Joyce Dennys, the 20th century artist-illustrator, once stated that living in a small town "is like living in a large family of rather uncongenial relations. Sometimes it's fun, and sometimes it's perfectly awful, but it's always good for you."
In comparison, she said people in large towns are like only-children.
For almost a quarter century, 16 as a council member and the last eight as mayor, Donald Rehrig, served his large family of Lehightonians. Although he announced he's retiring from elected office, he plans to stay abreast of the happenings in his borough.
Rehrig succeeded the late Wilbur "Cap" Bauchspies, who led the borough for 28 years as its mayor. When Bauchspies died in 2009 at the age of 81, he was still an active member of borough council. Like Bauchspies, Rehrig earned his spurs in local government by serving on council.
While directing the Lehighton police department during his tenure as mayor, Rehrig participated in a number of initiatives that helped make his borough a better place for residents and businesses. He was a strong proponent of educating the public on various programs.
In addressing a group of crime watch representatives from the county on crime prevention programs, he said the goal is not for citizens to be hands-on law enforcement officers but to educate community members on how to recognize a crime and properly report it.
Rehrig was a strong supporter of the Drug & Alcohol Expos held in conjunction with schools. He saw the Lehighton Area Drug and Alcohol Task Force as a valuable tool in educating citizens about the problems facing young people today.
When it came to espousing family values, Rehrig stood by his principles. Last July, when a local business sought approval to hand out two-ounce samples of locally brewed beer at Bike Nite, Rehrig objected, asking the council members if they really wanted to allow beer at the event.
When a council member countered that it was beer tasting, Rehrig responded that Bike Nite is a family event with children attending and that he didn't think it was wise to have alcohol around.
A number of red letter accomplishments marked Rehrig's tenure as mayor. The development of Lehighton Bike Night, which has grown into a regional attraction, is the most prominent in the public eye. Another with less visibility, but very important to borough residents, is the recycling program which he helped organize.
Since he served as a volunteer fireman for 11 years before becoming an elected official, Rehrig took special pride in the ceremonial groundbreaking last year for construction on a new Lehighton fire station addition.
The focus of the Neighborhood Watch program, which Rehrig helped launch in 2012, is "neighbor helping neighbor."
That's just the kind of slogan he hopes people will use while describing the lifestyle in the borough he so capably served in as an elected leader.
By Jim Zbick