State College mayors

Earlier this week I got a text from a friend in State College who was in a Borough Council meeting. He had gotten word that Elizabeth Goreham, the town’s mayor, wouldn’t be running for a third term.

I was sort of surprised by this, if for no other reason that the mayor’s isn’t particularly old and she seems well liked by most people. Being State College’s mayor is one of those things you could do forever as a way to serve the common good. And it’s a nice part-time job, if nothing else.

I’ve only met Goreham a handful of times, and I know more about her during time as a member of the State College Borough Council than I do of her time as mayor. I knew more of Bill Welch, her predecessor in the mayor’s chair. Bill was one-time editor of the Centre Daily Times and a Borough Council member among many other things before his time as mayor. He was also a friend my friend to Ben Novak, and inspired him to write his mid-1980s beer columns that became the basis for The Birth of the Craft Brew Revolution.

Bill was just one of many of a whole generation that was still alive and active when I came into Happy Valley as a freshman in 2005, but who have mostly passed from the stage today. Their generation created and shaped so much of the contemporary Penn State and State College that we’ve inherited—theirs were memories that knew of the college campus before the Sexual Revolution, and knew a Penn State that was something much closer to a practical liberal arts school than the corporation it is today. Theirs was a generation in its prime during Penn State football’s national championship era, and seized  on Paterno’s vision to raise Penn State to new academic heights on the back of his player’s fame.

Theirs was a generation that built so many great things. It makes me wonder what our generation will be remembered for.

Last night Don Han announced his candidacy for mayor. I’ve met Don a few times. He’s got a good reputation, and works for my friend’s old law firm. He’s quoted saying:

“State College is a great town. Penn State is a stable and well-paying employment center, the downtown is vibrant, property values remain strong, and State College consistently earns high ratings for safety… However, the borough needs to protect the stability of its neighborhoods through a combination of zoning, ordinance enforcement, and owner-occupied housing initiatives, such as the Community Land Trust and the Homestead Investment Program.”

No doubt this is all important, but I wish we could speak more simply in local politics. The job of State College’s mayor is to preside over the beautiful rituals of the town, and to encourage it to become an even more beautiful and enchanted place.

That’s what Bill Welch did. It’s what Elizabeth Goreham has tried to do. And it’s what I hope Don Han does.