A little more than a month into his term, Williamsport Mayor Derek Slaughter has made some decisive personnel moves and is taking steps toward establishing financial responsibility in government. In a release detailing the administration’s efforts, the Mayor referenced his “promise to be transparent and to keep everyone informed.”
“Our initial focus has been on buttoning up city finances and evaluating our general organization,” according to Slaughter. His team has been busy reviewing contracts and agreements, including contracts with the Hiawatha, Endless Mountains Transportation Authority, the Williamsport Parking Authority, and others to update and improve the language.
“Additionally,” said the Mayor, “we are filling administrative positions as well as updating the appointments and reappointments to various boards throughout the city.”
The City currently has four major vacancies to fill.
William E. Nichols, Jr., former city finance director and head of River Valley Transit Authority was relieved of his duties in early January. Currently Adam Winder is “pulling double duty,” serving both as General Manager of Streets and Parks, and filling in for Nichols’ River Valley Transit vacancy. “PennDOT has been assisting with the transition,” said Slaughter.
Nichols, who worked for the City for 43 years, held two roles as both general manager of RVT and finance director. “Likely that won’t be the case going forward,” said Slaughter of Nichols’ replacement, but those details aren’t completely ironed out.
The City is interviewing candidates for city engineer this week. The former city engineer with the Streets and Parks Department, Mark Benner, was also released from his duties this past January. Benner worked for PennDOT for 20 years prior to his post as city engineer, appointed by former mayor Gabriel Campana.
Applications close this Friday for the position of Williamsport Fire Chief. According to Mayor Slaughter, Fire Chief Todd Heckman was given options to either return to his previous position with the Bureau or retire from active service. The city intends to begin interviews for Fire Chief next week.
The City is also looking to fill the position of Recreation Director, vacated by Shawn Washington who was relieved by Slaughter January 30. “We received 51 applications for this position,” said Slaughter. Applications close this Friday, with interviews also beginning next week.
In addition to staff appointments, the Administration is preparing for a strategic planning process. As part of the Strategic Management Planning Program (STMP) offered to Williamsport through the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED), the city has received a list of about 30 firms who are able to assist in developing and implementing a multi-year financial strategic plan.
The selected firm will review four or five years of City finances, the operational structure, day-to-day operations, and identify elements that are lacking and make recommendations as part of the strategic planning process. “Usually a municipality receives around 100 recommendations and they have the option to implement all or zero of the recommendations,” said Slaughter. “Most implement the majority, if not all recommendations,” he added.
Slaughter has talked with other state mayors whose cities have participated in this strategic financial planning process, including the mayor of Lancaster, who offered strong support for STMP. “By using STMP, we will manage our tax dollars more effectively. Better, smarter financial management is the end goal,” Slaughter said.
The timeline is to be in review process by the beginning of March, have an approved plan by the end of March or beginning of April, and to have a solid strategic plan in place before budget talks begin, according to Slaughter.
Other highlights from the Mayor’s recap of his first month in office:
The City’s first K-9 officer will be hitting the streets in the very near future. The department continues to receive donations in support of the K-9 program and those donations are making a difference for the community.
City Council approved a new hire to add an additional officer to the police department.
City Council recently approved the purchase of software that will assist the police department in completing a professional accreditation program.
“There are challenges facing our city,” the Mayor said. “My administration is just getting started; we intend to move quickly to establish higher standards for department and program management that will provide a more transparent and open government. Positive changes have started; we will continue to move forward.”
Slaughter encourages his constituents to reach out to his office with questions or concerns to email@example.com.