HURRICANE, W.Va. — Scott Edwards, 48, of Hurricane, West Virginia, has served as mayor for more than a decade in one of the state's fastest growing cities located in one of the fastest growing counties.
It's a task that comes easily for the successful businessman, but he doesn't do it alone. An army of family, friends and great workers help him push the city toward success.
Edwards said his success as mayor is not only because of his business know-how but also his transparent love for his hometown.
"You have to love it. You have to love your town," he said. "If I move somewhere else and was there five years and ran for mayor, I could do it, but it wouldn't be the same at all. It's the love for Hurricane is what it's about."
Mayor Scott, the businessman
Edwards was born in Hurricane into what he called the "perfect family." His mother stayed at home while his father worked long hours to provide for his sister and him, he said. Edwards said his youth was spent playing midget league sports, riding bikes and having dirt battles in fields with his friends - something he would not recommend today as an adult.
"We played hard," he said. "We were outside a lot growing up."
His path to a mayoral career was not a normal path, he said. After graduating from Hurricane High School, Edwards attended Virginia Tech, studying computer engineering for about 3 1/2 years before dropping out.
"Once you get to Virginia Tech and after freshman and sophomore year, you can see the folks that are really smart - and it wasn't Scott from Hurricane," he said.
Eventually he would move back to Hurricane, graduating from Marshall University and running an ambulance service before he started selling cellphones in 1996 for Cellular One.
"I loved being a paramedic," Edwards said. "I loved helping people, but I knew I needed more than that. I stayed with the volunteer fire department and volunteered my time doing that type of work and loved to help people, but decided I needed a change in life."
By 1998, he had started his own business.
Netranom is a Hurricane-based business, which also has a Parkersburg office, that Edwards opened in 1999 that provides IT support and consulting to small and medium-sized businesses. Edwards said he has about 30 employees in that business.
About seven years ago, he started Teays Properties, which is a real estate company with about 150 rental units in the Kanawha Valley, ranging from apartment complexes to single-family houses.
Edwards' involvement with City Council started in 2006 when he was appointed to be a City Council member by former Hurricane Mayor Raymond Peak, who had a 40-year mayoral career, and the then-council members.
He thought the position would be a great way to serve the community for a short amount of time before he was told he should run for the mayor's position when Peak decided he would retire in 2007. He won and has served ever since.
Replacing a well-respected Peak wasn't difficult, Edwards said, because the two have completely different ideas on how to run the city.
With the maximum amount 5,000 Facebook friends and nearly 3,000 followers, Edwards said social media plays an important role in his success. Edwards' Facebook page works much like a centralized community message board, where citizens can make their complaints, or compliments, directly to the mayor. He also uses it to promote the city, school, successes or crime news.
Edwards said in his view, a city must be run like a business for its success.
With a $9.5 million yearly budget, Hurricane's budget is much larger than his companies' budgets, but they still can be run the same.
"When you become mayor, you become CEO of the city. That's what city code says," he said. "All too often we find people who run for mayor are named CEO of the city, but they have no business sense or experience. That's where you see (bad) things happen."
The business sense has played out in many ways throughout the community.
Since 2014, the city has taken successful steps to revitalize its Main Street. The area has been enhanced cosmetically - like replacing signage with black iron posts and signs - and new businesses have entered the area, like Books & Brews, Bear Wood Co., Mountain Que and more, increasing foot traffic and bringing in out-of-town visitors.
"Businesses are doing well and thriving there. It's kind of crazy to say, 'Businesses are doing well on Main Street,'" Edwards said. "It's kind of our Mayberry. I wish more people knew about it. A good number of people know about Main Street, but I can talk to people who live in Teays Valley and they may not know, but we have visitors from Ashland or from eastern Kanawha County who come to shop on Main Street. It's weird that way."
Edwards pointed to a handful of community events started or revamped under his reign that are meant to help keep the "Mayberry" community feeling. The Harvest Festival, Main Street's Spring Festival, Pumpkin Carving Contest and Food Truck Fridays are just some of the community events to which Edwards referred. He also highlighted the Fourth of July Festival, a $50,000 event that provides everything from ice cream to bounce castles for free before the community sets off its fireworks display. About 8,000 to 10,000 people from all over the Tri-State area attended last year's event, he said.
Edwards said these events were key in bringing the community together. It gives the citizens a chance to get off of social media and make friends or rekindle old relationships.
"To bring the community together is the reason why," he said. "We are a growing community. Putnam County is one of the fastest growing counties in the state, but we still need to make sure we keep the Mayberry part of us. We want people to see each other. We will go to an event, and I may see someone at the Main Street Spring Festival that I haven't seen in a year or two, or maybe 10."
The city has also purchased about 50 acres of land in the heart of the town to develop into a state-of-the-art public park for the community, which will include a trail system, an amphitheater, athletic fields and more.
