Springer takes over town council seat
Listen closely when Shepherdstown’s newest Town Council Member David Springer speaks, for he speaks very softly. Springer recently was appointed to a vacant council seat left open by a lack of candidates in Shepherdstown’s municipal election in early June.
Springer, a resident of Shepherdstown since 1998, has several years of experience on Shepherdstown’s Board of Zoning Appeals, which reviews and approves or denies exemptions to Shepherdstown’s residential and commercial zoning requirements.
His goals seem modest, as he professes a desire to maintain a vibrant public forum. He said he aims to be considerate of multiple viewpoints in all discussions.
“I don’t think government should ‘rule.’ Government should serve and represent the people for the needs of the community,” Springer said during an interview at The Shepherdstown Chronicle’s office. “My emphasis will be on listening to people, making sure there’s an environment where people with diverse viewpoints can express their opinions in a thoughtful, fair, open, non-judgmental environment.”
Springer’s call for a government of diverse viewpoints risks falling on few ears, however. Participation in municipal politics in Shepherdstown seems to be low. Town Council meetings usually are conducted before tiny galleries of three or four members of the general public. Unable to reach a quorum, the Parks and Recreation Committee has had two of its last three meetings postponed or rescheduled.
“We need a lot more participation by the townsfolk in the government, especially to serve on the committees,” Springer said.
Springer said the corporation of Shepherdstown needs to take advantage of more modern communication techniques to involve the public in the decision-making process.
“Communication, I think, is the big deal. I know (Councilman Josh Stella) has a background in technical methods to better coordinate what’s going on,” Springer said. “On a non-technical matter, it’s making people feel welcome in the meetings. …”
So why didn’t Springer opt to file for Shepherdstown’s regular biannual election? He explains that he was not yet retired during the original filing period and wasn’t able to invest the time to run a campaign.
“I applaud everybody who has served in the past and dedicated their time and efforts into doing it,” Springer said. “I’m especially impressed with the folks we have in office now.”
Springer said his first impressions of his colleagues on the Town Council have been positive.
“It’s a very good group of folks, reasonable. The mayor has strong commitment and a good grasp of history and process. I’m looking forward to a productive and enjoyable time to serve.”
Springer admits he’s playing catch-up, joining a Town Council that is in the terminal phase of three large-scale municipal infrastructure projects – the construction of a new town hall, the milling and paving of Shepherdstown’s streets and the construction of a state-of-the art wastewater treatment plant. The wastewater treatment plant will go up for bidding later this month.
“Paving the streets was a positive step,” Springer said. “Town hall was kind of a difficult and divisive issue, but I think we have a good plan forward to build a new town hall wisely and carefully.”
Springer is recently retired from a civilian career with the Coast Guard and the Department of Homeland Security. While working as a civilian for the Coast Guard, he also served as a Coast Guard reservist. After the attacks on Sept. 11, his reserve unit was called to active duty. He was stationed in New Orleans, where he worked as a risk assessment methodologist.
“(It was) like where to put personnel and assets to best minimize assets to risk such as a terrorist might inflict,” Springer said of the position.
After his tour of duty, Springer came back to work as a civilian for the Coast Guard. He also worked at the DHS Mount Weather Emergency Operations Center.
When pressed for more detail, Springer politely replied, “That’s about all I can say.”
Springer is the father of five children, three of whom have graduated from Jefferson County high schools. His son, Colin, is just starting at Shepherd University. He says that Shepherdstown’s small-town aesthetics and residents have made it easy to live here.
“We feel we really lucked out with finding a good spot here,” Springer said.