By Wendy Holdren
“The main thing I’ll miss is the people. The work, I’m sure I’ll miss that some, but it’s just the people.”
Gary Sutphin, who is retiring as the recorder-treasurer for the City of Beckley after 24 and a half years, spent his last day in office Thursday.
“The support and the cooperation among everybody here and all the people throughout the city — that’s the toughest part about leaving.”
Sutphin will celebrate his 62nd birthday in a few days and he said he wanted to retire while he was still in good health.
“I have two grandkids who I want to watch grow up and spend a lot of time with. I just wanted that opportunity.”
He said his father got sick right before he was going to retire in the 1980s, and he never really had a chance to get to know his grandkids.
“That has been my goal ever since then, not to let that happen.”
Sutphin and his wife Jane have three children, Brett, 30, and Jennifer, 28, who both live in Beckley, and Meredith, 33, who lives in Ripley.
Meredith has two children of her own, Jackson, who just started kindergarten, and Addison, who turns 1 next week. Sutphin is very much looking forward to spending more time with them.
After obtaining his finance degree from Marshall University in December 1973, Sutphin began working for Fairchild Inc.
He worked there for a few years and then worked at Beckley Newspapers, which was then owned by Clay Communications, for 11 years.
When the recorder-treasurer position became available, Mayor Emmett Pugh contacted Sutphin about the job and he gladly accepted.
“My job is basically to try to keep the city as fiscally strong as possible. I run the financial functions of the city and do what the mayor wants me to do.”
He said when he started, and as far as he can remember back, the city has been in good financial shape.
“What we’ve been able to do — and this is the part I like the most — we’ve been able to keep it sound while increasing services and payroll to the city.”
When he started, there were 35 police officers and 35 firefighters. Many additions, as well as promotions within the departments, have since been made.
“We’ve been fortunate to keep the revenues coming in and still providing the services while increasing everything.”
Sutphin said many people have asked him over the years if he felt pressure because he was handling public money.
He responded, “No, I didn’t, because there’s a job to do and it doesn’t matter if it’s public money or private money. It’s all the same and it’s not mine.”
He also said many people have been surprised he has stayed with the same position for so long.
“It’s been great. The public supports us and what we’re doing. Obviously, we make mistakes just like everybody else ... but overall, the compliments we’ve received and just being a part of that makes coming to work much easier every day.”
Sutphin said his approach to being a treasurer for the city was a bit different from what others do.
Instead of spending the budget, which Sutphin said would leave a city bankrupt, he instead focuses on revenue and expense trends over the past several years, as well as cash reports.
“I get cash reports every Friday on all of our funds. I scan all of them into the computer and I have it all on the computer for the last 10 years.”
He said he reviews each fund and analyzes the trends.
“It doesn’t matter what your financial statement says — you spend cash. I’m a cash guy.”
Sutphin has managed the city’s finances well for nearly the past 25 years, but he said his replacement, Byrd White, is highly qualified for the job.
“The main thing I’ll miss is the people. I see these people more than I see my wife.”
Family time is something Sutphin will be getting a lot more of after his retirement, as well as golfing, reading and exercising.
“I’m usually pretty good at trying to entertain myself. Heck, if I get bored, I’ll just find something else. There are always places out here that love volunteers. If I get bored and want to do something, I can do that.”
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