Last time 33 residents applied to fill the vacant seat on City Council, this time there are 12.

Some of the names we know. They have run for or held office before such as Rhonda Mays, Pat Stringer, Kelly Summerford, Ron Burkholder, and Ellis Roy. Others are known because they previously held offices or positions in the City’s government such Jeffrey A. Baltimore and John Downs.

While Alex Reber may have not ever run for office, he is actively involved and known in local politics mostly associated with Dauphin County Democratic Party and the Dan Miller campaigns.

A few are known for their community organizations and activism such as Matt Krupp who started Lighten Up, Harrisburg! or Michelle Blade who runs the Stone Soup Library in Allison Hill or Kathy Seidl who is active in her Midtown neighborhood.

Stanley Gruen may not be familiar to much of the city’s population, but his submission indicates a well-versed and well-intentioned man.

There are twelve–2 black women, 3 black men, 5 white man, 2 white women. Each has various experiences, skill sets, and aspirations for what it means to be on Harrisburg City Council. And that is evident from their applications. While specific addresses aren’t know, it seems each section of the city is represented except for Southside, which is an area Smith advocated for.

Who best to replace Eugenia Smith’s seat?

Whoever is elected will take the chair of the Public Safety Committee, too. That is the City Councilor point person for anything from police and fire to parking and traffic issues, too.

Here’s how the process will unfold.

harrisburg City Council Chambers

photo by Jonathan Smith

Each City Council candidate will be given a few minutes to state their reason for applying. Why do they want the seat and why are they qualified to do so?

After the twelve candidates have their time, City Councilors will each nominate one person for the next stage—the interview.

These nominations are done anonymously. “Through a secret ballot,” the public announcement reads.

The public won’t know who nominated whom outside of suppositions. At most, it cuts the list of candidates in half.

Each of the nominated will return to the City Council table of testimony where public interview will proceed. The candidates will be asked a series of questions about the legislative branch of local government and the current state of the city’s affairs.

In fact, a few of the candidates have been through this before.

The last time City Council had a vacant seat, both Ellis Roy and Pat Stringer applied, but neither made it to the interview round. Nor have either won an election in the past two City Council races they’ve run. Although it’s necessary to note, Pat Stringer is famously the only “no” vote as a former City Councilor on the Incinerator’s retrofit financing in 2003. The only no vote on a monumentally bad decision by her peers (including Linda Thompson) and Pat Stringer hasn’t won an election since.

Also run and lost is newly up seated Councilman Kelly Summerford. In last Fall’s election, he failed to win a second term. And as it’s been declared much more than once, he was not happy about the results of that race.

It’s significant for everyone to remember—City Councilors included—that Ms Eugenia’s seat was only a few months old. She had won it again for another term just last November. She was the highest vote getter in the race, even above current City Council President Wanda Williams.

Quite frankly, I believe anyone who lost the recent race such as Kelly Summerford, Pat Stringer, and Ellis Roy, should be cut. We have a sufficient public metric on them and the public chose no, so now onto the next batch of candidates.

The white guys. Unfortunately they are at a disadvantage in this process only because they don’t apparently seem to fulfill Eugenia Smith’s position of representation and perspective of this city where she was raised.

That being true, it will be interesting to hear all of their presentations because attorney Matt Krupp, for example, is someone who has indicated a great thoughtfulness and service to the city. Alex Reber is a man of numbers, dollars and cents, which could be extremely helpful right now. He is also political savvy.

It may just be the political savvy that boots him out of contention…..or that may get him the seat.

John Downs, whom I’ve never heard of before, is at the ultimate disadvantage. Quite frankly, it’s always a challenge to trust white men in this city especially when they are associated with the Reed Administration as John Downs is.

Undoubtedly, at least one of them will make the interview cut.

Never mind skin color, though, Downs wasn’t the only one who worked for the infamous Steve Reed Administration.

Jeffrey A. Baltimore did, too. One of the black male candidates besides Summerford, Baltimore has the unlucky resume item of having run the Revolving Loan Fund. That certainly won’t go over well with most City Councilors. It’s just one of those residual Reedisms that automatically puts a bad taste in the mouth, no matter what. It’s still unclear what happened there with the fund. That, though, seems to now be the jurisdiction of the Grand Jury.

That leaves us with three women candidates—Rhonda Mays, Michelle Blade, and Kathy Seidl. Two women from Allison Hill and one from Midtown.

Two of them are retired, Mays as a budget analyst for the the state Department of Public Welfare and Blade as a teacher’s aid. Seidl works for the PA House of Representatives.

It’s feasible—depending how they handle their two minute introductions—that all three make it to the interview stage.

As indicated above, each of the six City Councilors will secretly nominate one candidate after the intros. That’s potentially six candidates that make it to the interviews, but of course, more than one Councilor could nominate the same candidate.

This is a serious consideration for City Council especially as the tensions between certain Councilors and the Administration heat up never mind the struggles and suspicions within their rank.

Who best to replace Eugenia Smith’s seat?

Regardless of the appearance, background, residence, skill, experience, and sincerity of each candidate, it’s quite possible every City Councilor has already answered that question.

And not necessarily for the reasons they should. With Council still locating its balance of power, its allegiances, and purpose, this new person will be entering a highly charged realm ripe with urges for control. Surely, that’s not missed on anyone, behind the scenes included.

Who best to fill the seat? That’s going to depend on each City Councilor’s sense of duty and intentions.

CORRECTION: The vote takes place at the a Special Legislative Session on Monday, May 12th at 5:30pm. After the vote, the new councilor will take the seat and begin the term.

Read the applications>>>City Council Candidates 2014

Update 5/9/2014: The four City Council candidates to be voted upon: 

–Michelle Blade
–Jeff Baltimore
–Alex Reber
–Kelly Summerford

Tara Leo Auchey

Tara Leo Auchey

Creator & editor of today's the day Harrisburg, started in 2009. Resident, engaged citizen, community activist, teacher, strategist, writer.
Tara Leo Auchey