The three-year anniversary of the June 2016 flood that killed nearly two dozen people and left the Clendenin area in shambles just passed, and Tuesday night its new mayor and City Council were sworn in.
Kay Summers, who was elected last month, has been a Clendenin resident for more than 50 years. She said she’s never been involved with politics, but after she was directly affected by the flooding, she decided she would run for mayor to help her fellow neighbors.
“We had probably 8 1/2 feet of water in our house,” she said. “We lost everything. It was just terrible.”
Summers was sworn in as mayor by Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper at the Clendenin United Methodist Church along with new members of the Clendenin City Council.
According to Summers, there is a lot of work that needs to be done to get the town back to where it once was and to help it grow even further.
“I just want to help Clendenin and clean Clendenin even better than it was even before the flood, but we need to get back from the flood, and so we want to clean up the town,” she said. “We want to get facilities for the seniors, and we want to get activities for the youth of our town.”
More than 5,000 homes and more than 100 businesses were either damaged or destroyed in the flooding. Two schools, Clendenin Elementary and Herbert Hoover High School, the Clendenin Branch Library and many other community buildings were either damaged or destroyed completely in the flooding.
While some of these buildings are in the process of being rebuilt, there are many places in the town that haven’t been touched yet.
Summers said she’s been working alongside the RISE WV program and the Federal Emergency Management Agency but would like to do more.
“Some houses need to be torn down and some houses need to be fixed up, and so we’re going to do that,” she said. “But, of course, I know all of it is not going to happen overnight. It takes all of us working together, and that’s what I want, and we haven’t had that either.”
Dave Knight, one of the council members sworn in for his second term, said he was looking forward to working with a mayor who would be inclusive in her leadership.
Knight, who has lived in Clendenin his whole life, is a local business owner and said he hoped to see more progress made within the town since the flooding destroyed so much.
“I’m looking forward to getting a grocery store here — that’s going to be one of our goals, getting our schools built back and getting our town cleaned up to where we’re proud when you drive through it,” he said. “It’s been three years, and it’s time we need to start making a little bit more progress, and I think with the leadership of Kay Summers, that’s going to happen.”
Tim Huffman, another newly sworn-in member, will be making this term his fourth. He said he thinks through the work of the new group chosen to lead, Clendenin will grow.
“We got a good bunch of people this time that got elected, and we all know each other. We’ve all grown up together, so I think we’ll do good,” he said.
Huffman said he’s looking forward to getting started on projects that he feels need to be accomplished within the town.
“There’s all kinds of vacant buildings in town, and we’re like any small town, we have a drug problem,” he said. “We just need to clean the town up.”
Summers said she was so excited to officially be the mayor of Clendenin and is ready to get to work on fixing the town.
“We have done some, but there’s so much more to go,” she said. “Just a team effort is what we really need now.”