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South Williamsport, PA
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The New Williamsport Mayor: Derek Slaughter

Derek Slaughter might win the prize for being one of the most unique young mayors in the United States. Most people his age who find themselves mayor of a well-known third-class city would have been immersed in politics since their early years. They would have come from a ‘name’ family that had long been in

Derek Slaughter might win the prize for being one of the most unique young mayors in the United States. Most people his age who find themselves mayor of a well-known third-class city would have been immersed in politics since their early years. They would have come from a ‘name’ family that had long been in politics, or they might have had some name recognition as a war hero, movie star, or as a noted athlete.

Derek Slaughter has none of these. He grew up in a hard-working family here in Williamsport, went to college to study technology and Spanish language, even studying abroad for a semester, who then went to graduate school for education and ended up teaching and coaching — all this was before he even THOUGHT about entering politics.

Yet, here he is, beginning his term as mayor of Williamsport, inheriting the keys to a city that has a rich heritage and is world-famous thanks to Little League Baseball but also has a multitude of challenges that are currently facing it.

Like many other leaders, his early years were extremely important in shaping the man he was to become. His mother was an English teacher, and from her, he gained an appreciation of reading and literature, and also a conservative outlook on politics. His father was exactly the opposite — a working man who experienced labor’s struggles and thus leaned hard on the liberal side of the political spectrum. Sitting around the dinner table as a youth, he heard both sides and gained from this an appreciation of each.

It seemed to set a pattern for his life. Not only could he hold conservative and liberal values at the same time, but he also equally appreciated athletics and music. How many drum major/athletes do you know? His multi-interests made it hard to know what to study in college. A high school Spanish teacher, Mrs. Randall, had ingrained in Derek a great interest in studying Spanish, yet he also had a love for computers, although not necessarily programming. So, after graduating from Williamsport Area High School in 1999, he went to Pennsylvania State University, where he would graduate with a degree in Information Sciences and Technology with a minor in Spanish. He did not graduate until December of 2003 because he studied for a semester in Spain to add to his language skills.

Derek had envisioned himself as some kind of an IT consultant. Still, he was not quite convinced that would satisfy his multitude of interests. So, after some discussions with Allen Taylor, his old ninth-grade basketball coach, and very good friend, Derek decided he would go into education. He was able to get into a highly competitive one-year master’s degree program at the University of Maryland that enabled him to acquire his teaching certificate at the same time.

Derek worked in the Washington, D.C. area for a couple of years, and then an opportunity opened up in Williamsport, which enabled him to come back to his hometown to teach math and coach basketball. However, Derek was not a typical teacher/coach and found himself getting interested in local concerns of the city. Unknown to him, he was also drawing the interest of others.

Gerry Fausnaught had been a school principal that Derek had worked under, and in 2014, she invited him to her home to meet with her and Marlene Whaley. Derek had tremendous admiration for Mrs. Whaley and was somewhat shocked when they presented to him the idea of running for Williamsport City Council. He brushed aside the idea, but it planted a seed. Four years later, he was ready to take the plunge. And after two years as a councilman, he ran and successfully won election as Mayor of Williamsport last November.

Since his inauguration in January, Derek Slaughter has brought his entire toolbox to the job. His technical background comes in handy as he is seeking to button down the finances, upgrade the software, and review all the contracts and agreements. His educational background shows up as he has been attending seminars in both Harrisburg and Washington, D.C., and is taking away from them some very valuable ideas.

One which will be very useful is a program sponsored by the Pennsylvania Department of Community Development called the Strategic Management Planning Program (DCEP STMP for those who like acronyms). This is a comprehensive overview of all operational facets of the governing entity. It is exactly the same program that Lycoming County government conducted last year. The initial six-month survey will provide the mayor and city council with a roadmap on what needs to be done next and how it should be approached.

Derek has a good head on his shoulders and a wonderful family behind him. His wife Vanessa and children Jayden, age 8, and Chloe, age 6, are what motivate him behind the scenes. But he chooses to leave them there, so don’t expect to see them in ads or billboards. Derek wants to keep his personal life and professional life in balance. He closes the laptop when he gets home.

He is not trying to make a splash to set himself up for a higher office, either. For example, his goals include resolving stormwater and levee issues, which are not name recognition items. Yet he knows he is on a learning curve but is not afraid of making mistakes. In fact, his hero is Michael Jordan, who Derek noted missed many more shots than he made. But it was learning from the misses that taught Michael Jordan how to make the big shots!

However, Derek Slaughter does not want to be a ‘big shot’ — he wants to bring the community together. He is a very unique young man, and yet in many ways, Derek seems almost tailored for these very times we are in right now. He has strong family values combined with a strong work ethic. He has a diverse background in the political spectrum, arts, athletics, technology, and education, all of which give him the ability to see from many angles, which he then uses his acquired wisdom to choose the right way forward. For the sake of everyone in this region — we all wish for his success to move Williamsport forward to prosper and thrive.

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  • Avatar
    Tammy
    February 19, 2020, 1:10 pm

    Derek you are already doing a great job your dad would be very proud of you

    REPLY
  • Avatar
    Rena McDonald
    February 23, 2020, 6:31 pm

    As a former resident of Williamsport, I am so proud of this young man. I hope he stays strong and continues to do an amazing job. Go Derek!

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