As township Manager Mark Kunkle reflected on his career, a robin pecked at his office window.
He can’t remember a spring when she didn’t show up for a few weeks to sit on his windowsill. But this will be the last year he sees her there.
Kunkle is retiring on May 26 — 32 years to the day after he started working for Ferguson Township.
A lot has changed in that time.
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“When I came here, I was the zoning officer, a sign officer and a dog officer — everything in 1985,” he said, laughing.
Now the township staff is more specialized, he said.
Ferguson developed significantly from the late ’80s to the mid-’90s, Kunkle said. Neighborhoods where today most of the township’s population reside were farmland when he started.
He said the township is also in a stronger financial position now — it’s one of two local governments in Centre County to have received the Government Finance Officers Association Distinguished Budget Award.
And like most aspects of life, local government has been changed dramatically by technology and social media.
In the early years of his career, Kunkle said the township put out a four-page black-and-white semi-annual newsletter. Now, it’s a monthly e-newsletter, Twitter accounts, Coffee and Conversation events and meetings with homeowner and condo associations.
He said he thinks most professionals want to leave behind a legacy.
“Tom Tudek Memorial Park was a big highlight of my career,” Kunkle said.
Another was the upgrades to the Louis E. Silvi Baseball Complex, formerly known as Airport Field.
“I’ve always had a passion for youth baseball, and we were able to make some substantial improvements,” Kunkle said.
The search for his replacement is coming along, he said. It’s been narrowed down to about a dozen candidates.
Kunkle is a “tremendous mentor,” said David Pribulka, assistant township manager.
He’s challenged and inspired the township staff to be true professionals and take pride in public service, said Pribulka, who’s worked with Kunkle for about four-and-a-half years.
“His will be big shoes to fill,” he said.
Kunkle said one of his favorite aspects of being manager is the effect the township has on people’s lives.
“Local government is the level of government that people are impacted the most by on a daily basis. Folks don’t think about the traffic signals working. They don’t think about water running. They don’t think about their toilets flushing. They don’t think about police services,” he said. “Those are the things that affect people on a daily basis that makes their lives better. Providing those recreational opportunities that help to develop families. Those are the things that I found most gratifying.”
When he leaves the township in May, Kunkle said he will be taking on a part-time position with Lititz-based company Benecon.
He said he’s also looking forward to spending time with his new granddaughter, who was born in November.
“She doesn’t sing the ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ yet, but she’s pretty close,” he said, laughing.