Unpaved road was path to politics
Charles J. Carlock Jr. had to win an election to get his road paved. In December, 48 years later, he will end his career as a township commissioner.
The Smithdale native said while he watched other township roads being paved, Forest Hill Road remained covered with red-dog -- a by-product of slate and coal.
"It seems the commissioner in the district wasn't in the clique and didn't get anything done," Carlock said. "I figured if I got elected, I could do something."
Carlock, a Democrat, won his first election in 1955 by 16 votes. There were about 300 registered voters in the district.
"When I first entered politics, if you weren't in the clique you didn't get anything done," Carlock said. "I worked to change that. I felt I was a commissioner for the entire township, not just District 7."
Although the township had roughly the same population in the late 1950s as today --- 14,159 in 1960 and 13,839 in 2000, according to the U.S. Census -- Carlock said commissioners didn't establish a police department until 1956.
"Growth was taking place in the township and some vandalism was going on, and we felt we had to do something," Carlock said.
Previously, police protection came from two county constables who answered emergency calls from their homes. The township's police department started with two officers and has grown to 15.
Former police Chief David Graham, who was the ninth officer hired by the township, credits Carlock with changing a system in which commissioners had absolute control over chiefs.
"The chief always served at the pleasure of the board," said Graham. "When the politics changed, the chief would often change. About the time I was hired, some of those practices changed."
During 40 of his years, Carlock served as either chairman or vice chairman of the board of commissioners.
In addition to helping establish the police force, his tenure saw a modern municipal facility built in the center of the township in 1965 and a sewage authority established and parks built in every section of the township.
But although Carlock is proud of the decisions that were made, he said often they didn't come easy.
"If we had a problem, we ironed it out in the back room," Carlock said. "We didn't hold grudges and respected everyone's opinion. We argued about some things but in the long run everything panned out well. We worked well together and cooperatively."
He said selling the water authority was the biggest decision the board had to make during his tenure.
"We learned it was a good decision because we could never put the lines in the township that needed to be put in," said Carlock. "The water rates would have been so high that people could not have afforded to pay them."
Carlock has mixed feelings about retirement.
"I'm proud of my time on the board and in some ways I regret my career is coming to an end," he said. "I'm proud of the township. When I think about it, we really did do a lot during my time. When you accomplish the things we've been able to do with the growth in the township, you have to have a good board. Even though I may have made suggestions, my board supported me. The board is what helped me do my job over the years."
Fellow commissioner and lone Republican Judy Marshall sees Carlock as a father image. When she joined the board 10 years ago, she said Carlock helped her get acquainted with government.
"His knowledge of government, people and contacts to get things done is priceless," Marshall said. "Not only does he know so many people in government and industry, he has the respect of everyone who knows him. I will miss my buddy who sits on the left of me. I know part of him will always be with the township and the commissioners."
Carlock and Martha, his wife of 52 years, will spend more time with children and grandchildren. For the last 10 years they have spent the winter months with two of their children in Florida where the commissioner can play golf all he wants.
Board President Joanne Beckowitz, who has been on the board since 1985, said the Dec. 8 meeting would be a tribute to Carlock with a reception to wish him farewell. The public is invited to participate.