Mayor's ambitious plan for beleaguered West York
Shawn Mauck became mayor of West York at a time of bitter political divisiveness, both across the nation and in his own borough.
Rancorous borough council meetings and public protests of then-Mayor Charles Wasko's racist Facebook postings led the council to unanimously accept Wasko's resignation last month. Immediately afterward, the council appointed Mauck, who was council president at the time, to serve the remainder of Wasko's term.
The new mayor said he's confident West York and its elected officials will work together to improve life for borough residents, adding that the process has already begun.
"West York is one of the biggest comeback stories you're going to come across," Mauck said. "It's a hell of a turnaround."
To that end, the newly minted mayor has set a number of goals to achieve in the next 100 days.
"We're really trying to step up the services we're (offering)," Mauck said. "We've already accomplished a lot. We're in a new (borough) building, there's (an upcoming) tax decrease, which I'm proud to be an architect of, and a reinvention of our police department."
A chance to 'shine': Mauck acknowledged his agenda is ambitious.
"I think that West York has finally reached an opportunity to really shine. We've taken a couple hard hits over the past couple years," he said. "But we managed to turn the page. ... I'm very proud of my colleagues."
One of his plans is to develop a two-tract junior policing program that re-creates the West York Police Department's squad room. One tract would be for high-school age youths interested in careers in law enforcement, the other tract would be for middle-school-age children and younger "where they can come together and learn about policing" and just get to know the officers.
The borough council has already agreed Mauck can use the room above the police department for the junior policing program, which Mauck said he hopes to furnish with donations from local businesses and the public. The police department is now located in the former Grace Loucks Elementary School at 1381 W. Poplar St.
Blight a concern: The mayor said borough officials and residents alike will need to work together to find solutions that curb urban blight and decay and promote community development.
"We are the most-densely populated municipality in the county," Mauck said.
There are about 4,600 people living in the borough, according to Census figures.
VIDEO: Mayor Shawn Mauck first 100 days
The mayor said he's concerned about the fact that the borough's Giant Food Store will be closing in just a few months. It's the only supermarket in West York.
"That puts low-income families at risk," he said. People without transportation often experience difficulty getting to a supermarket and could end up paying much higher prices for less nutritious food at corner stores and convenience stores.
"We're going to need to work with stakeholders and investors" to replace Giant, Mauck said. "It's going to require some bold vision."
The mayor also is planning food drives and coat- and blanket-collection drives for Thanksgiving and the holiday season, he said.
Mauck said he wants to create task forces to address issues of human rights and diversity, so that "no matter who they are, they can feel comfortable living in the borough."
The 2000 U.S. Census reported that about 6 percent of the borough's population was nonwhite. That figure rose to 17.9 percent in the 2010 Census report.
Mauck said that by the time the next Census is done in 2020, the borough's nonwhite population will probably be more than 25 percent.
"We just cannot operate (like it's) 1950s West York," he said.
People 'the priority': Mauck is invested in his fellow citizens, he said, having been raised in West York. As a child, he attended school at the former Grace Loucks Elementary, where his self-furnished office is now located.
He said he also plans to reach out to counseling agencies and faith-based groups in hopes of providing free marriage counseling to first-time couples — which Mauck said he plans to fund with fees he expects to collect by performing wedding ceremonies.
"I think we need to do all we can to try to salvage families when we can," the mayor said.
In December, Mauck hopes to debut a new children's reading program, in which officials volunteer to read to borough youngsters, as well as a family movie night, which Acting Police Chief Matt Millsaps is helping to set up.
"When you make everyday people the priority, everybody wins," Mauck said on Election Day. That day, he published his cellphone number of Facebook and Twitter and offered to drive West York residents to vote if they needed a ride.
Focus on police: The mayor said he's working closely with West York Police to bring changes to the department and using as a guide the President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing.
Mauck said he's walking foot patrols with officers and riding with them on shifts so he can see firsthand how the borough is being policed.
"Matt (Millsaps) is a phenomenal guy, and I can't speak highly enough of him. He's doing a great job," Mauck said. "I'm also proud of the police department itself. They are stepping up and understanding there's a better way to do policing."
The mayor is handing out citizen satisfaction surveys that allow residents to critique the job police are doing and their overall experiences with borough officers.
Positive feedback: Mauck said he's already heard positive feedback from residents about the changes, which will include more training and a strong focus on community policing — whether that's teaching officers to "look a little deeper" when handling domestic incidents or simply throwing around a basketball or football with borough youth at local parks.
The borough has already purchased basketballs and footballs in anticipation of officers reaching out to teens and kids, he said.
"We understand West York Borough Police have built a reputation ... of being tough," Mauck said.
"We've got to change that perception," he said, whether it's deserved or not.
Borough Police Chief Justin Seibel remains on unpaid suspension for undisclosed reasons; Mauck said he expects that situation to be resolved in the next few weeks.
"Whatever happened over the past 20 years, that ended the day I took my oath of office," he said. "Just know that we do have good officers and we are already changing the way we do business.
"There's a new mayor in town," Mauck promised.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at email@example.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.