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Helfrich to be sworn in as York City mayor on Jan. 2

Jason Addy
York Dispatch

York City will begin the next chapter of its 276-year history at the start of 2018, when Mayor-elect Michael Helfrich takes over for outgoing two-term Mayor Kim Bracey.

Helfrich will be sworn in during a “Celebration of Community” inauguration ceremony starting at 11:45 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 2, according to Helfrich’s transition team.

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

To uphold tradition, the swearing-in ceremony will be held on the steps of York City Hall, said Phillip Given, the York City Pretzel Co. owner leading Helfrich’s transition team.

Helfrich has been adamant that his inauguration will not be about him, instead preferring to use the event as a way to celebrate the city’s diversity while immediately bringing key stakeholders together, Given said. 

Several local musicians will perform before Helfrich takes his oath of office, and local community groups, service organizations and neighborhood associations have been invited to celebrate York’s diversity and culture, Given said.

After taking the oath of office, Helfrich will deliver a short speech about his new administration.

“The speech portion will be as brief as possible,” Given joked, with meteorologists forecasting temperatures between single digits and low 20s.

Who will join? Helfrich unseated Bracey in the November municipal election, winning by a 120-vote margin after all absentee ballots and write-in votes were counted.

When Helfrich takes over the mayor’s office after his six-year stint on York City Council, he will have a police department without a chief.

York City Police Chief Wes Kahley will retire at the end of 2017, having served as the city’s police chief since January 2010, when he was chosen by Bracey to replace former Commissioner Mark Whitman. 

Helfrich has said he intends to name an interim police chief or commissioner as he and his team search for a permanent replacement for Kahley. A police chief is promoted from within the department, while a commissioner is hired from outside the ranks. 

More:York Mayor-elect Helfrich says some Bracey administrators will remain

It is also unclear what the future holds for a number of Bracey’s top administration officials, including business administrator Michael Doweary and Shilvosky Buffaloe, acting director of the city’s Department of Economic and Community Development.

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 Doweary, Buffaloe and Equina Washington, director of communications.

By a 3-2 vote on Dec. 5, 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 if they remain in their positions under Helfrich.

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

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 the three city officials.

Buffaloe’s department will look much different in the new year, Helfrich has promised.

While working to fill out his administration, Helfrich and his team have been hammering out the details of 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.