State College has a new mayor.
Former Councilman Ronald Filippelli was appointed interim mayor by a 6-1 vote of borough council on Monday night.
Filippelli, who was one of 11 remaining eligible applicants for the position, will be formally sworn in by Centre County President Judge Pamela Ruest at noon on Tuesday in council chambers of the Municipal Building. He will serve the final two years of Don Hahn’s term as mayor, ending in January 2022.
Hahn, who presided over his final council meeting on Dec. 2, was elected magisterial district judge in November and his resignation as mayor was effective at 5 p.m. on Monday.
Filippelli has said he will not run for mayor in the 2021 election.
A professor emeritus of labor studies at Penn State and associate dean emeritus of its College of the Liberal Arts, Filippelli served two terms on borough council from 2007 to 2015. He was council president for two years and chaired the Centre Region Council of Governments for one year.
He also has served on borough committees, including as chair of the current zoning rewrite commission, and boards of organizations such as the Downtown State College Improvement District, the Airport Authority and State College Community Land Trust.
Following a process in part dictated by the borough’s home rule charter and agreed upon by council, members’ names were chosen at random, and in the order they were selected each had the opportunity to nominate a candidate. No discussion was permitted once nominations were made, per the rules of order.
Voting was to take place in the order of nominations, and the first nominee to receive a majority of votes would become the interim mayor.
Councilwoman Theresa Lafer’s name was drawn first and she nominated Filippelli, who received a majority on the first vote, ending the process. Council members were free to vote for or against any nominee, regardless of whether their own nominee had come to a vote yet.
Councilman Dan Murphy was the only ‘no’ vote. He congratulated Filippelli immediately after the meeting on Twitter.
The process may have started w/some fireworks, but the @State_CollegePA Council has fulfilled it’s Home Rule Charter responsibility of appointing an Interim Mayor. Congrats Ron Filippelli! I look forward to working w/you in the weeks and months to come!
— Dan Murphy (@danielwmurphy) December 17, 2019
Other applicants receiving nominations were Thomas Daubert (nominated by Councilwoman Janet Engeman), James Leous (nominated by Councilman Jesse Barlow), Jason Browne (nominated by Murphy) and Ezra Nanes (nominated by Council President Evan Myers). Councilwoman Catherine Dauler and Councilman David Brown chose not to make nominations.
As mayor, Filippelli will be ceremonial head of borough government and will preside over council meetings. The mayor, who receives a salary of $13,000 a year, does not vote on any action of council, but can veto or approve ordinances.
‘I believe that the most important role of the mayor is to chair council in an efficient, fair and civil manner,’ Filippelli wrote in his letter of interest. ‘In addition, the mayor is an ambassador to the residents of the borough, including students, neighborhood organizations, the business community, the non-profit sector and the university.
‘The mayor should be a sounding board for the individual and collective interests of the residents and property owners. In this role, communicating to Borough Council and borough administrators is paramount. My experience has given me a broad knowledge and familiarity with both town and gown.’
At a session for presentations by applicants on Dec. 3, Filippelli said the mayor should work to encourage communities of color to be involved in borough government.
He also said that the lack of affordable workforce housing is one of the borough’s biggest challenges, calling for a central housing program, and for Penn State to play a larger role in local housing initiatives. He added that with the borough facing an ongoing tax revenue strain, he would advocate at the state level for municipalities to be granted more revenue-raising options, specifically citing a “drink tax.”
Filippelli’s appointment brought to an end months of discussion, which included sometimes heated debate over potential criteria guidelines that were ultimately tabled.
After the vote Myers applauded all of the applicants who submitted themselves for consideration.
‘There are no losers in this process,’ Myers said. ‘Everybody put themselves forward in a heartfelt way. The uniqueness everyone brought is truly amazing and we appreciate everyone’s participation in this process.’