Flanders retiring as borough manager in December
Starting as a police patrolman, he has worked for the borough for nearly 40 years
POTTSTOWN » Borough Manager Mark Flanders has submitted his 90-day notice and will retire from his $124,000-a-year-post in December.
Flanders, who is also the manager of the Pottstown Borough Authority, said his last official day will be on Christmas Eve.
“Pottstown is my home. I have spent my entire career here and I have loved every minute of it and all the opportunities I have been afforded here,” he told Digital First Media.
He praised both the residents and employees of the borough.
“Pottstown is full of some amazing people, good and hard-working people who are good neighbors and who do the right thing,” he said.
“And I would be remiss if I did not mention the men and women who work for the borough,” Flanders added. “I hope the people in town recognize the quality of the people who work for them and do a great job every day without question.”
Flanders will retire just shy of 40 years of employment with the borough.
He was first hired as a patrolman for the police department and was promoted to patrol sergeant in 1992. For four years, he was a police captain and in 2001 was promoted to Pottstown police chief.
He had already announced his intention to retire from that post when in May, 2012, his predecessor as borough manager, Jason Bobst, announced we was leaving to take another job. Council asked Flanders to fill in as interim borough manager while a search was conducted to find Bobst’s replacement.
That search was conducted by David Woglom, a former Quakertown borough manager and now executive director of the Meyner Center for Local Government at Lafayette College.
He narrowed the field and eventually, in December 2012, council chose Flanders from among several candidates.
Until April 2013, when his retirement as police chief became official, Flanders did both jobs for one salary.
Flanders has clashed with some activists, including council candidate and former codes director Jeff Smith, whose emails he blocked from borough hall for four years — this after hiring former Montgomery County Commissioner Bruce Castor as his lawyer to threaten Smith with legal action if his emails to council members resulted in Flanders not being hired for the manager’s post.
At one point last year, another attorney for Flanders threatened a defamation lawsuit against a Stowe woman circulating an online petition calling on council to “Fire Flanders,” the words which were pasted on lawn signs strewn about the borough for several months.
Flanders also expanded the cooperation between the borough and school district, forging a strong working relationship with former schools Superintendent Jeff Sparagana, who retired last year.
Four times a year, the two arranged for joint meetings between borough council and the school board, although attendance by the borough’s elected officials was often spotty.
Flanders also oversaw technical improvements in borough hall, allowing for online and credit card bill paying. As Authority manager, he implemented the board’s charge to create and obtain a capital budget and five-year capital plan to allow the water and sewer systems to make repairs and improvements without borrowing money.
As for the borough’s finances, he oversaw the creation of budgets that saw two straight years of no tax increases, although he warned council about the eventual consequences of drawing down reserves — a practice which earlier this month he said has left the borough with a $1.5 million gap in the general fund it could take a 23 percent tax hike to fill.
Flanders told Digital First Media he considers Pottstown’s three greatest assets to be its people, the diversity of those people and the borough’s bones and location.
“The bones of this town are solid, the architecture is beautiful and our location, with access to so many places on the East Coast, is hard to match,” he said.
He said a person deeply involved with the revitalization of Phoenixville told him a short time ago that “Pottstown already has what they were looking for when they were getting started.”
Of course, the borough still has issues it has to overcome to shore up its finances and quality of life.
“Pottstown is my home. I have spent my entire career here and I have loved every minute of it.” Mark Flanders, Pottstown Borough Manager
Flanders cited the need for more living-wage jobs and the increasing societal drag of the opioid crisis as two of the bigger challenges facing Pottstown.
Also, “there is a desire on the part of many in Pottstown to maintain that small town feel, but this is not a small town. It’s a small city in the Philadelphia suburbs with urban issues. It’s not the borough of the 1950s and 1950s,” he said.
“We’re a walkable, bikeable community that is easily accessible, and that’s a good thing, but we’re in an urban setting too, which means people live in close proximity to each other, sometimes on top of one another and that creates issues too,” he said.
Things have changed since the days he started patrolling Pottstown’s streets almost 40 years ago, Flanders said.
“And Pottstown has changed in the same way the world has changed, with technology pushing the world faster and faster every day in every direction and we have to keep up,” he said.
But after Christmas, Flanders won’t be steering the ship any more.
“I plan on enjoying retirement with my wife and children and my dog” he said.
Pottstown Borough Manager Mark Flanders has worked in the borough for nearly 40 years.