Flan­ders re­tir­ing as bor­ough man­ager in De­cem­ber

Start­ing as a po­lice pa­trol­man, he has worked for the bor­ough for nearly 40 years

The Community Connection - - LOCAL NEWS - By Evan Brandt ebrandt@21st-cen­tu­ry­media. com @PottstownNews on Twit­ter

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.

DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA FILE PHOTO

Pottstown Bor­ough Man­ager Mark Flan­ders has worked in the bor­ough for nearly 40 years.

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