Penn official may report for duty
Penn Township Commissioner Paul Wersing could be back in his seat on the board at a meeting tonight.
It's been more than a year since he's been able to attend a meeting as a voting commissioner. Such was the case while he served as a member of the U.S. Army Reserve, for which he is now a master sergeant.
"If I'm able to I'm going to be there Monday -- for sure at the April meetings," Wersing said last week from Fort Dix, N.J. "It's just good to know I can start going back."
Wersing was mobilized Feb. 5, 2005, to the 99th Regional Readiness Command, in Moon Township, Allegheny County, as part of operation Noble Eagle. His orders were for 365 days.
Defense department regulations state elected officials -- even at the local level -- serving on active duty for at least 270 days may not exercise the function of civil office.
Wersing has received new orders that are for less than that period, expiring in November.
"I (asked) the Department of the Army just to make sure," Wersing said. "They said as long as it's under 270 days I can go back to attending meetings. The military is still 24/7, but when I'm in town and there is a meeting I can be there."
While tonight's meeting may be up in the air, Wersing said he did feel he would be able to attend Thursday's meeting of the township's recreation commission, of which he is a member.
Wersing is entering his 11th year as a Penn Township commissioner. His third term in office expires Dec. 31, 2007.
His circumstances were different than most called to active duty. His deployment actually kept him near home for the most part. That was at times frustrating to him.
That's when he missed his role as an active voting commissioner the most, Wersing said. "Especially when you're home and can't go to meetings. That's the hard part. When I'm away and working out of town, you don't miss it. I'm usually pretty busy with what I'm doing."
There has been some traveling involved for Wersing to places such as Georgia, Virginia and, of course, Fort Dix.
"It's been busy dealing with logistics, mobilizing and demobilizing units," Wersing recalled. "We would mobilize people out of different posts, mostly Virginia and New Jersey. We would do funeral honors for those who got killed. It was nothing glamorous, just one of those support roles that had to be done."
Five commissioners serve the township. Having an even number for an extended period of time does allow for the possibility of a knotted vote.
It did not take place.
"We've been very fortunate dodging the potential bullets of a tie," township Manager Bruce Light said.
A 2-2 vote actually would result in a defeated motion.
Chuck Horvat, chairman of the board of commissioners, said there were some rough patches, but they all worked out in the end.
"I won't say it's not been difficult to some degree," Horvat said. "To some degree it has. When you have two opinions for and two against, the potential for a 2-2 vote exists." Then you negate any progress. Fortunately, my colleagues on the board have the best interest of the township at heart and came to a resolution that was best for the community."
Horvat said he is eager to again having a full complement of commissioners.
"I'm looking forward to having some of his expertise and dialogue at the board meetings," he said.
While waiting to see if he could return, Wersing said he did think about resigning his position, although regulations did not require him to do so.
"If I couldn't go back, I would have resigned," he admitted. "I thought about it. I came awfully close, but people would tell me to hang in there."
Now he's looking forward to going back to the board.
"There's a lot going on like the (recently approved) comprehensive plan," Wersing said. "I can't wait to get back into it."