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Mayors teach seminar on how to best run a community

| Thursday, Dec. 16, 2010

Jack Kobistek ran for mayor of Carnegie because he felt he could help his borough become a better place for residents, employees and visitors.

"I threw my hat into the ring because I think my town has strong, untapped potential," said Kobistek, a resident of Carnegie for 17 years and a former member of its planning commission. "I ran as an independent, and I didn't have anyone to rely on, and I didn't have any background in politics."

When he took office in January, he was left to figure out what his duties were.

"When I took office, I had to declare two states of emergency due to the snowstorms we had in February and the flooding that occurred from that."

He leaned heavily on the support of Whitehall Mayor James F. Nowalk.

"Whenever I needed him, he called me back immediately. I didn't have anyone else who had in-depth knowledge of being a mayor," Kobistek recalls.

That is one reason Nowalk -- along with Carroll Valley Mayor Ron Harris -- created the seminar, "I have been elected Mayor, now what?"

"We created the program because when you are elected mayor, you get a certificate, but no manual on how to govern the office," said Nowalk, a 16-year member of the executive board of the Pennsylvania Mayors Association. He has served as Whitehall's mayor for 17 years.

The program was designed for borough and city mayors with an accompanying resource book geared to the type of municipality they represent.

The seminar was started in July. Of the mayors elected in the 2009 municipal races, 40 percent were first timers, according to Nowalk.

"That seminar was very welcome," said Kobistek, who took the class last month. "There is so much ambiguity with the duties of mayor. This seminar should be required for all incoming mayors."

The seminar costs $25 for Pennsylvania State Mayors Association members and $50 for non-members.

During the three-hour course, mayors are taught the duties and powers of a mayor, the mayor's relationship to the police department, council and the public, and what resources are available to mayors.

"It's daunting to know what to do. Mayors need something that will enable them to be guided," Nowalk said.

The seminar became an instant success and Nowalk and Harris decided to take it on the road.

They went to six regions across Pennsylvania beginning in early October at West Conshohocken Borough and ending on Dec. 4 in Harrisburg.

"We decided to take the program on the road so that we could get people to come, and they wouldn't have to drive so far," said Harris who is in his second term as mayor of the Borough of Carroll Valley, which is located 12 miles south of Gettysburg. "Ultimately, we want to get each region of mayors to talk to one another and interact. We want people to share ideas and come up with ways to solve problems and make their communities better."

That's what Kobistek is able to do thanks to the seminar.

"My experience in politics was zero and this program has given me information, which has given me the confidence to do things how they are supposed to be done," Kobistek added.

Find out more

For more information on "I have been elected Mayor, now what?" contact the Pennsylvania State Mayors Association at 412-833-4100 or visit http:www.pamayors.org .

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