As I prepare to leave the Commission after eight years, I find myself both proud, and happy to be going. I have greatly enjoyed much of the time I have spent as a Commissioner. There were moments of tedium with actuaries, instances of irritation when comments became a little rude and fits of frustration when problems seemed to have no solution; but there was a great deal more joy, pride and camaraderie than anything else. What surprises me when I look back is what accomplishments stands out to me.
Some things are big construction projects one might expect. It will surprise no one that every time I pass the turf at Middle/Wildcat fields, I smile. I expect that will continue for decades. Similarly when I hear kids squealing with excitement about going to the pool, I think of our renovation. The upcoming public works project and recent rink renovations also will bring me years of pride in the future.
Other items are process things that I may be the only person to care about. Changing our meeting date so it did not conflict with the School Board. Broadcasting all of our meetings including discussion sessions. The expansion of our web offerings, whether through the more user-friendly homepage or its OpenLebo features. It all makes the municipality more accessible.
What might surprise people the most is that I will remain proud of things that were seen by many as mistakes. The so-called newcomers’ tax leaps to mind. I am proud that we did what we could to try to address the imbalance that our flawed assessment process creates. We used an imperfect arguably flawed tool to make things better. I understand the complaints of those affected and would have preferred to fix the assessment system instead; that was not within our power, but ignoring the problem was not in my job description, so we tried. Another that could be called an absolute failure was dogs in Williamsburg Park. Residents were split on the issue and were passionate about it to boot. I held a public meeting at the park where over a couple of hours everyone was given a chance to be heard. I drafted what I thought was a brilliant compromise proposal and watched it be soundly defeated by my fellow commissioners. What did the people think of the defeat of my proposal? Let’s just say it generated the best insult ever, when, on the next election day I was told that a man wrote his dog in as a write-in opposition candidate rather than vote for me because he wanted to vote for the smarter candidate.
The last two things that I expect to put a smile on my face in my rocking chair days seem very different, the stormwater fee and the non-discrimination ordinance. The stormwater fee was the first attempt in the region to create a dependable funding stream for stormwater management. Former Commissioner Matt Kluck and I championed the effort as part of a commitment to infrastructure a goal we all share. The non-discrimination ordinance is one of a handful of its type by Pennsylvania municipalities. This is our effort to stand up for our neighbors and say, “We are with you; ignore those who would spew hate.” If the infrastructure is our community’s bones, then how we treat one another is our soul.
Of course it is not accomplishments that will be my strongest memories, it is the people. My fellow commissioners have been my colleagues and friends. The staff who I rarely get to see and interact with despite the fact that I am credited with their successes by many residents is phenomenal. Our administrative staff is second to none, and nearly without exception, every time I went to one of them with a resident’s problem it was tackled earnestly and promptly. As long as we continue to have people like these to lean on, the commission and our community will be in great hands.