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State College Borough Council Welcomes New Members, Elects Council President

by on January 07, 2020 12:00 AM

State College Borough Council on Monday said goodbye to two members, welcomed two new ones and elected a new council president.

After a final meeting of the previous council, marking the end of the terms of David Brown and Catherine Dauler, new members Deanna Behring and Peter Marshall were sworn in along with Jesse Barlow and Janet Engeman, who were both elected to their second terms in November.

During the subsequent organizational meeting, Barlow, who was nominated by Dan Murphy, was elected to serve as council president by a 5-2 vote. Engeman also nominated Theresa Lafer as a candidate for council president.

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Barlow succeeds Evan Myers, who served as president for the past two years and remains on council with two years left in his second term.

"In the next two years we have some important challenges," Barlow said. "We need to finish comprehensive rezoning. We have work to do on race equity and inclusion. We have ongoing work on our relationship with Penn State and students. We have ongoing issues with our neighborhoods and neighboring municipalities. And we need to build on the environmental progress brought about by previous councils. There are interesting times ahead for this council. There will be a lot to do, and I can’t wait to get started."

He added that he wants to work with Mayor Ron Filippelli on community outreach and with Borough Manager Tom Fountaine on prioritizing agendas.

"When council members disagree — and we will — it is important we remember why each council member is here," Barlow said. "My own experience is I often learn more from my colleagues' questions when they ask questions than my own."

Jesse Barlow was elected State College Borough Council president on Jan. 6, 2020 at the State College Municipal Building. Photo by Geoff Rushton/StateCollege.com 

New Faces

Behring, an assistant dean in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences, begins her first elected post but is no stranger to public service, having been an assistant director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy during the Clinton administration, prior to moving to State College 20 years ago.

She said that she is counting on all of the people who helped her through her campaign and spoke out about issues to "keep [her] feet to the fire" so that she remains informed of community perspectives and hears a variety of voices.

"One of my top goals is to continue to have people engaged… people showing up and articulating what they need from the borough council to create the future they want for themselves and their kids and the community," said Behring, who was the leading vote-getter among the four elected council members in November.

Behring added that recognizing that change and growth are happening and creating partnerships in the community "to be smart about that growth," are also priorities.

"I think we need to try some new things to preserve the charm of this place but also make it appealing to other people: young families, young investors that want to invest in new businesses here," she said, noting that includes initiatives like finding ways to invest in the Urban Village to revitalize the west end and supporting projects like Summers on Allen.

Working on affordable housing issues is another major goal for Behring.

"It’s one of the issues that does keep me up at night as I’ve prepared for this position," she said. "But it’s also one of the reasons I was glad Ron Filippelli was selected as the mayor, despite all the amazing candidates we had, because of Ron’s experience with the State College Community Land Trust in particular, zoning, et cetera. I’m really hoping he can provide some guidance and wisdom for these decisions council needs to make to address that issue. It’s one we have to take on sooner rather than later."

State College Borough Councilman Peter Marshall is sworn in by Centre County Judge Brian Marshall on Jan. 6, 2020 at the State College Municipal Building. Photo by Geoff Rushton/StateCollege.com

Marshall, meanwhile, also was elected for the first time and like Behring has a history of public service. He was State College borough manager for 17 years until retiring in 2003. He then founded a municipal consulting firm that has served 45 Pennsylvania municipalities.

He said that as he begins his term, his priorities are those he stressed during his campaign, including neighborhood sustainability and finding long-term solutions to borough challenges.

"I want to make sure this is a welcoming community," he said. "I care about the neighborhoods because the neighborhoods pay earned income and real estate taxes. We’ve got to do things within our fiscal capacity. We can’t do things that take us beyond that because we’re going to get in trouble. I’ve been doing this kind of thing for a long time so I’m going to be looking at that."

Despite his years working in municipal government and with councils, Marshall said there is still a learning curve.

"I’m a little nervous. It is a different role, and I’m being educated," he said.

Departures

Dauler leaves council after her second consecutive term, but her time in public service has extended well beyond that including two previous terms on council.

"Cathy has a long history of community involvement stretching back decades," Myers said. "She has served on council numerous times, not just the last two terms, and has served as president of council. It would take up a considerable amount of time to list all of her service."

That includes serving on the Downtown Strategic Plan Steering Committee, State College Community Land Trust, Centre Area Cable Consortium, Downtown State College Improvement District board and MLK Plaza Advisory Committee.

"One area that stands out is her work with the National League of Cities on racial equity," Myers added. "She has fought constantly to make sure the borough lives up to the creed of racial justice espoused by the league. I am sure she will be instrumental in helping the borough work on these issues in the future. She leaves us with quite the legacy."

Dauler expressed gratitude to borough staff, her elected peers and citizens for their work to better the borough.

Catherine Dauler attends her final meeting as a State College Borough council member on Jan. 6, 2020 at the State College Municipal Building. Photo by Geoff Rushton/StateCollege.com

"I’m so grateful to our professional staff, who always reminds us when we’re straying from the path of righteousness," she said. "I’m grateful to all my colleagues past and present. It’s been a great joy to me to be part of each of the councils that I’ve been with. I always had a lot of fun and I appreciate the different perspectives we all bring to our decision-making. I’m grateful to the voters who elected me four times. I’ve had a wonderful time and I certainly appreciate their support."

Brown leaves after one term on council. He, too, also has contributed through volunteer service including ongoing work with the Land Trust and as the borough's representative to the Schlow Centre Region Library board.

"David has brought to council a unique perspective, given his background in psychology and counseling, and has done his best to council us, especially not to make a rush toward any judgment," Myers said.

"He is focused on our budgets, always asking questions that went to the heart of the matter. We will miss his wise advice," Myers said.

Brown said he feels good about the work council has done during his term in moving forward policies for the betterment of the borough and its residents.

"I’ve also seen firsthand the very fine caliber of the staff including the police personnel and department personnel that do the good work and serve us so well and make our life as citizens and residents of the borough much better for it," Brown said.

"I’ve also seen and appreciated the extensive vision of the council and administration that embraces not only infrastructure and fiscal responsibility but also extends to embrace social justice, human rights and environmental and other important issues."

Dauler and Brown expect to continue serving the community on borough authorities, boards and commissions, Myers said.

David Brown attends his final meeting as a State College Borough council member on Jan. 6, 2020 at the State College Municipal Building. Photo by Geoff Rushton/StateCollege.com

Myers also recognized former Mayor Don Hahn, who was elected magisterial district judge in November and left the mayor's office on Dec. 16, when Filippelli was appointed by council to serve the remaining two years of his term.

"Don has left us as mayor but has not left his service to the community," Myers said

Monday marked the first day of work as district judge for Hahn, who in addition to his role as mayor, previously served the borough through three terms on council as well as on the Redevelopment Authority, Planning Commission, Community Development Block Grant Citizens Advisory Committee and the Urban Village Revitalization Plan Steering Committee.

"Don brought us a view of the community that many did not experience," Myers said. "His perspective of growing up in State College as a person of color has given the community eye-opening lessons. His constant striving to push for equal rights for all community members should be a shining example to State College in the years to come. His admonition that we can disagree without being disagreeable will serve him and the community well in his now role as judge."



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