Serving His Hometown

The Hon. David A. Bowers, J.D. ’78, and Roanoke Young Democrats
The Hon. David A. Bowers, J.D. ’78, and Roanoke Young Democrats

By Shelby Schultheis ’14

The Hon. David A. Bowers, J.D. ’78, mayor of Roanoke, Va., is sitting in the catbird seat for the fourth time.

While he was a student at Loyola University College of Law, David A. Bowers, J.D. ’78, was befriended by Loyola Professor Emeritus Rousseau Van Voorhees, who would walk from his Magazine Street home through Audubon Park to read at the law library. One day, when Bowers was telling Van Voorhees about his plans for when he returned home to Roanoke, Va., after college, the professor told him, “Well, David, when you go back, practice law and become the mayor—you’ll be in the catbird seat.” Confused, Bowers asked him what he meant. Van Voorhees clarified, “That’s a southern term for ‘you’ll be on top of the world.’ Your dreams will come true.”

Fourteen years later, in 1992, when he became mayor of Roanoke for the first time, Bowers had not forgotten Van Voorhees’ words. On his desk in the mayor’s office sat a name plate that was inscribed: Mayor David Bowers, In The Catbird Seat.

Bowers adds that the people of Roanoke use that colloquialism from time to time, but for those who are unfamiliar with its meaning, he’s always ready to explain it.

“You’re in the right place at the right time,” Bowers tells them.

As of this past May’s election, Bowers is sitting in the catbird seat for the fourth time in his career. After first being elected in 1992, he was reelected in 1996, and served until 2000. In 2008, he was elected once again, and after being reelected this spring, is continuing his service to his community for another four years.

Since Roanoke operates on a council manager form of government, Bowers isn’t the full-time, executive type of mayor. He also functions as a lawyer and as an adjunct professor at Virginia Western Community College where he teaches classes in government.

His typical days start at 7:30 a.m. and their length depends on the demands of his schedule. He often goes back and forth between the city hall and the courthouse in the mornings and in the afternoons he meets with clients or attends a court hearing.

“I just keep moving and smiling all day long. That’s my motto,” Bowers says.

Bowers finds the natural beauty of Roanoke to be breath-taking and promotes it as a tourist destination for those seeking an escape near the southern Appalachian Mountains. Roanoke also has people from more than one hundred different nationalities inhabiting it, and this diversity, for Bowers, is one of the things he loves about being the mayor.

Bowers enjoys serving the people of his community and feels that he’s established a good rapport with them.

“I tell people, when I’m elected, I promise to give you my heart, my honesty, my hard work, and my good sense of humor,” Bowers says.

As mayor, Bowers puts the people’s needs ahead of his own.

“I am conscientiously trying to figure out, as an elected representative of the local democracy, what the peoples’ agenda is and promote it for Roanoke. It’s not my agenda,” he adds.

Another aspect of Bowers’ job is making the city of Roanoke thrive for the permanent residents. According to Bowers, Roanoke is “a very stable city,” which offers safe neighborhoods and good schools. In fact, the crime rate in the city is down for the seventh consecutive year, and nearly all of the schools in the inner-city school system are accredited. Only one school did not become accredited this year.

“For an inner-city in Virginia with high education standards, we have a remarkably good school system,” Bowers says. “And that one school that fell back this year, we’ll make sure that by next year we bring it back up to accreditation.”

This concern over education stems from the mayor’s organization of an initiative called “ACT Now” which stands for academic educational development, cultural economic development, and tourism economic development. Bowers adds that this initiative is projected over the next 10 to 20 years to bring more graduate education programs to Roanoke, to sustain cultural icons such as the many museums, and to promote Roanoke as a tourist destination.

As a part of the academic educational development, Roanoke is now the home to the Virginia Tech medical school. Bowers feels that his city is becoming poised to be a regional medical center, on par with Winston-Salem and Chapel Hill.

Bowers also enjoys spending time with his girlfriend, Margarita Cubas, from Honduras, and his pets—a dog named Catcher, after J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, and a cat that he affectionately calls Kitty. He often hikes Mill Mountain, right outside his back door, with Margarita and Catcher.

Before he became the mayor of Roanoke, Bowers was an English major at Belmont Abbey College, which explains the literary moniker for his canine companion. After graduating, he took advantage of the $15 application fee for Loyola’s law school and applied. He had never been to New Orleans and didn’t know a lot about Loyola, but he thought he would take a chance on it—a decision he is glad he made.

While in New Orleans, Bowers worked several jobs off and on. He delivered The Times-Picayune newspaper and worked in the law library at Loyola. He also worked for Ella Brennan at Commander’s Palace for a while and then worked a couple of years at Café du Monde as a waiter.

“I have all good memories of New Orleans, and I love coming back,” Bowers says.

Still, he loves his hometown and feels that his greatest accomplishment is becoming the mayor of such a beautiful city.

“That was my dream come true,” Bowers says. “So, I’m in the catbird seat when I’m in the mayor’s office.”


Shelby Schultheis ’14 (English) is the publications intern for the Office of Marketing and Communications during the fall 2012 semester.

View the complete fall 2012 issue of Loyola Lawyer.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.