E. Bruce McDaniel Complex

Fairmont City Manager Bruce McDaniel stands inside the Fairmont Water Filtration Plant, which will now be referred to as the E. Bruce McDaniel Complex.

It’s pretty hard to keep a secret from City Manager Bruce McDaniel — especially when it has to do with an official act of city council.

But at the last council meeting, McDaniel was presented with an honor — months in the making — that nearly knocked him out of his chair.

On July 25, McDaniel’s first day back from an extended medical leave, council presented him with a resolution dated May 23, a rare council meeting he missed because of a meeting of the American Water Works Association meeting at Snowshoe.

The official resolution declared that the Fairmont Water Filtration Plant and its facilities would from now on be referred to as the E. Bruce McDaniel Complex.

“Sorry, boss, I couldn’t tell you,” City Planner Jay Rogers said with a grin following the July presentation.

Built just yards away from the previous facility and opened in 2003, the treatment plant uses ZeeWeed Immersed Membrane technology. The technology draws raw water through hollow membrane modules only 0.1 micron in diameter. The membranes, which pull water up similar to drinking straws, are arranged in racks that are submersed into several tanks of water.

Once water passes through the membrane modules, virus, bacteria, turbidity and color are removed from Tygart River water in one single step to create a pristine type of drinking water.

On a tour of the complex, McDaniel could tell you everything you would ever need to know about the history of water treatment in Fairmont — dating back to the 1890s when water was pumped from the river and piped into the city for fire control. He knows the ins and outs of the modern system, stopping to chat with plant operators about their daily routines and concerns.

After all, utilities is where McDaniel started his career. And it’s the family business.

His father, the late Edgar “Ed” McDaniel, worked for Shinnston’s water treatment plant in the 1940s. In 1954, his father became the water plant superintendent for the City of St. Albans, where McDaniel and his sister Barbara were raised.

During the summer months, the younger McDaniel worked for the Union Public Service District in Cross Lanes. While attending business school in the early 1970s, he worked at the St. Albans wastewater treatment plant by night to help support his family.

In 1974, the City of Clarksburg built its first sewage treatment plant, setting off thoughts of career advancement for the young man.

“I wanted the job of superintendent at that plant, and I was the ripe old age of 21,” he said. “I thought I knew a lot more than I really knew, but I applied for the job.”

While McDaniel was interviewed by the city manager for the position, Clarksburg opted to go with a different arrangement and hired an engineering firm on a contractual basis to run the plant. A few weeks later, McDaniel was hired by the contractor for the same position he originally applied for.

“I remember walking through that plant one night and saying, ‘OK. What do I do with this?’” he said laughing.

He stayed in Clarksburg for three years before taking his family back to St. Albans, where he was the general manager for Union PSD, the utility where he started his career. In 1979, he joined the private industry with a company that manufactured and sold wasterwater and water equipment and pumping systems.

In the early 1980s, one of his clients was designing and building the wastewater treatment plant in Fairmont. The city was looking for a utility manager for the sanitary sewer board, and the client urged him to apply for the position.

He was interviewed by former City Manager Ed Daley, Bill Jarrett and Dick Albright and was hired in 1982. Through the years, the complexion of his job changed, and he eventually added the responsibility of managing the water filtration system as well as the wastewater treatment.

In the mid 1990s, he laid the groundwork for the $40 million water improvement project, which vastly improved the water distribution system and built the plant that now bears his name.

The biggest change, however, was when McDaniel was named city manager in 1997.

“So much at this level is people and learning how to compassionately deal with all of the issues,” he explained. “But as city manager, I feel like the biggest accomplishment from 1997 to today is the staff and workforce that we’ve built.

“The City of Fairmont has extraordinarily talented and proficient people in every leadership position,” he said. “It’s my job to keep them on track and provide them with the tools they need to do their job.”

McDaniel and his wife Thelma have four children between them, Brian, Lacey, Tommy and Kathy, and five grandchildren.

And Brian, the third generation of McDaniels to choose a career path in utilities, happens to work at the St. Albans wastewater treatment plant — the same system McDaniel worked for when he was a young father in the 1970s.

E-mail Misty Poe at mpoe@timeswv.com.

Recommended for you