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Pa. mayor won't seek second term

March 01, 2005|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Mayor Thomas L. Newcomer announced Monday he will not seek re-election to a second four-year term, acknowledging difficulties in his dealings with the Chambersburg Borough Council and police department, but saying his time in office has been well-spent.

Newcomer, 60, was elected in 2001, defeating long-time Democratic Mayor Robert Morris. Prior to being elected, the Republican was a Second Ward councilman for 10 years and previously served three years in the Third Ward.

"I've been retired for 21/2 years now. I want to enjoy my retirement," the former financial analyst for Allegheny Energy said Monday morning. He did not rule out running for another office in a few years.

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"There were some changes I felt needed to be made" within the police department, Newcomer said. "I realized there would be a lot of obstacles I'd be confronting."

One change Newcomer sought was reducing police overtime, which amounted to $114,000 in 2004. He also sought to have the department's Crime Impact Team reduced from five to four members in order to have more officers on regular patrol.

Newcomer said work rules in the police officers' contract proved to be one obstacle and "council has not been favorable in a lot of instances."

Despite those differences, Newcomer said he felt he has developed a good working relationship with Chief Michael T. DeFrank and other officers.

"I believe we need a police study very badly," Newcomer said, referring to one item on the borough council agenda Monday night. The study is needed to examine the department's future needs for staffing, scheduling and office space, he said.

While frustrated in some of his efforts to make changes in the department, Newcomer said he has tried to make the office more visible in the community. He cited his work with a coalition of churches to open the new Cold Weather Drop-In Shelter and reaching out to the borough's growing Hispanic community.

The shelter fills a need for "those people who really have no place to go at night," whether they are residents or transients, he said.

"We are trying to be proactive rather than reactive with the Hispanic community to help them adapt to our culture ... I think we've made great headway," Newcomer said.

Hispanics make up more than 6 percent of the borough's 17,500 residents, he said.

The mayor said the police department now has an administrative assistant and part-time officer who is fluent in Spanish.

Newcomer said he has been involved closely with efforts to get a rail-trail built downtown and a statue to honor Chambersburg's founding fathers in a downtown park.

"The mayor is the only elected official who is elected by all the people," Newcomer said. Because of that, he said the council should consider changing its form of government to allow future mayors to have a say in the legislative process, instead of being allowed only to cast tie-breaking votes.

Fourth Ward Councilman John Redding, 74, also a Republican, announced in February he is running for mayor in the May 17 primary. The deadline for candidates to file for the primary is March 8.

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