Whitehall council members may get into some tough discussions -- even yell -- but they care for and "genuinely like each other," longtime member Kathleen DePuy said.
"The whole time I have been on council, we have always liked one another, even when we disagree. We do scream at each other, but it isn't personal," said Mrs. DePuy, who has served since 1988 and won another Democratic nomination in the May primary election.
Mrs. DePuy, 72, a retired teacher from the South Park School District, took her commitment to local service statewide when she was recently elected as president of the Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs.
"I believe in government and the association helps boroughs serve their community better," she said.
Mrs. DePuy began her community service when she was asked to serve on the board of the Whitehall Library nearly three decades ago. A resident of Whitehall since she was 12, she said she enjoyed that stint so much she decided to run for council.
"I enjoyed the budgeting, the meetings, seeing the changes that we made. So I decided to take it to the next level," she recalled.
Mrs. DePuy said she won her first election with the support of her late husband, Meade DePuy, and her daughter, Jane.
"They may have wondered if I would be spending any time at home again, but they always stood behind me," she said.
The biggest surprise in serving on the board of the library and council for Mrs. DePuy has been in learning she isn't always right.
"Realizing my opinion might not always be the best was a surprise," Mrs. DePuy said.
Her greatest joy in serving on council has been keeping Whitehall a "banner community."
"We have a good image. We have a great public works team, great police and great volunteer firemen. This is a great place to live," Mrs. DePuy said.
She said her biggest accomplishment while on council is "changing the tax base so we didn't have to increase taxes" and establishing the popular " 'Hard to Get Rid of Day,' a program held two days each year when residents can get rid of items they can't put out in regular garbage, such as construction materials."
The last tax increase for the borough of 14,000 residents and about 6,000 homes was "at least seven years ago," she said.
Mrs. DePuy said some of her challenges for the borough include "educating people on what local government can and can not do."
"People do not realize that we are governed a lot by the state ... and some do not understand the difference between the borough and the school district," she said.
She said she decided to run for the office of president of the state association to help other communities run successfully. Her term is one year, and she replaces Betty Ann Moyer of Danville.
"Whitehall is well run, and I wanted to share that with other boroughs," she said.
She said the future of small towns everywhere depends on their willingness to "join in joint ventures. If you are small, you may not be able to afford a full-time police force, so you may have to join with others or contract out to another area. Small towns have to open to these ideas."
In her new role, she will travel to Hershey and/or Harrisburg a dozen times during the year of her term and participate in teleconferences with other councils.
Kathleen Ganster, freelance writer: email@example.com.