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Blacksburg's Mayors and the Evolution of Town Government

by Donna Boone-Caldwell

Following action taken by the General Assembly in March 1871 to establish the Corporation of the Town of Blacksburg, the town's board of trustees met for organization under the town's charter, which was granted by the state legislature. The town held its first election on the fourth Tuesday in May 1871, at which time Blacksburg's first mayor, Thomas W. Jones, and six members of council were elected.

Since 1871 the town has had as many as thirty mayors, who have served terms ranging from as little as one month to as long as thirty-four years. Mayors serving the town and the length of their respective terms in office include:

Thomas W. Jones 1871-1872
John Lybrook 1872-1874
Giles D. Thomas 1874-1876
W. Francis Henderson 1876-1877
Robert T. Ellett 1877-1880
William B. Conway 1882 (three months)
Thomas Nelson Conrad 1882 (three months)
1887 (one month)
Tipton B. Evans 1885-1887
Stewart Argabright 1887-1888
1889 (nine months)
A. T. Keister 1888 (four months)
Charles Wesley Gardner 1891-1893
Edward D. Bodell 1893-1894
D. O. Matthews 1894-1895
Allen Coperton Pack 1896 (five months)
Wirt Dunlap 1896-1899
George W. Walker 1899-1902
Thomas A. Helms 1904
J. F. Cook 1904-1905 (acting mayor, eleven months)
J. P. Harvey 1905-1906
records not available 1907-1909
Frank Waylon Eheart 1910-1918
V. C. Austin 1940 (mayor pro tem, four months)
D. H. Keister 1918-1919
John Davis Stanger 1919-1924
Henry E. Argabrite 1924 (mayor pro tem, one month)
W. G. Chrisman 1924 (four months)
William L. Lancaster 1924-1930
William Wesley Argabrite 1942-1943 (seven months)
John M. Barringer 1943 - 1978
Arthur J. Walrath 1978 - 1982
Roger E. Hedgepeth 1982 - present

Since Blacksburg's incorporation in 1871, the town government has undergone significant changes. For almost eighty years, the mayor and fellow councilmen made all the decisions regarding town business. Numerous town sergeants were hired during the early years to carry out necessary-and sometimes unpopular-tasks of day-to-day operations. Eventually some departments were established to carry out particular functions, such as public safety, finance and tax collection, and public utilities. In 1952 the town council appointed the first town manager to oversee and manage Blacksburg's government services. With the hiring of a full-time administrator, town council could then concentrate more on setting policy and adopting legislation, while the town manager focused on town operations.

Donna Boone-Caldwell is the town clerk for Blacksburg.

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