‘Mr. Elkton’ Settles Into New Role
25-Year-Old Gooden Moves Into Mayor’s Post
By LAINE GRIFFIN
Daily News- Record ELKTON — If you had asked Josh Gooden 10 years ago if he would want to be mayor of Elkton, he probably would’ve said no.
Now, Gooden said, he couldn’t imagine serving his community in any better way.
“I’ve always been interested in community service, and this just kind of ended up being the route I went to continue to serve in the community I grew up in,” he said.
Gooden, 25, is a native of the town of less than 3,000 people and has no plans to leave. He was sworn in as mayor earlier this month after serving six years on Town Council.
In high school, Gooden attended council meetings to “stay in the loop,” and volunteered when he could.
“I liked knowing what was going on in my town,” he said. “So, I made it a point to keep up with everything and anything happening in Elkton.”
Matt Rhea, a physical education teacher at East Rockingham High School, was Gooden’s basketball coach in middle school and said he came up with the nickname “Mr. Elkton,” which ended up being on Gooden’s license plate.
“I’ve known him and his family since 2005, and he was always the poster child for this town,” Rhea said. “I came up with the nickname because of how much pride he always had for this town.”
Rhea said he would joke with Gooden in middle school saying he would become mayor one day.
“I knew it would one day happen — it came to be true,” he said. “A lot of young people grow up and try to get out of the small town, but he never wanted that, and I knew he wouldn’t leave.”
At 19 years old, Gooden began his first term on council while attending Bridgewater College for a bachelor’s degree in business administration. Residents “Other people expected this of me at some point, but I didn’t necessarily see it,” he said in regards to being mayor. “It was a spur-of-the-moment decision.”
Gooden wasted no time in taking on his new role as mayor after defeating incumbent Wayne Printz in the November election. Printz served as mayor for 12 nonconsecutive years.
Gooden said the election divided residents, but in the last few weeks, he has been taking the time to talk to people to try bring the unity back.
“I feel like we’re taking a turn for the better in the community already,” he said. “We were at that point where we needed to take a step forward and showcase the community.”
Councilman Jeff Jones, who just began his second four-year term, said Gooden has many good qualities.
“He’s patient, smart, thinks things through and really values people’s input,” he said. “We just had our first meeting [Monday] and he was so organized and well thought out. He’s going to serve as a really good mayor.”
Councilman Randell Snow said Gooden is devoted to his community and wants the best for it.
“He is so well-liked here and that has really brought the community together,” Snow said. “He will no doubt be a positive asset to Elkton as the mayor.”
Now that Elkton has turned over a new leaf, Gooden said he is being reminded of what makes the town of Elkton special to him — the people. And he wants to continue to bring that “togetherness” out, he said.
“There’s always someone there for you,” he said. “Whether there’s a loss of someone’s family or a building that’s caught on fire, Elkton residents are always there to help each other out in any way needed.”
One of the ways Gooden likes showcasing the community’s “togetherness” is through photography.
He said he spends a lot of time taking pictures of historic architecture, sporting events, ribbon cuttings, parades, people in the community and events, such as Elkton Autumn Days.
Gooden said both of his grandfathers played a significant role in his desire to stay connected and involved in the community.
Charles Buracker, his maternal grandfather, was a councilman and mayor in Stanley years back, and his paternal grandfather, Bobby Gooden, was involved in civic organizations in the county and in Elkton. He served on Planning Commission and Parks and Recreation Commission.
“If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have this much of an invested interest in the community and in local government,” he said. “Since both of them have passed away now, I can see where it’s something I want to continue, because of their influence on me.”
Gooden’s paternal great-granddad, Joseph Black, and his great great- granddad, James Black, also served as the mayor of Elkton.
Gooden, who works as Rockingham County’s economic development and tourism coordinator, said he doesn’t plan to seek higher elected office, such as the House of Delegates.
“I really dislike politics, and they don’t interest me,” he said. “I think about being mayor as a community service rather than all of the political mess that goes on everywhere else.”
In the end, he said, he just wants to be known for his passion for his community.
Elkton Mayor Josh Gooden plays with Bowie, an Australian shepherd owned by
Solace Studios Fine Handcrafts owner Barbara Polin.