Hahn to Take Office as State College Mayor
January 02, 2018 5:00 AM
by Geoff Rushton
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New year, new mayor.

State College Borough will begin official business for 2018 on Tuesday with the swearing in of new Mayor Don Hahn. He succeeds Elizabeth Goreham, who after two four-year terms in office chose not to run for re-election.

Centre County President Judge Pamela Ruest will administer the oath of office to Hahn and the re-elected and newly elected members of borough council during an organizational meeting at noon in the State College Municipal Building.

Evan Myers and Theresa Lafer were re-elected to council in November's general election, while Daniel Murphy was elected for the first time. They join Jesse Barlow, David Brown, Catherine Dauler and Janet Engeman on council for 2018.

Hahn takes office after a relatively high-profile mayoral race in which he emerged from a crowd of Democratic candidates in the primary to win the nomination. Though no one ran on the Republican ballot, Democratic candidate Michael Black secured the Republican nomination on write-ins. Ron Madrid, meanwhile, entered the race in the summer as an independent.

A State College native, Hahn won in the general election with 54 percent of the vote.

An attorney with the State College law firm of Stover, McGlaughlin, Gerace, Weyandt & McCormick, Hahn has a long resume of experience with borough government, one that includes 12 years as a borough council member and service as vice president of the State College Redevelopment Authority. He also spent four years on the board of the Pennsylvania Municipal League.

Under State College's home rule charter, the mayor is the presiding officer of borough council but doesn't vote on any matter. He or she approves or vetoes any ordinance passed by council. The mayor is the ceremonial head and official representative of the borough.

Hahn told StateCollege.com after the election in November that he has two priorities as he takes office: improving town-gown relations and encouraging residents to participate more in local government.

For town-gown relations, Hahn said he wants to increase frank and respectful communications between students and borough leaders," and added that he believes most students and non-students want to get along.

"Having gone door to door in the Highlands neighborhood and talking a lot to students, it seems there is in fact a lot of mutual respect among residents and students," he said. "Residents are very well aware they bought homes near student housing and the history of State College being the home of Penn State. At the same time a lot of students recognize the beauty of the town is a part of the reason they are coming here. That is an asset they wish to keep.

"I think the majority of students and non-students want to co-exist and are willing to reach out. There needs to be more opportunities to communicate and solve problems respectfully."

Hahn follows in the footsteps of Goreham, who became State College's first elected female mayor in 2010 following the death of four-term Mayor Bill Welch. She was re-elected in 2014 and during her time in office worked with community members to stop development of a natural gas pipeline through neighborhoods, helped enact an environmental bill of rights and was an advocate for marriage equality.

"During 20 years of elected office, I feel the citizens of State College have become part of my family," Goreham told Town&Gown.  More than any particular accomplishments, I would like to be remembered as someone who is approachable, cares deeply about State College and believes in a bright future ahead if we continue on our current path, embracing diversity and encouraging graduates to build their lives here."

She endorsed Hahn in the mayoral race, and in November Hahn said she has provided examples he hopes to apply during his tenure.

"I think her strength is in the role as symbolic head of the borough government. In many ways she took that role to new directions, becoming more of an activist mayor, sometimes flirting with controversy more than her predecessors," he said. "Although I tend to shy away from controversy myself, I think the role of activism is something I wish to emulate, in terms of promoting sustainability, inclusiveness and entrepreneurship.

"I think in many ways her role over the past eight years has been inspirational for me for the next four years."

Following the swearing in, council members will elect a new president of council. That role had been held by Tom Daubert, who did not run for re-election after reaching the limit of two consecutive terms on council.

Prior to the organizational meeting, the outgoing council will hold a final meeting for approval of consent agenda items -- minutes from three December meetings and appointments to three boards. Goreham and Daubert also will receive special recognition during the meeting.

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