February 15, 2014 [LINK / comment]
R.I.P. David Beyeler
While watching Channel 3 news on Wednesday evening, I was stunned to learn that David Beyeler, a member of the Augusta County Board of Supervisors, had passed away. I knew that he had been treated for cancer a few years ago, but the precise cause of his death was not reported. Thursday's News Leader (which did not arrive until Friday because of the huge snowfall) had an in-depth article on Beyeler, including quotes from people who knew him. What follows is an expanded version of what I wrote on Facebook about him on Thursday:
I was very proud to know Mr. Beyeler, the very model of what a civic leader should be. I first met him during State Senator Emmett Hanger's primary reelection campaign in May 2007. I had probably seen him a few times before that, and he appeared in a photo that I took when the Staunton bypass was completed in August 2006. (That's him next to the U.S. flag.) After seeing him quoted in the newspaper in support of Sen. Hanger, I called him up and asked if we could meet some time. He invited me to his farm, and after talking with me in his office (a small building), he showed me his own private museum situated in a converted barn, chock full of political memorabilia dating back to the 1960s. He had dozens and dozens of campaign signs, buttons, newspapers, and photos, and I was totally enthralled. He also had several Marilyn Monroe pinups on the wall, which made me smile.
Clearly, this was a man with vast political experience and knowledge, and I found it hard to believe that I had not met him years before. (I first became active with local Republicans in 2002.) In fact, I recall when I was putting together the Republican Party Web site (www.swacgop.org, launched in 2003 and terminated in 2007) being told by someone whose judgment I once trusted that Beyeler was not really a Republican -- that he wasn't "reliable." Consequently, I did not include him among the local Republican elected officials on that Web site, even though as I later learned, he clearly was a Republican! I had been badly misled, one of the first signs I had that something was amiss in the Republican Party.
Dave and his wife Elizabeth joined in the jubilant Emmett Hanger victory celebration in June 2007, and we stayed in touch off and on during the months that followed. One of the more dramatic episodes I recall was during the Augusta County Republican mass meeting in April 2008. One of the more hot-headed "grassroots" leaders (who was obviously irritated at losing) called Beyeler a "clown," with Mrs. Beyeler standing right next to him. I couldn't believe it. As always, Beyeler kept his cool and refrained from further discussion with that person. Dave once gave me a very good piece of advice: Never get into an argument with a crazy person, because any neutral person listening to the argument won't be able to figure out which person is crazy and which one is sane. Indeed!
Dave Beyeler was one of the charter members of the Mountain Valley Republicans, and attended almost all of the meetings, until it became inactive in mid-2009. As the "grassroots" faction ramped up their pressure with a mini-tax revolt at the Augusta County Government Center in March 2009, he stood firm and refused to undercut vital services such as education. I wrote then, "I was proud that South River Supervisor David Beyeler flatly refused to buckle under pressure to go back on his solemn vow as a public official." In November 2009, he was at the victory party at the Staunton Holiday Inn. At the time, we thought that the forces of reason were in the ascendancy within the GOP. Turns out we were wrong.
In November 2011, Beyeler won reelection (unopposed) to the Augusta County Board of Supervisors, representing the South River District. His moderate Republican faction barely retained a majority, with four members against the three "grassroots" members: two Republicans (both new) and one veteran Democrat, Tracy Pyles. Now that Beyeler is gone, control of the local government is evenly split for the moment. The vacancy will be filled by a vote of the six remaining supervisors, [and the person chosen] will serve until the next election, in November.
In sum, Dave was an honest, no-nonsense leader committed to good, efficient government. He really cared about his community, and proved over and over again that wouldn't take guff from anybody. He was a hard-working farmer with a real zest for life, an inspiration to those around him. His name will be remembered for many years to come. I hope to attend the memorial service for him this coming Monday, at Tinkling Springs Presbyterian Church in Fishersville.