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When will Lower Swatara’s revolving door stop?: Editorial

Posted 7/26/17

“The township board of commissioners needs to look at itself and make sure that its hiring procedures, from how it draws its pool of candidates to the questions asked during interviews to the …

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When will Lower Swatara’s revolving door stop?: Editorial

Posted

“The township board of commissioners needs to look at itself and make sure that its hiring procedures, from how it draws its pool of candidates to the questions asked during interviews to the selection of the candidate it thinks is best, is at the level it should be. Then, it must look at how that person is treated after being brought on board.”

That statement applies today just as it did on Oct. 5, 2016, when we editorialized on the situation in Lower Swatara Township after the abrupt departure of Anne Shambaugh as its manager.

Shambaugh resigned Sept. 30, 2016, after only 10 months. She followed Sam Monticello and Harry Krot, two managers who each served the township for less than two years. 

And here we are again. Frank Williamson has left the job after only three months.

The trend continues to go the wrong way — shorter and shorter tenures.

We had high hopes that Williamson would change the pattern. He is an experienced civil servant, having spent 35 years with Lower Allen Township, the final 16 of which were in the public safety director and police chief roles. He seemed qualified, personable and ready to lead.

Williamson said he left to pursue other options and for family reasons, but that he enjoyed his job and the people in the township.

You can certainly argue that leaving a job after three months doesn’t reflect well on Williamson. You can argue that he should have known what he was getting into, as far as workload, office atmosphere and interaction with the board. He had served as the township’s public safety director and assistant township manager since Aug. 29, 2016.

Why did Williamson leave? We will take him at his word about spending time with family. Family is very important, and you only get one chance to spend time with your children during their high school years.

But still … it’s odd. If Williamson were the outlier, we might feel it reflected more poorly on him. But the entire situation reflects much more poorly on the board.

Williamson and Shambaugh left without job prospects, both after less than a year. What does that say about the township’s leadership structure?

Let’s make no mistake — Williamson’s departure leaves a giant hole in the township. The township will have no manager, no assistant manager and no public safety director as of Monday, July 31, unless the board takes action this week.

Who is running the township? It makes sense that the board would bring back Terry Kauffman, who was brought in in October 2016 to fill the township manager’s position in an interim role. Kauffman works for Lancaster County-based ARRO Consulting and is a former Lancaster County commissioner. 

But he is not likely to be a long-term answer.

Hiring good people to key positions is the toughest and most important job any organization faces. Now, Lower Swatara is facing it again, for its top two positions.

There must be urgency to fill these jobs, but the patience to find the right people. It’s not an easy balance.

“The revolving door in the township manager office raises serious questions that should be answered for the sake of residents and businesses in Lower Swatara.”

That’s another statement from our Oct. 5 editorial. It’s another statement that continues to ring true today.

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