- October 20, 2021
As an instructor of political science at Lycoming College for 15 years (teaching state and local government, bureaucracy and public administration along with other related American government courses), and as an 8 year member of Williamsport City Council and four years as Mayor of Williamsport, I am qualified to express my opinion on the benefit
As an instructor of political science at Lycoming College for 15 years (teaching state and local government, bureaucracy and public administration along with other related American government courses), and as an 8 year member of Williamsport City Council and four years as Mayor of Williamsport, I am qualified to express my opinion on the benefit of retaining the City of Williamsport’s current strong mayor form of government.
First, I believe the approach of Williamsport City Council to studying the City’s form of Government and the election of two study commissions to do so was an excellent idea. After 40 plus years of the current form of government, it makes perfect sense to evaluate it in terms of our overall community – our relationship with Lycoming County, its 52 municipalities, our Commonwealth and the components of our federal government whose programs and policies affect the City. I commend the men and women who Williamsport voters elected to conduct these analyses. They were thorough in their research and have made two ballot recommendations based on what they believe will be the best path forward for the City of Williamsport – a new form or organization structure for the City.
Second, the ballot measures that are before the voters on November 6, unfortunately, do not provide voters with the option to retain the current strong mayor form of government. It is only through voting “NO” on the two ballot questions that the City of Williamsport will be able to maintain its current strong mayor form of government.
Here is why I believe the voters of Williamsport should retain the current form of strong mayor form of government
First: an elected strong mayor of a City is literally where the “buck stops.” It is the office/person to whom the department heads are responsible. It is up to the Mayor to work with the elected members of City Council and create and implement a unified vision for the financial and economic well-being of the municipality. A City’s primary purpose is to provide public safety and infrastructure for its residents, businesses and all who come to the city on a daily basis to work or visit.
Second: an elected strong mayor is the person who establishes and maintains a regular working relationship not only with City Council but also with other elected officials in the County. It is only through this relationship that department heads and their municipal counterparts can effectively carry out their duties of public safety and infrastructure building and maintenance.
Third: an elected strong mayor has automatic recognition and credibility with state and federal elected and appointed officials and their agencies. This also applies to state and national organizations such as the PA Municipal League and the United States Conference of Mayors.
Fourth: an elected strong mayor has the responsibility to work with an elected City Council on all matters. There is not a Democratic or Republican way to pave a street or fight crime or prevent fires. Key public safety legislative success such as the rental inspection ordinance and the curfew ordinance were possible during my Mayoral administration because of the suggestions and wisdom of former City Council members: J. Marlyne Whaley, Tom O’Connor, Bill Hall, Mike Wiley, Dr. Hipple and one of the Charter Commission members, Patrick Marty. Susquehanna Health (UPMC Susquehanna) chose to remain in the City because of the difficult decisions we made together. Simply stated, we worked together, expressed our ideas and opinions respectfully and came to a consensus. This is what a strong mayor and effective leader does.
In conclusion, I totally understand the frustrations current members of Williamsport City Council face on a daily basis with Mayor Campana. I understand why they proposed a study of the strong mayor form of government. Through a number of mayors with various skill sets and personalities, the strong mayor form of government has served our City well. Williamsport voters, if you are not proud or pleased with the current Mayor, you don’t have to change your form of government. You need to recruit a good mayoral candidate and elect that person to be your next mayor of Williamsport.
Registered City of Williamsport voters, you elected the members of City Council and the two study commissions. On November 6, you are presented with two options to remedy their frustrations with the current administration. I encourage you when you go to the polls on November 6, Vote “No” on these two ballot measures. Then start working with Council, your neighbors and other city stakeholders to recruit and elect a good strong mayor, one with the public administration and leadership skills necessary to lead Williamsport.
Retain Strong Mayor for City Of Williamsport
By Mary B. Wolf
Former Williamsport Mayor