Edwards said he's not just a Hurricane guy, but a Putnam County guy as well.
While Teays Valley Park, which is undergoing a $15 million makeover, is not owned by the city, Edwards said its location in Hurricane would have a significant economic impact on the city.
"It's owned by the county, but will bring a lot to Hurricane and a lot of economic development," he said. "There will be people opening different types of businesses to support the park, different businesses within the park, hotel/motel type stuff. People are looking now. It's going to happen - restaurants for sure."
While he leads the city of Hurricane, Edwards was quick to credit Ben Newhouse, city manager, and city departments for the city's prosperity.
Edwards said the police department is the best in the state.
"That's one of the other things I'm extremely proud of. I would say hands down, we have the best police force in the state. If anyone questioned me, other law enforcement agencies have told us that," he said. "The equipment we have is second to none. We have everything possible. Every so often I ask our officers, 'What else do you need?' You know what they tell me? 'Nothing.'"
The department's training was highlighted in December 2017 when Travis Salmons, 34, of West Hamlin, West Virginia, was charged with attempted murder and attempting to disarm a police officer after leading the Hurricane Police Department and other agencies on a high-speed chase through the town.
The chase resulted in the officer shooting Salmons in the thigh to try to disarm him as he was allegedly being dragged by Salmons' vehicle.
Edwards also credited the street department for tackling late-night shifts to keep the roads clear and the city's sewage plant that takes care of the area's sewage. That department also has field workers who make sure the water properly flows.
Any time of the day, any day of the week, the utility department can be seen responding to emergencies with smiles on their faces as they work to solve issues plaguing a homeowner's property.
"They do a top-notch job, and they really don't get thanks at all," he said. "Because when you brush your teeth in the morning, you don't say, 'You know what? I'm going to send a thank you card to the guy that dug the ditch to make the water flow.'"
Heartbeat of the community
Like any "Mayberry" community, Hurricane's school system is the heartbeat of the community, Edwards said.
It's a rarity someone would see Edwards not wearing the city and school's signature red color and name, he said. Edwards admitted on rare days he will put on a different color just to mess with people who see him.
It's difficult for groups to find an open time to use Hurricane High School, which sits along Teays Valley Road in Hurricane, for one of their practices or events. At all hours events ranging from a club meeting to sporting events are happening.
The city employees are mostly Hurricane-bred. Whether it be a Friday night football game or school-night softball, Edwards said it brings the community together.
"When the show choir has the dinner theater, the community comes together. So it's not just the parents and grandparents and family of the kids - there's people that just show up because of it," he said. "It's exciting that the city and the school have the absolutely perfect relationship - and that doesn't happen a lot."
The school's busy schedule is reflected in the success of its teams. Several times a year, the winning teams will be invited to a City Council meeting to be recognized by the community.
"People say not everyone has to be a winner. Well, I know that, but you strive to be the winner. We love to bring them in and tell them thank you.
"I always ask them, 'How did you all get to where you are at?' and they luckily have the right answers about every time - teamwork, good coaching, and a lot of them acknowledge their parents."
Edwards said hearing that from the community youth showed they were on the right track for a successful life.
Many of those athletes have moved on to play professionally in their sports, like Marshall University head football coach Doc Holliday or Detroit Tigers pitcher Alex Wilson.
The family man
Edwards lives in Hurricane with his wife, the CFO of both his companies and his household, Danielle, and three children: Peyton, 8, Chayce Newman, 16, and Karlee, 17. His fourth child, Justin Newman, 21, is a senior pre-med student at West Virginia University.
All four participate in multiple athletic activities and are active in the community as well, Edwards said.
Still, they are able to find time to spend as a family.
"I work 27 hours a day, 400 days a year. That's what it feels like," he joked. "Don't ever miss a thing the kids do. You just do them all. You set your mind to it and do it."
Part of what helps is making their home into the house the Edwards children and their peers want to go to.
"I'll always want for them to be entrepreneurs and not work for someone," he said. "Work for themselves and control their own destiny. When you work for yourself, when you fail it's your fault. If you make a lot of money and succeed, it's because of you."
While each of his children is venturing down different paths, Edwards said he has one hope for them all.
"I wouldn't call it chaos, but it's fun all the time," he said. "We are that house that all the other friends come to. We have a large basement that is just for kids. We want other kids to want to come to my house because I want to be in control. I want to be monitoring and see what's going on."
The entire basement is dedicated for the teens' enjoyment, he said. At any time, nearly two dozen kids could be there.
Twelve years in and still young, Edwards is on track to match Peak's tenure with the city, but whether he will is up to the citizens, he said.
"If the people want me here, I will be here," he said. "If the voters want me here, I will stay as long as they want. But when it's time for new, it's time for new."
Follow reporter Courtney Hessler at Facebook.com/CHesslerHD and via Twitter @HesslerHD.