Mayor without an office? Wrightsville's new mayor wants a space of her own

Noel Miller
York Dispatch

Tayne Slenker became mayor of Wrightsville in January but still does not have an office to call her own, a fact that's caused a rift among borough officials.

The two-story brick building off Water Street, owned by the municipal sewer and water authority, is too cramped to make space for the new mayor, borough officials said. Various offices are already used by the borough treasurer, secretary and another administrator.

Instead, Slenker worked out of her home for the past nine months, meeting in person with residents as she conducts borough business. Over the summer, Slenker began to have Wi-Fi connectivity issues, forcing her to reevaluate her working conditions.

"Everyone works against me — nobody works with me," the mayor said.

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Slenker, a Democrat, defeated former mayor Michael Albert, a Republican, by a 4-vote margin in November's election. Slenker ran on a platform, as she described it, "to clean up the town." That included improving resident services and addressing the issue of dilapidated buildings.

When Slenker first brought the office issue to the council's attention, she said she was told they did not have an office for her. Even the mayor's borough hall phone line doesn't connect to a voicemail or a person who can take a message.

Wrightsville Borough Mayor Tayne Slenker looks through paperwork during a regular council meeting at the Wrightsville Borough Municipal Building in Wrightsville, Monday, Sept. 12, 2022. Dawn J. Sagert/The York Dispatch

There was no option to reach the mayor from the borough's main phone number as of Tuesday.

Council President Joseph Giandalia, a Republican, said the council offered Slenker the use of council chambers or a conference room for her meetings.

"We can set that up for you," Giandalia said, at a recent meeting, although he noted that the council would first need the water authority's permission for the mayor to use the rooms.

In a subsequent interview, Giandalia explained that the authority owns the municipal building. The arrangement — in which the borough doesn't oversee its own offices — has existed as long as Giandalia, who has lived in Wrightsville for 30 years, can remember. 

Slenker said she doesn't like the idea of working in the conference room — it's hardly a permanent solution and would be dependent on who else is using the room — but it seems like her only option. For now, she's waiting to hear back on both questions about an office and a phone line. 

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Melodie McDonald, a Wrightsville resident who campaigned for Slenker in last November's election, spoke out publicly on the office issue at a Sept. 12 council meeting.

"She's the first working mayor we ever had about 10 years," she said. "She's out there with her own gas. She threw her own paycheck back into the system." 

McDonald questioned why the borough treasurer, Keith Brenner, has an office but the mayor does not. In one recent incident, she said, a resident who asked to speak to the mayor was told by borough officials to wait until the next council meeting.

Wrightsville Borough resident Melodie McDonald asks the council why the mayor doesn’t have an office during the public comment section of a regular council meeting at the Wrightsville Borough Municipal Building in Wrightsville, Monday, Sept. 12, 2022. Dawn J. Sagert/The York Dispatch

Giandalia initially refused to answer the public's questions at the Sept. 12 meeting, saying he would not tolerate public attacks on borough officials during the meeting. Nonetheless, the issue was raised again during the mayor's report, leading to more in-depth discussion.

During the mayor's report, Slenker reiterated McDonald's question. Giandalia explained that, as the borough treasurer, Brenner worked for both the council and Wrightsville's water and sewage authority.

Councilman Phillip Landis, a Democrat, said there are sensitive documents in the treasurer's office that cannot be moved to another location. The borough and authority both go through annual audits and have been criticized in the past for not having documents properly secured, he said.

Wrightsville Borough Councilman Phillip Landis, right, gestures toward a meeting room while suggesting that Wrightsville Mayor Tayne Slenker use the room as an office space during a regular council meeting at the Wrightsville Borough Municipal Building in Wrightsville, Monday, Sept. 12, 2022. Dawn J. Sagert/The York Dispatch

Auditors require that certain documents cannot be accessed by the public, Landis said, so the mayor cannot use the office where those records are kept because they would be open to the public. 

Councilman Rick McDonald, who is Melodie McDonald's husband, said that the borough hall had originally been designed to house the borough, water authority and mayor's offices.

Landis disputed that claim.

But Landis did not respond to requests for further detail. Messages left with other borough officials about the history of the building and its use by previous mayors were not returned.

Giandalia said he offered to get a borough phone for Slenker to use so she would not have to use her personal phone. Although he doesn't think it would be an issue, he said the council would still need to approve giving her a borough phone.

— Reach Noel Miller at NMiller3@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @TheNoelM.