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A Sandwich, Soda, and Sit Down With the Mayor of Billtown

A Sandwich, Soda, and Sit Down With the Mayor of Billtown

I have been meaning to catch up with Williamsport’s Mayor Derek Slaughter for a while now. I have known him a long time, and of course, I wanted to talk about the City of Williamsport, but even more important was just to catch up with a friend, break a little bread and see how he’s doing with the new job. You know how I get a little sidetracked on the breaking bread part, so a shout out to The Brickyard; the food and service were amazing. I had the salmon BLT on sourdough. Give it a try if that sounds like something you’d like.

On the personal side of things, Derek and his family are doing great. I could tell from the look in his eyes the great pride and commitment he takes in being the Mayor of Billtown. He wears the job well, and his cool demeanor and positivity are 100% sincere.

Now to the business end of our conversation. Talk about baptism under fire — a newly elected mayor taking office during the 2020 COVID pandemic. Before you can even get your feet wet and build your team to run Williamsport, you’re dealing with a crisis never seen before.

I’m gonna keep the conversation on 2020 brief because we all want to put it in the past. The Mayor’s greatest frustration was the predicament the Williamsport business owners were put in — many family-owned for generations. This, along with the challenge of making sure there were grants and funding available so no business would close permanently. This went hand-in-hand with the constant unknown of what the next day would bring regarding the handling of the pandemic by the CDC, Governor, and Federal Government.

The Mayor is very appreciative of how Williamsport’s citizens, business owners, and city officials worked together not only to keep everyone safe but to stay focused on the reopening of the City.

Enough said about 2020.

Now let’s move on to the present, July 2021. The first thing the Mayor and I talked about was the return of the fireworks and celebration to the streets and skies of Williamsport. We both smiled and laughed like kids talking about the upcoming 4th of July celebration; it’s just plain fun and a Williamsport tradition. Obviously, I’m writing this ahead of the event, and I hope everything went perfectly.

The next question I asked Mayor Derek was for a quick overview of his current hit list.

Number one, without a doubt, was the commitment to public safety. And making sure to stay ahead of the COVID curve. He would like to encourage everyone to get vaccinated. And wanted me to share that both the Mayor and I had the Moderna vaccine.

Obviously, his public safety message also included providing safe streets with increased police presence. The Williamsport Bureau of Police will continue working side by side with county and state law enforcement to address the drug problem and violence that follows.

He focused on the local economy and providing the best guidance and direction for local businesses coming out of the pandemic. He, along with Council, will continue working on a multi-year financial strategic plan to correct some of the problems from the past. This is much needed during a time when every fiscal dollar counts. A budget and financial planning for the future have never been more important.

The recertification and improvement of the levee system that guards Williamsport and the nearby communities from the Susquehanna River. The Mayor is encouraged by how President Biden’s American Rescue Plan can help in deferring the cost of this major undertaking, in addition to projects that include Grafius Run and other infrastructure upgrades.

Some other positive items Mayor Derek wanted me to touch on are the building of a new Williamsport city website, which will be up and running very soon. This is much needed, and it will be much more user-friendly and informational.

The creation of the Land Bank Authority to help eliminate blighted properties and promote redevelopment. This is something near and dear to my heart. I hate to see Williamsport be anything but spick and span. Often it is commercial properties that become the eyesores and let go.

The continued educational commitment to Williamsport by both Lycoming and Penn College. Lycoming recently announced its continued progress and revitalizing at the East End entrance of their campus.

I think it’s most important to note the Mayor finally has his administrative team in place. It is imperative for any leader to have his “people” when moving forward after an election. The City just added a new human resource director in Molly Steele-Schrimp. The Mayor and City Council have added new folks in the following key positions: Police Chief Justin Snyder, River Valley Transit Director Adam Winder, and Fire Chief Mark Killian. All have the Mayor’s full confidence.

As I have watched from the outside, the most important thing going at City Hall is the ability of City Council and the Mayor’s Office to work together. The Mayor has been able to assemble an administrative team with the support of City Council and City employees that everyone is on board with. This is imperative not only in dealing with the everyday running of City business but in dealing with the major problems left from the past.

The Mayor is committed to transparency. If you have any issues, problems, or thoughts, please reach out and let him know. The Mayor’s office can be reached at 570-327-7566. Please understand if you just walk in, chances are he’s tending to City business.

Winner, Winner Chicken Dinner

My staff and I wanted to share with you a picture of Jacob Hamilton, winner of the Great American Cookout Giveaway. Tip of my cap again to the great people at Elery Nau for providing the grill, Mikey Rupert for whatever goes on the grill, and it doesn’t have to be chicken. And the cool folks at Frosty Beverage for washing it all down.

Jacob lives with his parents Robert and Michele, in Southside. He is a fine young gentleman who loves his Country and Family very much. Jacob deals every day with the challenges of cerebral palsy. He has an amazingly positive approach to life, supported by his parents and Carol Long, a family and community helper. It was Carol who brought Jacob into our office with the entry form in hand. Robert and Michele didn’t even know Jacob entered the contest until he won, and our very own Alys Mingle reached out to them. Way to go, Carol!

Congratulations again Jacob, I wish you continued good luck and great grillin’!

God Bless America.

Jim Webb

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