Middletowners have choices to make to shape the future of the borough. Voters will choose candidates for the fall election on Primary Election Day, May 21. Officials taking office in 2014 will have plenty of hard work ahead. I am sure Press And Journal readers need no reminder of serious issues facing the local government. Some people have even suggested that at this point, some of the tools for good government are starting to rust, and current officials continue to leave them out in the rain.
Bickering, blaming past officeholders and bemoaning the situation have not actually solved anything, regardless of how much effort some players gave these options. I hope voters choose wisely.
However, it's clear that Middletown needs leadership outside its government as well. Business and community leaders are searching for answers to help reingivorate, engage and build momentum with the local economy. Middletown is hardly alone in this regard, of course. Plenty of other communities also stand at crossroads.
Maybe Middletown is waiting for the right person to step forward, or perhaps he or she is here, but being overlooked. I don't know.
What Middletown needs is someone with leadership, vision and charisma who is ready to leave a special mark on the town.
About 50 years ago, Sam Hinkle was that type of leader in Hershey. The president of Hershey Chocolate 1956 to 1965, Hinkle came up with an idea that visitors often talk about after a trip to Hershey -- the Hershey's Kisses street lamps. The alternating wrapped and unwrapped Kisses that line Chocolate Avenue provide distinctive local color.
Sure, Hershey has plenty of things that make it stand out. Even without the old Chocolate Factory (most of it is being demolished as I write this), the chocolate business is still there, Hersheypark attracts tons of tourists and the Bears have a stellar history and dedicated, ardent fan base. But the street lamps with their special shape are unique. Hinkle had a great idea that went beyond just "marketing" the candy Kisses or "branding" the town. People from Ohio gush about the town that smells like chocolate and its street lights. Parents and grandparents point them out to kids as they drive through town.
Best of all, they make me smile when I see them.
Sam Hinkle did a lot for the community. He was also one of the people who was instrumental in building the Plaza, Hershey's swimming pool and recreational center, when the Pennsylvania State Police Academy moved from that site to its current home just north of Hershey's Tanger Outlets. As Hershey's chemist before he was the company president, he developed Mr. Goodbar, Krackel and the product that became Special Dark. He also developed fortified chocolate supplied to American servicemen during World War II, known as C, D and K rations. Finally, he set in motion the deal that took an excess $50 million from the Milton Hershey School's private trust, passed it through the Hershey Foundation Trust (governed separately under a 1935 trust) and founded the Penn State College of Medicine in Hershey, the Hershey Medical Center.
Hinkle's ideas have touched generations of people, countless lives. My favorite one marked the town with an identity, and with just a little whimsy.
I hope Middletown finds its people who will lead and will "light up" Middletown for future generations.