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New Lower Swatara manager settles in to job

By Laura Hayes

laurahayes@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 6/13/18

Early on a recent Thursday morning, Betsy McBride’s office phone rang.

A Lower Swatara resident was calling to ask about the township’s noise ordinance. McBride told the resident that …

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New Lower Swatara manager settles in to job

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Early on a recent Thursday morning, Betsy McBride’s office phone rang.

A Lower Swatara resident was calling to ask about the township’s noise ordinance. McBride told the resident that she would look into it and call her back in an hour.

“I don’t know what that answer is, but I’ll find out,” McBride said.

The Norristown native started her job as township manager May 14. She has worked in the finance and treasury departments of other local governments in Pennsylvania and said it was time for her to move into a manager’s position.

While she worked in finance, McBride said she was exposed to other departments such as public works and engineering.

“It’s not new to me. The job presented itself, and I thought, ‘I think I’m going to like it.’ Because I really like south-central Pennsylvania,” she said.

McBride said she had never been to Lower Swatara before. At first, she didn’t know how to pronounce “Swatara.” But she loves the geography of the area.

When she drops off her dog, Spot, at the kennel in the morning, she drives on the backroads through farmland and looks at  the mountains in the distance.

McBride is the seventh township manager since 2011. In an interview after McBride’s appointment, board President Jon Wilt said there have been a number of reasons why the managers have left.

McBride said the Board of Commissioners have teased her by saying, “You’re staying, right?”

“And I’m teasing them right back, ‘Yeah, I’m staying,’” McBride said.

McBride said she was looking for a long-term job.

She has worked in the public sector for years. She received her undergraduate and master’s degree in business from Georgetown University and Philadelphia University respectively. In her free time, she likes to golf, play bridge and bike.

McBride said originally, she did not want to work in the public sector of business and finance.

“I always enjoyed the private sector,” she said.

But when a job opened up in Montgomery County as the deputy treasurer, McBride thought it sounded interesting and took the leap. McBride ended up enjoying the work.

She explained that while she was not providing the social services for county residents, the money made on the funds that came into her office helped provide those services.

“It truly does touch all of our lives, and it might be something as simple as fixing a pothole outside someone’s driveway,” she said.

She stayed in the public sector and worked as the finance director in both Cheltenham and Whitpain townships, and most recently as the assistant finance director and accounting manager for Carlisle borough. She described her job as investing the funds, making sure money was available in case of emergencies and filing financial reports.

McBride said working in the government can be frustrating because the work can move at a snail’s pace because of the rules that need to be followed.

“And I get it. It’s too easy to lose sight of using taxpayer dollars appropriately. You need to decide, is it truly a township, borough or county service or is it something the people need to do themselves,” McBride said.

When asked about the township’s positive qualities and potential challenges, McBride said that the township is financially sound.

“That is such a positive,” she said.

One of the challenges statewide, she said, is pension funding, although she added that Lower Swatara’s pensions are funded.

Another potential challenge is how Lower Swatara will manage its stormwater runoff. Municipalities such as Lower Swatara must come up with a plan to control its runoff water and sedimentation.

“I don’t even know if people realize what an issue that is. I think in 10 years it’s going to be an enormous issue,” McBride said.

New property developments have taken stormwater runoff into consideration, but McBride said some of the older ones haven’t.

Working in local government, McBride said it can be easy to forget that the taxpayers are paying your salary.

“The biggest challenge in the public sector is to remind yourself where the money comes from,” McBride said.

Over her first three months, McBride hopes to get to know every township employee.