VICTOR IZZO/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS In attendance in the conference room at The Inn in Jim Thorpe for the beginning of the Mayor's Association of Carbon County were front, from left, Lehighton Mayor Donald Rehrig; Champ Holman, Deputy Secretary DCED; and Nesquehoning Mayor Tony Walck. Rear, from left, Weatherly Mayor Tom Connors; Jim Thorpe Mayor Michael Sofranko; and Bowmanstown Mayor Keith Billig.
The First Annual Mayors' Meeting for Carbon County, which was held in the conference room at The Inn in Jim Thorpe, was done in a spirit of nonpartisanship cooperation.
The initial meeting of the mayors was hosted by Jim Thorpe Mayor Michael Sofranko with the assistance of Champ Holman, deputy secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED).
"As we travel around each other's communities whether we're going to an event in Nesquehoning, Lehighton, Weatherly, we kind of bump into each mayor and we all decided that it would be nice if the mayors could just sometime get together, sit down, and just talk about some issues as to what's affecting each community," said Sofranko in his opening remarks.
"Where I was fortunate, was being with local government and I managed to run into Champ Holman out in Harrisburg. I asked him to come in and give out some information to all of the mayors and begin a sit-down forum," Sofranko explained.
"We could all sit down every couple of months and talk about issues that are facing each community and how we work together, and everybody was on-board with it," he said.
"We brought many things onto the table tonight and I think that we're going to take a lot of information back with us," Sofranko added.
"I appreciate the opportunity to be here tonight and we will be glad to give technical assistance in whatever way we can," Holman told the mayors.
"We're willing to come and share ideas with you and take your ideas to whomever we have to in Harrisburg, right up to the governor's office. We'll be glad to provide any assistance that we can give you in any way, shape, or form."
"One of our big concerns," Sofranko said, "is the fact that we have so many different legislators that are now going to be within the county. One mayor deals with one representative and another mayor deals with a different one and we also deal with different senators.
"Its nice," he said, "if the whole region comes together and says this is what we'd like to see done or we'd like to see as part of a legislative agenda. We want to try to be sure that we're all in agreement about what we're doing to get it accomplished.
"It doesn't matter whether you're a Democrat or a Republican, it just matters what's right for our area and that is what we are trying to accomplish here tonight."
Nesquehoning Mayor Tony Walck said it was a good thing that the mayors got together.
"Hopefully we'll continue this and more mayors will get involved," said Walck.
"If all our mayors go and see our representatives and senators in Harrisburg, whomever they may be, when you go as a group you'll get more accomplished. When you get seven, eight, or nine mayors together and they say here's our problem, here's what we need, what are you going to do now they know that they are not just dealing with one individual, but a group of mayors and that carries a lot of weight."
With that Holman added, "I think that you're starting to formulate here a little bit of the Mayor's Association of Carbon County. This could be the first step in something that I think will be good in the long term, and we should continue to work and communicate with each other.
"I'll work with the guy that represents this area and I will gladly take your message to him along with you people taking it to him," Holman added.
"It's a good idea that's beneficial to your communities and beneficial to your county too."
Lehighton Mayor Donald Rehrig said everybody has the same problems police departments, the economy, how to get jobs done.
"The number of calls has increased in the last couple of years," said Rehrig, "and they keep cutting back on our funding and saying we have no more to give you."
Reflecting the agreement among them, Mayor Walck added "if it makes sense for the people, I don't care who made the suggestion, a Democrat or a Republican, if it makes sense for the citizens of your town do it! That's what we were elected for."
To that, Mayor Rehrig added "I ran on a party (ticket), but once I got in there, I was for the people, not just the Democrats, not just the Republicans. We're representing all the people of our towns."
"There's a wide range of topics that we talked about here tonight, there was a lot thrown on the table here," Sofranko summed up in closing.
"We plan to get another meeting date and invite more mayors. All were invited this time, but some had work schedules, other commitments, or vacations."
"After an agenda is set, call in our state representatives and say these are five or six things we'd really like you to look at for our communities. Every mayor that sat here tonight brought up issues that affect the youngest residents to the senior residents of our communities. We talked about the entire spectrum.
"There was no political posturing tonight, it was all about community community, community!"
Future meetings will be planned and held in different communities around the county.
The mayors present and Holman agreed the initial meeting was a good start.
Sofranko thanked The Inn at Jim Thorpe and the Drury family for allowing them to hold the meeting there, and for the use of the facilities.