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Michael Helfrich is given the oath in front of a crowd outside York City Hall.

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With the hectic holidays now behind us and the promise of a new year laid out before us, a brief perusal of last year’s top stories in York County may prove instructive. After all, “what’s past is prologue,” as Shakespeare wrote.

That’s especially true regarding several stories that will continue into the coming year: Michael Helfrich’s election as mayor of York City, for example.

More: York County's top stories of 2017

The idea that two-term incumbent Kim Bracey would be ousted by a fellow Democrat running on the Republican line was unthinkable a year ago. And yet, Helfrich did just that. It is now up to city residents to hold him accountable for enacting an agenda that he says includes both financial and environmental improvements.

More: Michael Helfrich: From 'creek freak' to York City mayor-elect

And Bracey, who lost by just 130 or so votes, can now focus on familial issues that burst into the headlines last year when she was allegedly attacked by her son. While there are questions yet to be answered regarding her son’s employment history with the city, the necessary family healing is perhaps a story better written in private.

More: Son's $50K city job on the line after alleged attack on Mayor Bracey

Returning to the topic of accountability, several of last year’s stories show the need for better examples from local positions of power.

It was a stunning lack of oversight, recall, that lead to a decision by the boards of Helen Thackston Charter School and York City School District to close the school following the 2018-19 school year. It should never had reached such a stage, and both the district and its residents need to be sure that a new charter school proposed by Thackston’s CEO, should it come to fruition, is better run.

More: With Thackston closing, its CEO already planning new charter school

The public also learned the value last year of keeping up pressure on public officials when they seek to close ranks. The York Suburban School District’s closed-lipped response to the sudden departure of its superintendent, who has since been charged with two counts of second-degree misdemeanor criminal mischief for allegedly vandalizing two of her former assistant's vehicles, was far from responsible to taxpayers. The district must do better.

More: Suburban's ex-superintendent charged; alleged victim claims pattern

But if there was one overriding lesson from last year’s headlines, it was the power that York County residents wield when they come together.

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After all, Americans, including Yorkers, gathered in Washington, D.C., almost a year ago to attend the inauguration of President Donald Trump, and they did so in part because fired-up York County voters provided the margin of victory for Trump in Pennsylvania — one of a trio of must-win states that decided the 2016 election for the Republican candidate.

More: Trump's inauguration draws Yorkers for 'pivotal' moment

Just as enthusiastic were the women — from York and seemingly every other county across the nation — who turned out by the millions for nationwide post-inauguration marches. The event launched a show of solidarity and a year of activism that continues to this day.

More: Nationwide Women’s March launched year of reckoning, local activism

But the best example of York County coming together in 2017 was the response shown by area residents in the wake of the deadly series of hurricanes that ravaged the southeastern United States and Puerto Rico.

Residents put aside differences — political and otherwise — to donate time, money and supplies to their storm-stricken fellow Americans. An estimated 800,000 pounds of goods were donated by local schools, businesses, churches, organizations and individuals. Monetary donations and on-scene assistance by volunteers with the Red Cross and other emergency organizations magnified the region’s assistance.

That is York County at its best: Rising to a challenge; going above and beyond; setting its sights on the greater good.

It is that spirit, that generosity, that selflessness that we should all seek to emulate – in smaller ways, on a daily basis — as we navigate 2018.

It needn’t take a crisis for us to be our best selves. It need take only a little mindfulness. Here’s to 2018!

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