Business improving...

Harold McBride, far right, is shown here talking with Ricky, left, and Dwight Jewell as they work on a new window frame at Welch’s Sterling Drive-In.

WELCH — Making Welch a friendlier place for the ATV tourists coming to McDowell County is an effort the city’s new mayor is looking at as a way to help boost the local economy.

Reba Honaker, who was Welch’s mayor since 2011, passed away in late May. She was appointed mayor in 2011 after the death of Mayor Martha Moore, and subsequently re-elected multiple times.

The Welch City Council appointed former McDowell County Commissioner Harold McBride during an Aug. 15 meeting. McBride said Thursday that he came in second to Honaker when he ran for mayor during the last city election.

McBride said he told the council he would be interested in the post, and was appointed after being interviewed. He will take office on Sept. 2. The current mayoral term concludes in 2022.

The new mayor said he has “a huge list of things” to address in the city. Looking for ways to make Welch more appealing to ATV tourists coming to ride the Hatfield-McCoy ATV Trail is among them.

In April 2018, the Hatfield-McCoy Trail Authority announced plans to build the Warrior Trail, which will consist of 80 to 100 miles of new trails connecting War, Gary, Davy, and Welch. Businesses across the county already offer lodging and other services to ATV tourists.

“We have to get our town cleaned back up, revamp some of the buildings that are on the main street,” McBride said. “We have to get more ATV friendly.”

ATVs can come into Welch now, but McBride said he wanted to bring even more into the city.

“Yes, they can (drive in the city) but we need to draw in more and more,” he stated. “That’s going to be a big part of our economy for Welch and McDowell County as a whole.”

McBride said whether he will run for another term as mayor is a decision he will make later.

“We’ll just see how we do,” McBride replied when asked if he would run for a second term. “If we can make some things happen and improve our town, I would. If we can’t make something happen, you just step aside and let somebody else try. That’s a long way down the road and we’ll see what we can do.”

McBride served on the McDowell County Commission from 2010 to 2016, and was the commission’s president for two of those years. 

“That helps considerably when doing this job,” he said of his prior experience. “I know how government works, and I’ve gotten to be friends with some people who can help us in Charleston and in Washington (D.C.). And I’ve learned what it takes to balance budgets in government.”

Welch is currently seeing its first new multistory construction in almost 50 years as a new apartment building called Renaissance Village gets underway. The building, which will include office and retail space, is part of an effort to bring more teachers to McDowell County. Many teachers now have to commute from outside the county.

“The Renaissance Building is being built right now and that’s a big plus for the City of Welch also,” McBride said, adding that he hopes it will bring more businesses into the city.

“You just have to watch every little details like you’re in a business,” he said. “Being in business helps me with that aspect.”

— Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com

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