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Turnover is norm for borough, and it’s a challenge: Editorial

Posted 3/29/17

There is something to be said for turnover in any endeavor. From time to time, new viewpoints can help refocus a business or organization.

Some elected bodies have term limits to help speed that …

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Turnover is norm for borough, and it’s a challenge: Editorial

Posted

There is something to be said for turnover in any endeavor. From time to time, new viewpoints can help refocus a business or organization.

Some elected bodies have term limits to help speed that process along. We aren’t a big fan of those. Elections should act as the term limits. If an elected official isn’t doing their job, then vote them out. If they are, why should their time in office be artificially cut short?

But sometimes, and it can be rare, an elected body faces the opposite problem: The turnover comes so fast and furious that it’s hard to figure out where it is headed or what it was collectively thinking when it took action.

That is the situation Middletown borough is facing.

It starts at the top. Mayor James H. Curry III hasn’t decided whether he is going to run. He has served only one term. Ben Kapenstein has said that while he plans on running again for council, he is resigning as its president. He will have served about a year and three months in the role. The potential for the two top elected officials in the borough to be new at the start of the next year looms as a distinct possibility.

Add to that the resignation of Bruce Hamer, the director of finance and administration, and you have another loss of a key knowledgeable official — albeit not an elected one.

Hamer knows a great deal about how Middletown government operates, having served as borough manager from 1986 to 1992. His institutional knowledge will be missed.

Squaring off in the Republican mayoral primary in May will be Richard Hiester, who just retired at the end of December after 26 years as a Middletown police officer, and Robert Givler, another retired Middletown borough police officer who ran for mayor in 2013 and lost to Curry.

They have never held public office before. And while they would likely have thorough knowledge of the workings of the police department, how would they do with the rest of the operation?

Add to that the loss of several other council members who have decided not to run this year (Ian Reddinger and Anne Einhorn). Factor in a knowledgeable but still new borough manager in Ken Klinepeter, who was left to dig out from a massive amount of turnover in the borough operations when he took over less than a year ago. In late 2015, the borough manager, borough secretary and public works director all left.

Yes, you still have Robert Reid, who has seen it all. But he’s an exception nowadays.

These changes in and of themselves aren’t bad. But anyone starting a new position needs time to adjust.

We also are concerned about the future of the police regionalization/contract for services talks going on now with Lower Swatara Township. They are being led by Curry and Kapenstein. What is their future if Curry is not mayor and Kapenstein is not council president?

There are big decisions facing the borough, from the police to wrapping up the Elks Theatre to downtown growth and many more issues.

We hope that making these decisions with new faces in place won’t be a detriment to the borough. But the situation can’t be changed.

We have faith that the borough will keep moving in the right direction.

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