Mayor David Plyler helps to construct a prosperous future for Sherman.
By Sondra Barr
Photography by EM Corporate
For the first speech he ever gave as mayor of his hometown, David Plyler looked out at a crowd during a Martin Luther King, Jr. event at Austin College and referenced the saying, “A rising tide lifts all boats.”
In the ensuing years, he’s gone about doing just that. During his first two terms as mayor, Plyler has worked diligently toward rising the tide in Sherman. Lifting the flood gates of opportunity and growth for the city is born out of Plyler’s love for an area he’s called home since birth.
Delivered at Wilson N. Jones Regional Medical Center, Plyler grew up immersed in the nuances of Sherman life. He experienced firsthand the gracious hospitality and strong sense of community displayed by residents. Sherman’s annual Christmas parade serves as a cherished memory that further instilled a sense of pride, place, and identity for the civic-mind youth.
Growing up, Plyler also saw the significant role business could have on a city’s evolution and growth. Plyler’s grandfather founded Plyler Construction in Sherman in 1962. The company would go on to build significant projects within the community and across the country.
“The company’s first project was a Sherman Post Office in 1962, which, interestingly, is now our city hall. I have an office there. That’s a neat tie in,” point out Plyler. “We built a lot of things in Sherman and then it grew from there.”
Plyler attended Sherman High School and spent his summers working for the family business before continuing his education at Texas Tech University. “I wanted to pursue architecture. Turns out, as I went through the courses, I leaned more toward the construction side, so I ended up in the College of Engineering going through the construction management program at Tech,” he says.
A fervent Red Raider to this day, Plyler came back to Sherman after graduation fortified with the skills necessary to take Plyler Construction to the next level. Now the president of the company, his construction experience includes a wide variety of projects, including large-scale construction efforts at Southeastern Oklahoma State University, Sherman Independent School District, Austin College, and Grayson College.
Plyler’s foray into Sherman government started in Planning and Zoning. “I had a friend of mine, Willie Steele, call me. Coincidentally, he’s one of my councilmen today. During the call, he mentioned they needed some help on P&Z. My father served on P&Z for a long time and I thought it might be something I know a bit about since I build in the city,” says Plyler.
During his time in Planning and Zoning, Plyler gained insight and experience on the inner workings of the city and within a term and a half was appointed to city council. “That’s why I’m able to run for another term because I didn’t finish two full terms as city council,” explains Plyler. “At the time, my friend, Cary Wacker, was mayor and I got to serve under her, which was a joy for part of that first term. Then, when it came time for her to run again, she had some other things she wanted to do and let me run and take it from there.”
He’s approached his role as mayor with the same logical business mind that’s fueled his success in the construction industry. “The city is essentially a nonprofit business,” says Plyler. “The things that I learned in the construction company such as financial management, negotiation, business planning, long-term planning, infrastructure planning, all of those things I do here translate directly to what I do at the city. So many of the skillsets are the same: we deal with people, we deal with developments, we deal with businesses, we deal with attorneys, we deal with customers––each citizen is a customer. Looking at it that way, the transition has been seamless.”
As mayor, Plyler has remained focused on doing what’s best for the citizens now and for the foreseeable future. Many of his accomplishments as mayor have a direct correlation to his business acumen: helping negotiate Highway 75 and Highway 1417 upgrades, library renovations, adding nearly $1 billion in new property tax value to tax rolls, providing the financial base to fund numerous infrastructure improvements, and others.
“One of the most exciting things I’ve been a part of is helping negotiate bringing a company called Finisar to our city,” says Plyler. The company, now called II-VI, is responsible for vertical laser scanning technology that provides iPhones face identification capability. A notable coup, a long-shuttered, 700,000-square-foot manufacturing plant in Sherman was revitalized and more than 500 high-skill jobs were created as a direct result of his negotiations with the company.
Plyler also points to the upgraded and improved Hot Summer Nights Concert Series as something he’s proud of. “When I became mayor, we had local bands and low attendance,” he says. “We increased the size of the budget using sponsors and a bit of hotel/motel tax money and we now have national bands like Blue Oyster Cult and 38 Special performing and attendance of 2,000 to 3,000 people per concert.”
Being mayor hasn’t been without its difficulties, especially in the past year. COVID-19 was but one of the challenges the city faced. “The goal of our efforts regarding COVID-19 were to keep the public safe and safeguard as best we could the livelihoods and businesses that have been built over the years in the city,” says Plyler.
This challenge was compounded by an unprecedented winter storm that left several neighborhoods without power for extended periods. “We had many residents without water and power so we mobilized and with the help of 903 Brewers and other volunteers, we distributed hundreds of bottles of water and filled countless containers with water. We kept our municipal building open 24/7 during this time to use as a warming center and provide snacks and coffee and had council members and volunteers distribute water to those who couldn’t leave their homes,” he says. “It was a unique time of coming together to take care of one another.”
His goals for a third term include finishing Highway 75 and 1417 upgrades, getting a new police station built, and getting further infrastructure in place to serve the city for the years ahead, all the while working toward bringing in more primary employers to provide jobs for the expanding community.
“Throughout my terms as mayor, I’ve taken that to heart because when we do economic development activities or when we get companies to relocate to Sherman, or if we can get existing employers to add jobs, those are jobs for our citizens that impact our community dramatically,” he says. “I enjoy improving people’s lives and seeing people have opportunities they didn’t before.”
Married for 30 years to his high school sweetheart, Plyler and his wife, Mignon, have three children they raised in Sherman. Their son is following in his father’s footsteps and works at Plyler Construction as a project manager. The couple’s eldest daughter is working on her Ph.D. in history at her father’s alma mater, while their youngest daughter is going through the nurse practitioner program at Texas A&M University.
He hopes his efforts in the community stand as an example to his family and the city of Sherman of what can be accomplished serving the common good rather than pandering to political ideology.
“I try to do what’s best for the citizens and leave politics behind. At the end of the day, the scope of local government precludes any kind of political posturing that we see on the national level. It’s refreshing to be able to do what’s best for the citizens and not worry about one party or the other,” he says.