Preston and the Ohio Valley Bank also do their part for Milton’s 4th of July celebration — by providing the fireworks.
Not all of Preston’s community service is that flashy. The Gallipolis, Ohio, transplant said he came to Milton to grow his career, and has taken great pride in helping the city grow along with him.
“As a community bank we are very ingrained in the community,” Preston said. “This is the company philosophy, but it’s also my own. I believe strongly in being a part of your community, of dedicating your time and energy to making it a better place.”
Preston said Ohio Valley Bank pays employee for volunteer service by providing paid days “off” to participate in community service activities. He said he’s actively involved with Habitat for Humanity.
Milton and the surrounding area has been very open to working with Ohio Valley Bank, Preston said. He said being a part of the relationship between his company and community has been remarkable.
Like Milton’s mayor, Preston also met his wife after coming to the city for work.
Ron Foster, owner of A+ Medical Equipment and Mallory’s Place
The old Roberts Building, built in 1921, had been an eyesore for Milton since a fire destroyed much of the building in 1987. That changed in 2011 when Ron Foster stepped in, and over three years remodeled the building to house A+ Medical Equipment and Mallory’s Place, a loft living complex.
He said he saw Milton as the perfect place to merge his A+ facilities — the apartments are just a nice bonus.
“The city really worked with us to make this happen,” Foster said. “We helped change the sidewalks, and had a large turnout from the community to support our taking this building and making it something the city could be proud of.”
Foster said he loves Milton, that it reminds him of Mayberry from “The Andy Griffith Show.” He said the city’s location between Huntington and Charleston makes it a great place to live and do business and he is surprised it’s not growing faster.