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29 applied for York city council. Here's the short list of who got interviews.

Written by Gordon Rago/The York Daily Record | Jan 22, 2018 6:31 PM
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York City Hall (Photo: File)

(York) -- Come Wednesday night, York City Council members will be peppering seven people with interview questions.

Their goal: choose two people to join them on council.

The vote will bring the council back up to five members after a position was left vacant on Jan. 2 when Michael Helfrich, the former city council president, was sworn in as mayor.

The other seat is open because councilwoman Judy Ritter-Dickson won both a 4-year council seat in November's election as well as the 2-year seat remaining on Carol Hill-Evans' term after she left to be a state representative.

The seven candidates include a retired certified public accountant who has sat on the city's planning commission across three mayors. It includes a director of a catering company who wants to use council to be a voice for the city's ever-growing Latino community as well as a former poet laureate. 

But in interviews Monday, candidates expressed the importance of not only holding Helfrich accountable for his campaign promises but the relationship that needs to continue between the five-person council and the city's leader.

"I will never be beholden to the mayor," candidate Lou Rivera said of his outlook of being on council and working with a mayor.

Rivera is the director of premium services and catering with Legends Hospitality as well as a member of Centro Hispano Jose Hernandez of York.

At Helfrich's Jan. 2 swearing-in, Rivera, calling himself a proud Puerto Rican and proud resident of York, said Helfrich has been an "unapologetic supporter of the Latino community." 

Still, Rivera said, if he gets appointed to council, he plans to hold Helfrich accountable for his promises to this community and said he will ensure that the administration is an inclusive one with the Latino community and better serves them in the coming years.

On Monday, Rivera said, "What I'm trying to do is bridge a gap" between the Latino community and the city. 

As a Bracey supporter himself and a donor to her campaign, Rivera thinks Bracey did a "great" job in office and thinks Helfrich is trying to do the same.

Rivera wants to be the voice that is going to engage York's Spanish-speaking residents.

The city provided a list of the candidate's names. A total of 29 people submitted resumes for the council vacancies, a number that didn't strike city clerk Dianna Thompson-Mitchell as unusually higher than previous years. 

Council president Henry Nixon, council vice president Sandie Walker and Ritter-Dickson narrowed down the long list to seven and will interview them in public during Wednesday night's meeting at City Hall. 

Appointments will be made later that night.

Two of the candidates have direct ties to the city's former mayor.

Edquina Washington was Bracey's director of community relations, a position that has been eliminated since Helfrich took office. Christine Lincoln, another candidate, was named by Bracey as the city's poet laureate in 2014.

Attempts to reach both on Monday were unsuccessful. 

Nixon, who said he's familiar with some but not all of the candidates, called Wednesday's decision particularly important because of the two-year term.

Council also navigates and manages the city's budget. 

He said the relationship between council and mayor is similar to that of the legislative and executive branches, just not quite the same checks and balances.

"I don't want to see council be obstructionists to the new administration," he said. "But I'm interested in council keeping a close eye and being vigilant with how the new administration moves forward."

He said he's looking for candidates who are proactive, saying that over the last eight years, "council leadership has largely been reactive."

H. Michael Buckingham applied to be a councilman, as well. Recently retired, Buckingham said he worked as a certified public accountant and has lived in the city his whole life. He still sits on the city's planning commission, a volunteer review board that, among other tasks, works on building and zoning code ordinances. 

Buckingham said he campaigned for Bracey but has known Helfrich for a long time.

"Just because I support Kim doesn't mean I think Michael couldn't do a good job," he said when reached Monday. 

"I can't speak for everyone else on council, but my belief is that council is generally interested in seeing the city succeed," he said. "I don't think anyone on council would let personal preferences or personal biases stand in the way of that." 

That sentiment was echoed by April Herring, who applied for one of the city council seats and who recently bought a house in York after moving here full time in 2016 from Philadelphia. Herring works with students at Carroll Community College in Maryland as the school's director of advising and transfer. 

She argues that having different perspectives is healthy for council and mayor, acknowledging that Helfrich and Bracey didn't always see eye-to-eye.

"But they moved forward," Herring said.

She said she's seen comments play out online where people take sides.

"I'm an outsider in some way," Herring said. "I don't see it as an either or...the city has grown and changed a lot in the last eight years and certainly Mayor Bracey had to be a part of that."

Helfrich, through his chief of staff Philip Given, said he was excited to see more than 20 people apply to council.

His administration looks forward to working with whoever's chosen and current council members are excited to start working together, Given said.

The candidates:

  • H. Michael Buckingham
  • April Herring
  • Christine Lincoln
  • Montez D. Parker III
  • Louis F. Rivera III
  • Willard S. Squire III
  • Edquina Washington

 

If you go

What: City council will publicly interview seven candidates and fill two vacant seats 

Where: 101 S. George St., city council chambers

When: Wednesday, Jan. 24 at 6 p.m.

 

This story comes to us through a partnership between WITF and The York Daily Record

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