York Mayor-elect Helfrich says some Bracey administrators will remain

Jason Addy
York Dispatch

As York City Mayor Kim Bracey’s eight-year tenure comes to an end, Mayor-elect Michael Helfrich is keeping his cards close to the vest about who will join him in his new administration.

Though many residents are watching closely to see who he names to lead the police department following Chief Wes Kahley’s retirement at the end of the year, Helfrich said he will wait until he takes office Jan. 2 to name his deputies out of respect for current Mayor Kim Bracey and her team of officials.

York City Council President Michael Helfrich arrives at Princess Street Center to vote on Election Day in York City, Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Helfrich said several officials from Bracey’s administration will continue in their roles under his leadership, but he declined to name them.

“We will not be replacing the entire administration. I can say that for sure,” Helfrich said Tuesday, Dec. 12.

More:York City Council OKs ‘generous' raises for Bracey’s officials after heated debate

'Generous' raises: Just before a divided York City Council approved a number of administrative raises for Bracey's team of officials, one resident warned the salary hikes could force Helfrich to ditch Michael Doweary, business administrator; Shilvosky Buffaloe, acting director of economic and community development; and Edquina Washington, director of community relations.

By a 3-2 vote, the council approved a nearly $16,000 raise for Doweary and raises of about $11,000 each for Buffaloe and Washington. As a result, Doweary will earn $110,000 in 2018, Buffaloe will earn $95,000 and Washington's salary will jump from just over $54,000 to $65,000.

Though Helfrich voted against those new salaries, he said the imminent raises have not changed how he is weighing potential roles in his administration for Doweary, Buffaloe and Washington.

"My thoughts on all three have remained the same," Helfrich said. "Our transition team is evaluating each of those positions."

Interim chief? As he prepares to take York City’s reins, Helfrich has almost three dozen people working in a number of committees to help ensure a smooth transition in the city’s top office.

That transition team includes committees for business administration, community development, public works, and resources and efficiencies, as well as a public safety committee that is working to find the next leader of the York City Police Department, Helfrich said.

Bracey announced Kahley's retirement during a Dec. 4 ceremony to swear in seven new York City Police officers, and the chief is expected to leave his position at the end of the month as Bracey hands over executive control of the city to Helfrich.

More:York City Police Chief Kahley to retire at year’s end

Kahley, a West York native, has served as the city's police chief since January 2010, when he was chosen by Bracey to replace former Commissioner Mark Whitman.

Helfrich, the current York City Council president, said he is “not planning on rushing the process” of naming a permanent police chief or commissioner, but he will be ready to name an interim leader on day one of his administration. A police chief is promoted from within the department, while a commissioner is hired from outside the ranks.

Partnerships: While working to fill out his administration, Helfrich said he and his transition team are hammering out a partnership with the York County Economic Alliance that would see the YCEA focus on economic development in York City.

That partnership, which Helfrich hopes to announce as part of his inauguration, would allow the city’s department of economic and community development to focus on the latter part of its title, the mayor-elect said.

“There will be a much greater emphasis on community development,” Helfrich said of his administration.

More:YCEA strengthens women's group with mentoring and advocacy

In meetings with residents and community groups, Helfrich said, it became clear the city is in dire need of a “childhood trauma task force” to address some of the root issues that lead to increased criminal behavior, poorer school performance and dissociation for some of the city’s young people.

“As I have said many times during the campaign and since, the effects of trauma on our children are affecting every aspect of our lives in the city, except maybe potholes,” Helfrich said.

He will work with community organizations, nonprofits, congregations and donors to create community centers to offer services to residents that the city cannot provide, Helfrich said.

With multiple police chiefs, business owners and a number of community leaders representing all walks of city life joining his transition team and York City residents reaching out to be a part of the coming changes, Helfrich said he is “humbled and impressed” by those helping him in the weeks between his electoral victory and inauguration.

“The sheer enthusiasm of people and the quality of people that are coming together to begin the plans of making dramatic changes in York City — I’m overwhelmed by it,” Helfrich said.