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Councilman, 82, to make final vote

December 27, 2001

Councilman, 82, to make final vote



Chambersburg, Pa.

By STACEY DANZUSO
chbbureau@innernet.net


At age 82, Chambersburg Borough Councilman Harold "Jiggs" Kennedy says it's time to cut back.

After 20 years on the council, Kennedy will cast his final vote, probably on the 2002 budget, Wednesday night.

"I keep an eye on Strom Thurmond, but I won't try to catch up to" the 99-year-old U.S. Senator from South Carolina, Kennedy said.

The Republican first tried to slow down the hectic pace of his life by retiring from his position as assistant chief of the Letterkenny Army Depot Fire Department in 1978, after more than 33 years on the job.

Around the same time, he stepped down as a volunteer assistant chief of the Chambersburg Fire Department after 25 years.

But the solitude didn't suit Kennedy, a father of seven and grandfather to 17.

No longer a federal employee, Kennedy decided there was nothing stopping him from getting involved with town council.

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In 1982, he unseated the council president and won the Second Ward seat. He also went to work as an electrical inspector with Commonwealth Code Inspection Service in what was supposed to be a part-time job.

Kennedy begins most days around 3:30 or 4 a.m. doing paperwork so he can get in the field as early as possible. These days inspections at the new Kmart and Ingram Books facilities in Chambersburg keep him busy.

But the demands of the job are full time, and Kennedy said he finally had to choose between that and council.

"After two terms I would say 'One more, and that will be it,'" he said. He finally made the decision in January, the start of the final year of his fifth term.

Fellow council members say they respect Kennedy as a role model and source of knowledge.

"He brings a level head to council and looks at every issue thoroughly," Councilman Robert Wareham said. "He doesn't vote for anything he doesn't think is for the best of the total borough."

Councilman and Mayor-Elect Tom Newcomer has represented the Second Ward with Kennedy since 1992.

"He is one you could always go to. Jiggs is a friend and a very reliable person who has given good service to the community," he said.

Kennedy was born and raised in Chambersburg, moving every year or two to different houses along Lincoln Way East, Second Street and Broad Street. But for the last 38 years, he has lived with his wife, Scherrie, in their Fourth Street home.

He has seen the borough change from dirt roads to paved highways, from police on horseback to officers in patrol cars.

"Basically there have always been problems, and there always will be problems to solve," Kennedy said.

He noted the council has had its ups and downs in the last few years, including a proposed senior housing development downtown that caused heated arguments and divided the council.

But Kennedy said he doesn't subscribe to any particular faction, he merely votes his conscience.

"I made a commitment to those people who didn't want it," to vote against the project, he said.

A 5-to-5 tie vote forced the mayor to cast the deciding ballot. He favored the development, which never moved forward.

"I have a pretty friendly relationship with all council members. I am always able to shake hands at the end of a meeting," he said.

That's due in part to Kennedy's preference to keep a low profile at meetings.

"I am not the leader type. I'd just as soon sit in the background and try to listen to my constituents," he said.

But that doesn't keep Kennedy from speaking his mind at times.

Earlier this month when the borough fire chief requested four new positions in his department, Kennedy quickly said he didn't think the positions would make a difference - and the $220,000 price tag was hard to swallow.

A veteran to firehouses, Kennedy said the firefighters' shifts would likely be split so that none would be working at the same time. He doesn't believe that would have much of an impact on the department's staffing needs.

Instead, Kennedy said he urges the new council to take a hard look at recruiting more volunteers with different incentives.

That insight to the fire department has proved to invaluable at time.

"We often look to him to give some up front comments on the fire department. A lot of the time there is a lot of merit to something we missed," Newcomer said.

Kennedy said he will miss his colleagues on the council and in the borough offices, but he plans to stay informed.

He expects to attend the Jan. 7 reorganization meeting to see the makeup of the new council, which will have three new faces, including Allen Frantz, who won Kennedy's Second Ward seat last month.

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