NEW BETHLEHEM, Pa. (RVO) – Following recent resignation of Mayor Tim Murray and Councilwoman Jennifer Murray, New Bethlehem Borough Council sought letters of interest from residents willing to fill the remainder of those vacant terms. On the heels of a successful campaign for re-election to New Bethlehem Borough Council, local businessman Gordon Barrows was officially appointed and sworn in as Mayor of New Bethlehem. RedbankValley.org asked the tough questions in an exclusive interview!
Click the questions below to reveal the answers to each of the interview questions…
A: I have a heartfelt passion and genuine love for serving the people of the New Bethlehem area and Redbank Valley community. I would be honored to have the privilege of serving the people of New Bethlehem, to support business, community and personal growth within the borough, while maintaining the small-town appeal and family-friendly environment that makes New Bethlehem such great place to work, live and raise a family.
A: The Mayor has several duties which include:
- Administering oaths and affirmations
- Presiding over mandatory reorganization meetings
- Voting to break tie votes on council
- Taking part in council discussions
- Declaring an emergency and regulating certain actions during that time
- Administering to the police department
- Informing council of fees charged and collected for performing marriage ceremonies
- Attending ribbon-cutting ceremonies
- Representing the borough at public events
- Speaking at school functions
- Being involved in community projects and organizations
With respect to administering the Police Department, the Mayor is to work with the Chief of Police, the Police Committee and Council to:
- Enforcing ordinances and regulations
- Generate a monthly report for Council’s review
- Promote effective communication and collaboration
- Establish annual goals and budgetary plan-of-action
- Support recruitment and retention efforts
- Improve operations and long-term sustainability
A: I would hope to accomplish fulfilling the duties and responsibilities of the Mayor, as mentioned in the previous question, to the best of my ability. As far as goals, I would work with Council to help develop a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) Analysis as part of the Borough’s comprehensive strategic planning efforts.
In my capacity as a councilman, I worked with Council to develop a comprehensive list of goals & objectives, which you can find on the Borough’s website under the ‘Mission’ button on this page: NewBethlehemBoro.com/about This list includes ‘shared goals’ among the Mayor and members of Council, many of which complement my specific short-term and long-term goals as Mayor, some of which include, but are not limited to:
PROMOTE ECONOMIC VITALITY:
- Promote, support and retain businesses in New Bethlehem
- Improve job opportunities throughout the community
- Identify and market New Bethlehem’s assets
- work w/ Chamber, Trail, Redbank Ren & other community organizations
- Monitor employee performance
- Monitor finances and work with accounting and insurance professionals
- Promote and support events that showcase the community
- work w/ Chamber & other community organizations
- Lobby and seek state and county assistance to deal with blight
- Seek and apply for grants as available
- Improve police visibility and effectiveness
- Work to promote a safe, community environment
- Develop standards for public safety services
- Coordinate law enforcement with local communities
- Be prepared to deal with accidents, natural and man-made disasters
- Improve gateways to the borough
- Improve signage and promote way-finding
- Improve proactive code enforcement
- Improve building and grounds maintenance throughout the community
- Improve the image of the borough
- Improve customer service
- Review and comment on proposed County legislation
- Take required classes and tests (FEMA/PEMA)
- Review and comment on Penn Dot plans and actions
- Enhance communication with public, organizations and businesses
- Respond promptly to citizen requests
- Promote, coordinate, and support events that showcase the community
- work w/ Chamber & other community organizations
- Measure and improve citizen satisfaction
- Sponsor opportunities for public participation
- Update and digitize records
- Maintain communication with local municipalities, County, State and Federal Representatives
A: ‘Influence’ is the key difference between being a member of Council vs. serving in the Mayor position.
Council has voting power and still ultimately makes the decisions, whereas the Mayor has little power and cannot vote, but can only veto Council’s decisions; however, the Mayor has a much more influential role.
I am wholeheartedly grateful serving the people of New Bethlehem Borough as a member of council for almost a decade, and would’ve been more than happy to continue serving as Vice President, however the influence of the Mayor position will allow me to work with Council to more effectively to facilitate strategic partnerships, educate the community on the benefits of economic development, advocate for local and regional competitive economic vitality as well as help to promote civic leadership and community engagement.
A: I don’t pretend to have all the answers. I practice humility by often admitting; ‘I don’t know, but I’m happy to seek an answer.’ While I’m blessed to have a respectable education as well as almost a decade of experience in public administration, I have found it’s less about WHAT you know, and more about WHO you know – I’m not afraid to ask other people for help.
Several of the ‘hot topics’ currently facing Council and the Mayor include, but are not limited to:
- K9 Police Dog
- As Mayor, I would be empowered with the influential capacity to more effectively promote, campaign and lobby for the K9 project
- As Mayor, I would work closer with the Chief of Police as well as the Borough’s police and finance committees to collaboratively develop a cost-benefit analysis to compare the pros vs. cons, as well as determine a measurable return-on-investment and fiscally sustainable action-plan, while effectively communicating these items to constituents
- Rising Expenses
- Some of the Borough’s highest expenditures are in the Police Department budget. As Mayor, I would be able to work closer with the Chief of Police and as well as the Borough’s police and finance committees to increase revenue and reduce expenses.
