Helfrich takes over City Council

Jason Addy
York Dispatch
  • Michael Helfrich has been promoted from vice president to president of York City Council.
  • Former Council President Carol Hill-Evans won a seat in the state House of Representatives on Tuesday.

The York City Council will get back to business Tuesday with a new president.

Council Vice President Michael Helfrich said he received a “promotion by default” after former president Carol Hill-Evans was elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives last Tuesday.

York City Councilman Michael Helfrich, left, congratulates Carol Hill-Evans after her victory in the race for the 95th House District seat as York County Democrats gather during an election results watch party at Roosevelt Tavern in York City, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Hill-Evans resigned hours after winning in order to prepare for her transition to state government.

Hill-Evans takes 95th District seat

Council members will vote in the next few weeks to determine which of them will succeed Helfrich as vice president, once they have filled the vacant fifth seat.

The council will accept applications from the public until noon on Nov. 16, at which point the council will interview its top picks. The fifth member will be appointed on Nov. 21, Helfrich said.

Candidates must be at least 21 years old, have been a resident of York City for at least one year and remain a resident of the city throughout their term in office.

The city had at least five applications in hand as of Friday afternoon, Councilman Henry Nixon said, and are receiving one or two more every day.

The person appointed to the council will finish out Hill-Evans’ term, which ends in January 2018.

Helfrich and Nixon agree that the next York City Council member should have experience working with finances and budgets, as the city’s budget is “highly complex” and “the most important thing council has to do,” Nixon said.

The newest council member also must have the time to devote to the office and should be engaged in the community, Nixon said. Leadership experience on a board of directors or authority board is a plus.

With the greater responsibility he will have in his new role, Helfrich said, he will try to encourage more people to get involved in the local government process.

“Traditionally, the council president just maintains orderly meetings,” he said. “However, personally, it has been my agenda to try to make more impacts in our neighborhoods and communities where many of our people are not seeing the benefits of our financial recovery.”

Helfrich said he will take on a more active role than previous presidents, using his position “to make things happen.”

“I am always active,” he said. “I was voted in as an activist, not a bureaucrat.”

At this time five years ago, Helfrich was in the midst of a nervous wait to see if his write-in campaign for one of three vacant council seats had been successful. After edging out four-term Councilwoman Toni Smith by 23 votes for the final vacancy, Helfrich faced a protracted legal battle over his legal eligibility to hold office in Pennsylvania.

As a 20-year-old, Helfrich pleaded guilty to two felony charges — possession and conspiracy to deliver drugs — stemming from a January 1991 traffic stop in which Helfrich’s passenger was found in possession of LSD and psilocybin mushrooms.

At Tuesday night’s council meeting, the members will take final action on sidewalk closure permitting and associated fees and provide an update on the city’s budget hearings.