BERRYVILLE — Don’t expect newly-elected Mayor Jay Arnold to promise he’ll make sure those cracks in the sidewalk that made you stumble are quickly repaired.
As a local government official, “I’ve never made promises,” he said. “I just don’t do them.”
He simply can’t keep them, at least not without help from other Berryville Town Council members.
The mayor presides over council meetings and frequently represents the town at community events.
However, “there are no great powers with the mayor,” Arnold said. In deciding what projects get accomplished, basically “the whole council has to work together as a team.”
“I don’t feel I’m a step above anyone else,” he said. “We’re all equal” in terms of authority.
And, “you have to have a variety of people serving on the council,” he mentioned, to get the variety of opinions necessary to see issues from different angles so the right decisions can be made.
Arnold, 61, became mayor on July 1 after running unopposed for the office in the May 19 town election. It was his second mayoral bid; he lost his first in 2016 to Patricia Dickinson, who decided earlier this year not to run for a second four-year term.
Voter turnout in the recent election was only about 9%, perhaps because no races were contested. But out of the 283 ballots cast, Arnold received 256 votes. That loosely indicates he had 90 percent voter support.
“I like to think that because nobody ran against me, they think I can do a good job” as mayor, Arnold said. “I feel somewhat confident that people have put their trust in me to lead the town.”
Despite being the new mayor, he is no stranger to public service in both the public and private realms.
The owner of Berryville Auto Parts on West Main Street, Arnold was elected as the council’s recorder — a role similar to that of a vice mayor — in 2006 and then re-elected to that post in 2010, 2014 and 2018.
His unexpired term as recorder runs through June 30, 2022. The council plans to soon appoint someone to serve as recorder temporarily until a special election is held to fill the seat on a permanent basis. Clarke County Circuit Court will decide on the election date.
Prior to becoming an elected official, Arnold spent 15 years on the Clarke County Planning Commission.
A member of the John H. Enders Fire Company and Rescue Squad for 45 years, he spent a decade as its chief. He also is involved with Berryville Main Street and other efforts to promote the downtown business district.
“I enjoy serving the public,” Arnold said. Over the years, “people in Berryville have been good to me, my family and my business.”
He said he considers local government to be like a business “and the citizens to be the customers.” Therefore, government should be responsive to citizens’ needs and desires.
But “we can’t satisfy everybody all the time, obviously,” he said.
As mayor, Arnold wants to see Berryville focus attention on improving its water/sewer infrastructure and attracting businesses to downtown.
“It would be nice to have some additional retail businesses there,” he said. “It would draw people to the restaurants and other businesses,” help them succeed and, in turn, help the town to prosper.
Arnold estimated that Berryville soon will see about 170 new houses as a result of ongoing subdivision development. They houses will help the town attract new residents who will increase its population, he observed.
More residents will mean more customers for businesses, which will help ensure their prosperity, Arnold reasoned. It also will mean the water/sewer system, which operates well under its capacity, will run more efficiently, he said.
As most people in Clarke County want to preserve its rural character, Arnold doesn’t foresee Berryville ever growing into a small city, let alone a large one. Yet there is room for growth, he emphasized.
“We’ve got to have growth” to sustain the town, he said. “But it must be orderly growth.”