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13 Candidates to Be Considered for Interim Mayor of State College

by on November 13, 2019 10:44 AM

State College Borough Council on Tuesday revealed the 13 eligible candidates who have submitted letters of interest to be interim mayor, a list that includes some familiar names in local politics.

The candidates are:

- Thomas Daubert

- Eleanor L. Schiff

- Ronald L. Fillipelli

- Ron Madrid

- Isabella Webster

- Jamey Darnell

- Jacob R. Werner

- Katherine Watt

- Ezra Nanes

- James Leous

- Jason Browne

- Michael Black

- Thomas J. Dougherty III

Interested residents had until Monday night to apply. Three other candidates submitted their names for consideration but were not eligible — two were not borough residents and the other was not registered to vote. The borough's home rule charter states that the mayor must be a borough resident and eligible to vote.

"I think it’s impressive that so many people are so intensely interested in serving State College as mayor," Council President Evan Myers said. "The job isn’t easy and I think it’s a testimony to the high level of civic engagement our citizens feel."

Council is tasked with selecting a replacement for Mayor Don Hahn, who was elected magisterial district judge last week and will resign from his borough post on Dec. 16. The interim mayor will serve out the remaining two years in Hahn's term.

Among the candidates, Daubert and Fillipelli are both former borough council presidents and retired Penn State faculty members. Daubert served on council a total of 24 years and Fillipelli for eight.

Two former mayoral candidates are in consideration. Black and Madrid both ran against Hahn in 2017. Madrid, who was a candidate for borough council this year, also previously ran for mayor in 2013.   

Watt and Dougherty also were borough council candidates this year. Dougherty is one of two Penn State students in consideration, joining Isabella Webster.

Leous is a current State College Area School Board member and a Penn State staff member. Darnell and Werner are Penn State faculty members and Schiff is a Penn State Ph.D. graduate who is currently listed as a visiting assistant professor of political science at Bucknell.

Browne is a Penn State system administrator and morning show co-host on B94.5. Nanes is a director at AccuWeather and ran for state Senate against Majority Leader Jake Corman in 2018, winning Centre County but not the district.

Having just received the list of names and with only four council members present, council took no formal action on next steps. The contentious set of proposed guidelines for selecting a mayor — which included among other things having local government experience, not being a Penn State employee and committing to not run for mayor in 2021 — was not discussed after being tabled last week

Council previously agreed on a general process that will involve public interviews or presentations, with the goal of reaching consensus on a candidate by Dec. 2 and holding a formal vote on Dec. 16, the day Hahn's resignation takes effect.

What the process will look like is undecided. Myers said each candidate could come in for council to ask questions but logistically that could be difficult.

"If you think of 13 candidates and several questions asked of each, that could stretch on for many hours," Myers said. "I don’t think, personally, we want to do that in two nights."

He also suggested candidates could make five-minute presentations, with questions given to them in advance to be answered in their remarks.

"That would be a way of having everyone speak in one night so we could consider them all together," Myers said. "We could make sure it was a meaningful process but it didn’t go on real long."

Councilwoman Catherine Dauler said it "goes without saying" that the entire process will be conducted in public.

Councilman David Brown he would like to "have a mechanism that deters and prevents any vocal or other audible campaigning for one or another of the candidates," during the public forums. He and Councilwoman Theresa Lafer previously were critical of audience members who applauded and snapped their fingers during an Oct. 30 meeting discussing the proposed guidelines.

"That may not be easy to enforce but I think it’s going to be a very important standard that there be no public display of favoritism or support in any form, audible or visual for any of the people we have," Brown said. "That's especially important, I think, to be respectful of the candidates themselves..."

Myers said, as an example, the League of Women Voters of Centre County does a good job of setting rules and maintaining order during its biannual candidates nights.

"I think we can do the same," Myers said. "I think setting the rules and expectations usually goes a long way to making sure people follow them."

Council's next meeting is Monday, Nov. 18, when the interim mayor selection process again will be among items on the agenda.



Geoff Rushton is managing editor for StateCollege.com. Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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