Interview: Andrew J. Beckner

How long have you been living in Charleston, and why did you decide to settle in this city?
I’ve been living in Charleston since moving back to the area in December of 2003, right around the time I graduated from college and married my wonderful wife, Rachelle. I grew up in Putnam County, and as a teen Charleston was the “big city” hangout for us. I moved to the Charleston area in my late teens and worked in town for a few years before heading back to college in my mid-to-late 20s.

This is home. I’ve traveled a ton, and to most of the major cities in the east and south, plus quite a few in the mid-west. Every time I returned from a trip, I’d breathe a deep sigh of relief as soon as I saw mountains. When we were first married, my wife and I flirted around with the idea of going somewhere else, but for all of the criticisms (made, typically, by people who don’t know what they’re talking about!) of this city, it’s still where I’m happiest. I can’t say what the future holds or where God might put us, but Charleston will always be home.

How do you find the general vibe of Charleston?
The vibe here is laid back…but not too laid back. I would imagine that “too laid back” was the status quo here for awhile, but I think that is taking a backseat to a “can-do” mentality mixed in with a healthy dose of relaxation. And that’s a good mix.

Which season is Charleston at its best?
I’m tempted to say autumn is the best, and for obvious reasons. I mean, does it get any better than Capitol Street on a crisp, fall afternoon? But it’s too brief. So I’ll go with spring: flowers along the river, a nice breeze blowing down Capitol Street, Kanawha State Forest waking up from its long sleep, people strolling along the sidewalks, grinning ear to ear that they’re free from cabin (or office!) fever. It’s hard to beat that.

But you know what? There really isn’t a bad season in Charleston. Sure, the winters are cold and the summers are hot, but isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be?

What do you think is Charleston’s biggest attraction?
Charleston’s best attraction is its people. The growth of a creative class here in Charleston is going to revolutionize this city…I truly believe that. And you can’t have that kind of development without great people. They are the catalyst. I love Appalachian Power Park. The Clay Center is great. The new Kanawha County Public Library is going to be wonderful. But none of those attractions are possible without a creative class of people for whom the status quo simply won’t do. And the best part? Instead of moving away, these people are staying (or, in many cases, returning) here in Charleston to see a revolution in our community. That’s exciting.

How would you describe Charleston to someone who hasn’t been here before?
A note to someone who is visiting Charleston for the first time: let’s say you’re walking down Summers Street around noon. Someone is walking toward you. You have two options: you can either smile, wave and say hello…or you can pass on by to be left alone to your own thoughts. No matter what you choose, that person will reciprocate. You can’t say that about a lot of places.

What are your top 5 dining places in Charleston?
I can only list five? Alright. In the interest of brevity, I’ll list five in no particular order:
1. Leonoro’s
2. Bluegrass Kitchen
3. South Hills Cafe
4. Lola’s
5. Vandalia Grille

What are Charleston’s attractions that every tourists must visit?
If visiting, you have to catch a weeknight baseball game at the APP during the summer; grab an ice cream cone from Ellen’s; sit outside Taylor’s and people-watch; catch a Mountain Stage taping; stroll through Capitol Market and, when you are finished, get some fresh produce from Purple Onion; take a day trip along Route 60 (making sure you drive all the way from downtown Charleston to Lewisburg).

What are the absolute must-try’s for every visitor in Charleston?
I can can think of a lot of “must-try” things, but the first that comes to mind is corn on the cob, freshly grilled over a hot flame (still inside the husk) while listening to some bluegrass music at the annual Vandalia Festival.

What are the cheap thrills that you can enjoy in Charleston?
A good cheap thrill is a mountain bike ride at Kanawha State Forest. You can take a gentle pedal along the creek…or break your neck doing a nice downhill run. Both are free.

Andrew BecknerAndrew J. Beckner is a Follower of Jesus, the husband of a beautiful wife (Rachelle) and daddy to two beautiful little girls (Belle Maria, who is nearly 4, and Lilly Ann June, who is 2.) He is 33 years old and plan to spend the rest of is professional life in Christian ministry. Andrew has been at Union Mission since January after a career in newspapers. He has covered WVU sports for the Charleston Daily Mail for awhile before moving into newspaper management. He left the newspaper biz to take a crack at marketing (dealing specifically with new media) before putting all of those various skill sets to work in a Christian setting. Andrew now handle fundraising and marketing for Union Mission.

Union Mission meets physical and emotional needs throughout West Virginia through the provision of shelter, clothing, food, counseling, and structured programs for the poor, the needy, and those bound and bruised by addictive lifestyles through six ministry programs. Visit wefeedpeople.com to know more about the mission. While Andrew feels he’s been blessed with his time in other places, The Mission is the first job he would do for free.

In their spare time, Andrew and his wife Rachelle like to take their daughters to the family cabin in Pocahontas County where cell phones, the Internet and other trappings of 21st century culture life cease to exist as soon as you take that left-hand turn off Route 60 onto WV-92 just outside of White Sulphur Springs.