ToquiNotes: With Roughly 50 Years of Service, Why Dean Ramsey Should be Considered a City Treasure
The room suddenly goes quiet. Necks in the audience, and some nearby, lurch forward. It’s a combination of making sure you can hear what’s being said and knowing that what’s being said is important enough that you should probably listen.
“Every time he talks, you see people stop and listen. It’s like those old E.F. Hutton commercials. Of course, part of it is because he’s so soft spoken you may not always hear him. I’ve purchased hearing aids just to hear him,” joked Bridgeport City Manager Kim Haws. “The real significance is that when he speaks, whatever he says has value. It’s been that way since I’ve been here back in 1999.”
The “he” in question here is Bridgeport resident, practicing lawyer and City Attorney Dean Ramsey. I’m writing about Dean today in my blog because it’s the Easter season and I figure Ramsey – who gives me grief anytime we run a photo of him or go into too much detail about him – will give me a charitable pass.
Of course, Ramsey needs to know that this blog was done with the 100 percent backing and even encouragement of Haws. You see Haws has seen something in his near two decades here that maybe many people haven’t seen in Bridgeport. He has witnessed what those who are around him on a regular basis in a professional setting see all time.
Dean Ramsey has been as critical to the growth and success of Bridgeport as any elected official, as the many wonderful civic groups and charitable givers, the educators and so many others that have weaved the fabric of this fine community. Sure, Ramsey will be the first to tell you he’s doing a job he’s paid to do.
Paycheck aside, those close enough to Ramsey know what I’m about to say. Bridgeport has a treasure working for it.
“First and foremost, Dean Ramsey is a great attorney who is thorough, researches extremely well and to bottom line it, he knows his stuff. No one in the state, as far as I’m concerned, understands municipal law like Dean,” said Haws. “The thing is that it goes much deeper than being a great attorney. He has a passion for the community of Bridgeport and his work is done, through and through, to make his community better. He actually has a vision for the city as well. You bundle that up and that’s why he’s so valuable.”
And he’s been valuable for decades. City Clerk Andrea Kerr, who is also complicit in this blog, did some checking around for me.
The best Kerr could determine was that he has been attending Bridgeport City Council meetings since 1972 and affiliated with the city since 1969, although she said that’ not definitive. She was bold enough to ask Ramsey if that was correct and she reported back to me that he thought his affiliation was a little earlier than that.
Ramsey pondered the inquiry. Kerr, bless her heart, said she was just curious. And she was being curious – on my behalf.
Of course, Ramsey isn’t just involved with City Council. He’s there at the Bridgeport Development Authority meetings and numerous other boards. He’s served for likely decades as the attorney for the Benedum Airport Authority, providing legal advice today for the North Central West Virginia Airport all the way back to when it had the much shorter name of Benedum Airport.
Much like those who are unaware of Ramsey’s contributions, the airport’s importance to the region is also unknown to most. With jobs in the thousands and payrolls in the millions, the airport’s recent economic impact study showed a $1 billion fallout for the region. Granted, that’s from the business sector, but the airport is the hub for which all of it goes around. And there for most of it has been Ramsey.
Authority President Ron Watson was also quick to pile on the praise. In fact, he said the airport and the surrounding properties wouldn’t be in the condition they are in without Ramsey.
“If Dean Ramsey says it, you can take it to the bank. That’s how much confidence he’s built with me over the years and the respect I have for his decision making and recommendations to the board and even me personally,” said Watson. “I think it’s pretty much a universal feeling up there of the respect everyone has for Dean. He’s that important and that good at what he does and he’s just as humble as anyone you’d ever meet.
“What I really cherish, though, is asking him a question and his answer or opinion isn’t always what you want to hear, but what you need to hear,” Watson continued. “He gives you an objective opinion and then backs it up with fact. It’s been like that forever and he’s probably one of the guys that you should think of when you talk about the birth of the airport.”
Haws jokingly said he would take glee at the discomfort Ramsey would take seeing folks gush about him. However, he said it’s not only warranted, but long overdue.
“I’m not a lifetime resident so I don’t know about the efforts of everyone in this community to make it what it is today, but when you’re looking at Bridgeport’s history he’s been a cornerstone of the operation of this city for 50 years,” said Haws. “How do you value that knowledge, information and being able to talk about things living through the entire evolution of the city? I can tell you it’s immeasurable.”
As Haws and I talked, I relayed another facet about Ramsey to which he quickly concurred with. Several years ago, a media outlet was dismayed that Bridgeport City Council almost always met in executive session. More than one staffer asked me, as the call would be made to adjourn behind closed doors, why I never questioned it and my reply was this.
“You see that man there (as I pointed to Ramsey)? If he says it is executive session worthy, then I’m not questioning it because he wouldn’t allow it to take place otherwise.”
Haws agreed. He said honesty and integrity are two more things that separate Ramsey from the pack. That, and the fact that he rarely gets angry.
“In my time here I’ve seen him get upset four or five times. If his face turns red and he’s not laughing when it happens, you’ve turned the really unique trick of upsetting him,” said Haws. “He’s so level headed and such a calming influence in every situation that it takes someone of a special breed to get him worked up.”
Through it all, Ramsey has been the city’s legal ambassador. While the city has had time in court, legal battle for the municipality have been limited in comparison to others. Haws said Ramsey is the reason for that.
“He gives us the wisdom to stay out of hot water. We’re not mired continuously in legal battle after legal battle because he looks at every side of an issue, reviews the law and then explains how it works for or against the city from a city perspective based on the law,” said Haws. “The fact we’re not in court constantly speaks of his value considering the litigious nature of things today. That alone would make him an asset, but he’s so much more.
“Again, I’m not a lifetime resident, but it would be hard for me to imagine there are a whole lot of others that have had as big an impact as Dean,” said Haws. “I’m proud he’s with the city and I’m proud to call him a friend.”
So am I Mr. Haws. And I hope he’ll keep me as a friend after he reads this.
Editor's Note: Top photo shows Deam Ramsey, right, with City Manager Kim Haws, while he's shown with former Mayor Jim Christie in the second photo. In the third picture, Ramsey is shown at a Bridgeport Development Authorithy meeting and below, Benedum Airport Authority President Ron Watson can be seen in the background as Ramsey addresses the board.