BUCKHANNON -- City workers were in a somber mood Thursday, still reeling from the news that their beloved mayor and long-time council member Elizabeth J. "Binky" Poundstone died suddenly Wednesday afternoon while visiting her son in Wyoming.
The tragedy comes just 10 months after police chief and county commissioner Fred Gaudet died from an apparent heart attack.
"We all think of ourselves as a family and it's been very difficult for us with our police chief dying last November and now the mayor in September," said City Recorder Nancy Shobe. "Today has been very difficult for the Buckhannon city family."
Poundstone became ill while visiting her son, Shobe said, and died of respiratory and cardiac complications.
Poundstone, 70, was a fixture in Buckhannon's city government and ardent supporter of practically every project that would benefit the citizens of the town. While she served as the town's mayor for just four years, she had been a member of city council since 1963 when she was appointed to fill her late husband's unexpired seat on council.
She was elected city recorder in 1964, a post she held until 1990 when she was elected to a council seat. She was elected to council twice before a successful bid for the mayor's position in 1996.
"I've worked with her for 32 years, since I was 16," Shobe said. "She was more like a mother to me than a co-worker or a boss. She was like a mother to all of us in the city."
Aside from being well-known throughout the Buckhannon community, Poundstone was recognized by peers and officials from all over the Mountain State. During her 26 years as city recorder, Poundstone was named as City Recorder of the Year, elected president of the State City Clerks and Recorders Association and served for many years as the director of the state Public Employees Retirement Board.
She was named as the Buckhannon-Upshur Chamber of Commerce's Citizen of the Year in 1983.
Throughout her political career, Poundstone was instrumental in obtaining funds for projects that will continue to benefit the town and community for years to come. Among her more notable accomplishments were the development and expansion of the town's water, sanitary and solid waste collection system and the many street pavings, sidewalk constructions and storm sewer initiatives. Poundstone also was key in the establishment of the solid waste transfer station and recycling center as well as the sale of the land on which Wal-Mart now stands.
Poundstone's legacy includes numerous other projects credited to her term as mayor, including renovations to the City Hall, the addition of a veteran's section to Heavner Cemetery, municipally assisted improvements to the Stockert Youth Center, the completion of Jawbone Park and the development of the riverside walking trail.
Buckhannon's charter mandates that the city recorder fill any vacancy in the mayor's office until the next election, which is set for 2002.
"Right now, we're still dealing with all of this," Shobe said. "It was such a sudden shock. Of all the city workers, I worked with her probably the longest. My goal is just to continue what she started."
The Elizabeth J. "Binky" Poundstone Memorial Scholarship Fund has been established at the First Community Bank to benefit city workers and their families for higher education.
Funeral arrangements are incomplete, but a service has been scheduled for Sept. 12.
Regional writer James Fisher can be reached at 626-1446.