- As Mayor, I would work closer with the Borough’s secretary and finance committee to implement more checks & balances such as clearer reporting, as well as improve allocation of financial resources using strategic capital budgeting techniques.
- Flood Cleanup
- New Bethlehem Borough suffered from an unexpected storm earlier this year that flooded many resident and business properties, leaving 14K+ in non-reimbursable expenses such a debris removal and road repairs, not including overtime for the police and street department employees. As Mayor, I would be empowered with the influential capacity to more effectively lobby for financial assistance and mutual aid.
- The unexpected costs of the storm were paid out of the Borough’s reserve funds. As Mayor, I would work closer with the finance committee to replenish the Borough’s reserve accounts to proactively prepare and support emergency planning efforts.
A: With respect to the Mayor’s position, my biggest weakness is my lack of experience in grant writing; however, the Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs offers grant writing classes as well the Clarion Small Business Development Center works with various organizations to offer similar training.
Furthermore, our current President of Council has a wealth of grant writing experience as well as I am currently furthering my education by pursuing a Doctor of Business degree.
Q7: Being the Mayor requires excellent critical-thinking, problem-solving and team-building skills, the ability to manage a high-stress environment, and the patience to effectively communicate when receiving complaints or constructive feedback. How do you handle stress? Tell us about a time when you overcame an obstacle.
A: I handle stress primarily through prayer, routine exercise, frequent napping, and caring for my dogs.
One of the biggest obstacles and unquestionably stressful situations I’ve faced was in 2017, when New Bethlehem’s signature community event, the Peanut Butter Festival, was in jeopardy of being cancelled. The Peanut Butter Festival is the largest opportunity to support economic prosperity and community vitality by promoting local businesses and bringing people to the New Bethlehem area and Redbank Valley community.
Working with my friend, fellow councilwoman and neighbor Lisa Kerle, the both of us by the grace of God, along with a fantastic group of volunteers, not only hosted a historically monumental and successful festival, but we worked with our volunteers to ensure the long-term sustainability of future festivals.
We accomplished these goals, overcame many obstacles (electric, garbage, bees/snakes, less than happy vendors) as well as managed stress by recruiting volunteers, forming strategic partnerships, and establishing subcommittees. Effective communication and delegation were the keys to our success.
We introduced operational/logistic procedures as well as improved cash flow, liquidly and financial stability by asking our committees to make a concerted effort to buy local, shop local; giving first priority to our Chamber members and local business community. Market research and industry awareness allowed us to bring back thousands of dollars which were invested in Chamber members and local businesses. For more details, please visit: GordonBarrows.com/peanut-butter-festival
A: Commitment and Dedication. I am committed to providing responsive, innovative and results-driven solutions in the best interest of the taxpayers of New Bethlehem Borough, and for the betterment of the New Bethlehem area and Redbank Valley community.
I have a vested interest and proven track record in seeing the community thrive as my family, home and business all reside within New Bethlehem Borough. On a similar note, I was humbled with the unique opportunity to be the Redbank Valley High School Class of 2018 commencement speaker where I shared my love for our community through a speech titled “A Wonderful Valley” which you can read/watch here: GordonBarrows.com/redbank-valley-high-school-commencement-speech-2018
I humbly requested Council’s consideration of my qualifications where they reviewed my experience, education and long-standing involvement in the community: GordonBarrows.com/resume Over the past decade, I’ve been humbled with the opportunity to serve multiple organizations in numerous capacities including roles such as janitor/custodian, secretary, treasurer, vice president, president, and CEO.
The Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs recently featured an article in their monthly magazine where Mayor Brandy Schimp of Kane Borough in McKean County said it best; “One of the most rewarding and fulfilling aspects of being mayor is the ability to immerse yourself in the position.”
Mayor Barrows encouraged folks to visit his new ‘Mayor’ website: GordonBarrows.com/Mayor where he discusses the mayor’s duties, his specific goals, as well as provides answers to some of the most frequency asked questions, and more!
Our team at RedbankValley.org congratulates Mayor Barrows and looks forward to seeing his future endeavors!
New Bethlehem Borough meetings are held the 3rd Tuesday of each month at 7:00pm at the Alltel/Windstream Building on Lafayette Street. Folks may contact the Borough’s office to be placed on the meeting agenda.
New Bethlehem Borough Council fosters business, community, and personal growth within the borough while maintaining the small town appeal and family friendly environment that makes New Bethlehem such a great place to work, live and raise a family.
GOALS & OBJECTIVES:
To learn more about Council’s Goals & Objectives, please visit: NewBethlehemBoro.com/about and click the ‘Mission’ tab.
To contact any member of Council or the Borough’s office, please visit: NewBethlehemBoro.com/about and click the ‘Council’ tab. You may also ‘like/follow’ New Bethlehem Borough on Facebook for the latest news/announcements: Facebook.com/NewBethlehem
For more info, please visit New Bethlehem Borough’s website: NewBethlehemBoro.com