A portion of one of Nevada County’s most prominent libraries will get an honorary renaming for one of the area’s more beloved public servants.
At a ceremony Saturday, the community room at the Madelyn Helling Library will be rechristened the Gene Albaugh Community Room in tribute to the deceased former public servant.
“He was absolutely critical to getting the new library,” said Madelyn Helling, speaking of Albaugh’s work during his time as the Nevada County executive officer from 1979 to 1992.
“We would not have built the library without his support,” Helling said of its 1991 opening. “He backed the grant and supported it through the whole building process.”
After a hiatus as a public consultant, Albaugh returned to the regional public sphere as a Nevada City administrator from 2008 to 2011. He died in early September 2012 from gallbladder cancer.
“He was so honest and caring and definitely had people’s interest as a priority,” Helling said. “The county was very lucky to have him, and Nevada City was equally intelligent in having him as city manager.”
Remembered for his persistently positive outlook and his can-do attitude, Albaugh left a fond legacy in Nevada County. He was known for responding to an inquiry about how he was doing by saying, “I am bordering on the fantastic.”
The Madelyn Helling Library is the main branch of the Nevada County Library system, located near the Eric Rood Government Center at 980 Helling Way in Nevada City.
Open six days a week, the branch offers a children’s room, public-use computers and laptops and a cozy reading room, in addition to a wide selection of books.
The community room is available to all community groups, nonprofit organizations, individuals, county of Nevada government departments, committees and commissions for their meetings and get-togethers. It is not available for the benefit of a private individual, fundraising or a commercial concern. Renters of the space are prohibited from fundraising, charging fees or sales of any kind; however, donations are acceptable.
“I believe the library is so important for intellectual freedom, and Gene was supportive of that,” Helling said.
Without Albaugh’s unswerving commitment to good library services, Nevada County residents would not have the present library, Desmond Gallagher, president of the Friends of Nevada County Libraries, said in a letter to the county, which voted Jan. 8 for the renaming.
“This recognition will be appreciated throughout the county as Gene Albaugh has been so highly regarded for his many contributions through numerous activities, agencies and organizations,” Gallagher wrote in his organization’s support of the renaming.
One of the entities that appreciates Albaugh’s contribution is Nevada City, said Robert Bergman, a current councilman and former mayor during Albaugh’s tenure.
“At the time in my life, particularly that year as mayor, I really learned a lot from Gene,” Bergman said. “He was a mentor.”
Bergman recalled Albaugh’s efforts for opening the Nevada City Veterans Memorial Building as a warming shelter for homeless individuals during a particularly nasty March 2011 winter storm as an example of the former city manager’s go-get-’em attitude.
“All of the sudden, the weather warnings came in that something big, ugly and cold was coming in, and there was nowhere else to go for the local guys. And he made it happen. The whole thing was covered,” Bergman said. “It’s indicative of Gene. It’s not only that he was a good manager, well liked and well respected, but he was a person with character, integrity and heart.”
Naming a branch of a library in his honor is the least the residents of western Nevada County can do for Albaugh, Bergman said.
To contact Staff Writer Christopher Rosacker, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (530) 477-4236.