A link to videos of the six interviews has been added to the end of this article.
With the resignation of Harrisburg City Councilor Patty Kim, who is heading to the PA House of representatives, there are temporarily six City Councilors reigning the legislative branch of the City’s government.
In a special public meeting on December 3rd, those Councilors enacted the next step of the process to choose a replacement for the vacant seat in their ranks. Prior to this evening, thirty-two City residents submitted their applications for the position. Per City rules, the seat is filled by the remaining Councilors, not by public vote.
The thirty-two applicants were publicly brought forth before City Council and asked to speak for two minutes to introduce themselves and to give any pitch they deemed worthy to persuade the Councilors to call them back for an interview. One by one the citizens came to the front of the room to give their speeches. Some came with a written monologue, some were prepared with nothing more than a way with words, some had bullet points, some had clichés, and some purely winged it. Nerves were evident with more than one as was arrogance and presumption.
However, there was also a slew of diversity of age, race, knowledge, awareness, skill, experience, length of residency in the City, where they live in the City, and culture from musicians, to businesspeople, to community organizers. There were attorneys, financiers, educators, managers, and former City employees. The rich multiplicity found in City of Harrisburg was well represented in those thirty-two candidates.
After the brief presentations, there was a secret ballot selection for each Councilor to choose one applicant that would then move on to the interview stage. Fortunately or ironically, there were no duplicates. The six interviewees were:
- Floyd Stokes
- Latasha N. Frye
- Joseph Solomon
- Michael Parker
- Bruce Weber
- Julie Bancroft
Because the nomination were done by secret ballot, it is unclear which City Councilors chose which candidates, a curious aggravation to many observers who felt that the process should be more transparent. A glance at the list indicates that certain City Councilors chose their nominees not necessarily on qualifications on resumes or proficiency during the two minute presentations, but rather on familiarity, patronage, or machinations. More than one witness of the proceedings was surprised that the above list is who made the cut considering some of the other contenders who stepped forward. There were indeed more obviously fluent applicants than a few of the ones chosen.
When asked what rubric City Council used in determining their nominees, the City Clerk replied that none was used, merely that each Councilor chose who she or he felt was best suited for the post.
One by one, the six candidates were brought back into City Council Chambers and asked a series of questions such as What is the duty of City Council? What do you know about the City’s fiscal crisis? What does the City of Harrisburg look like in 5, in 10 years? What legislation would you pass? How do you work in a team?
Not unlike their two minute presentations, each candidate demonstrated their awareness and articulation or lack there of. Two candidates stood out as straightforward and independent—Bruce Weber and Julie Bancroft. Two candidates stood out as aloof and uninformed—Latasha Frye and Michael Parker. The other two candidates were sufficient but were the nominees who seemed to be the most pre-determined with allegiance more the reason why they were there than any other factor. Certainly others in the group of thirty-two were more deserving of the interview stage. That can definitely be said of Frye’s and Parker’s positions.
On December 11th, City Council will vote to fill the position, and that night, the next Harrisburg City Councilor will be named. The tenure is for one year; however, if that individual has any desire to keep the seat, she or he will have to formally become a candidate for the primary election in May when that seat along with three others—the seats of Wanda Williams, Eugenia Smith, and Kelly Summerford—will become open. Hopefully, the rejected applicants will consider this as another opportunity to be a Harrisburg City Councilor, especially since several good ones were passed by this round.
Access Roxbury News videos of the six interviews here.