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Most mayors part-time, see selves as community helpers

Complexity of modern local government calls for full-time oversight, Wilkes prof says.

Of the county’s 75 municipalities, as listed on the Luzerne County Web page, only four are cities while 36 are boroughs and 35 townships. In these smaller communities, mayors are almost always part-time, are generally paid very little and, according to Thomas Baldino, professor of political science at Wilkes University, their motivation is primarily to help their communities any way they can.

In Dallas Borough, for example, Mayor Timothy J. Carroll makes $600 annually and donates the entire amount to the “Mayor’s Club” that he founded.

According to an e-mail response from the borough, “The Mayor’s Club donates to local events (non-political) such as the Dallas High School lock-in at graduation time and the maintenance of the historic Rice Cemetery on Huntsville Road. The mayor’s chief responsibility is the supervision of the police department” for the borough of 2,557.

In Conyngham Borough, Mayor Conrad J. Wittig earns $1,200 a year, according to the borough secretary. “We like to say he’s really a full-time mayor because he has no set hours and he, like everyone else here, is essentially a volunteer. Everyone just pitches in and does what needs to be done,” the secretary said.

While Wittig takes care of that borough’s 1,956 residents, part-time Mayor Dorothy E. Petrosky does the same for Plymouth Borough’s 6,507 residents and earns $1,900 annually. She also has no set office hours.

The situation is remarkably similar in many municipalities in Luzerne County:

• In Forty Fort, Mayor Boyd T. Hoats Jr. said by e-mail that his salary is $1,200 a year and his “main responsibility is the supervision of the police department” in the borough of 4,579 residents.

• In Swoyersville, Mayor Vincent Dennis’ “salary is $1,800 a year, the position is part-time and his main function is overseeing the police department,” said Gene Breznay, coordinator for the borough of 5,157 residents.

• West Pittston Borough’s Mayor William Goldsworthy earns a part-time salary of $3,000 a year and, as with most mayors contacted, his main responsibility is with “public safety” in the borough of 5,074 residents.

• Dupont Borough’s part-time mayor is Dan Lello. According to an e-mail from Patricia McDonald, borough manager, “He receives a monthly salary of $150 -- $1,800 yearly. Right now he has a full-time job outside the mayor duties, but is on call 24/7. His main responsibilities (are) to oversee the police department and emergency situations.” Dupont has 2,719 residents.

• Luzerne Borough pays Mayor James Keller $1,600 a year and his main responsibility is for “safety for the borough” of 2,952 residents, according to the secretary, Jean Orlando.

• In Laflin Borough, part-time Mayor Michael Grebeck earns $1,000 a year and acts as “head of the police department” in the borough of 1,502 residents.

The mayor’s salary in Wilkes-Barre Township is a cut above the others.

The township of 3,235 people pays its part-time mayor, Carl Kuren, $15,700 a year. But the township’s administrative secretary, who asked that her name not be used, said, “He gets no benefits, just salary. And he runs everything and he’s basically here full time even though he only gets paid for part time.”

Baldino says this “patchwork of part-time public officials is unworkable, outmoded and needs to be changed.”

“Government doesn’t come cheaply,” he said. “And you really need good full-time people to run it effectively. People shouldn’t complain about the part-time mayors and supervisors in so many of our townships and boroughs, since they are essentially unpaid or underpaid volunteers in their towns. They do what they can to help the communities and if they make a mistake, it’s not their fault.”

Baldino added, “If people want professional government, they will have to pay accordingly. The fact that so many positions are part-time and not paid very well sends this message: The public doesn’t value the work done, or thinks it is work that’s so easy it doesn’t have to be compensated well.”

Baldino says the only answer is full-time government in every municipality.

“Things are overwhelmingly complex, especially as they relate to dealing with other branches and levels of government,” Baldino said. “And as we saw with the recent heavy rains, part-time governments were just overwhelmed by the filings that needed to be done in the wake of that disaster. It is all just too complex to be left to part-time volunteers.”

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