The mayor of State College has a largely ceremonial role — he or she can perform weddings, runs council meetings, speaks at events and acts as a greeter for borough visitors — and this year’s two candidates have ideas on how to fill that role.
The mayor does not have a tie-breaking vote but can exercise veto power.
Incumbent mayor and Democrat Elizabeth Goreham faces Republican challenger Ron Madrid in the Nov. 5 election.
Goreham said residents tell her they want a mayor who is accessible, visible, represents their values and is proud of the borough, Penn State and local traditions.
“The mayor has many functions — one is as ombudsman, one is as the official greeter and also embodies the town and its aspirations,” she said.
To that end, Goreham said she works to be accessible and interested, noting that she can interact with residents in person, but also by letter and phone calls. She also works with residents day-to-day, addressing their opinions and problems.
“For example, at a coffeehouse recently I noticed a young man in a wheelchair adroitly managing to drink a cup of coffee and eat a sandwich in a very tight space,” she said. Later, I asked him to let me know if he had any access issues in the borough. He came to my office with a list and I forwarded it to our manager for proper attention.”
Goreham said assisting residents that way is rewarding and, while she said it’s not appropriate to participate in discussions at the Borough Council table, she enjoys doing so away from it.
“In fact, the ability of the mayor to express her opinion is, for me, a treasured privilege of office,” she said.
Goreham also enjoys the office hours she holds at the HUB on campus, something Madrid also vowed to do, should he be elected.
Madrid said the title “student” is a Penn State classification, and said he considers those men and women adult residents who attend Penn State.
“They have equal status and equal rights to the goods and services provided by the borough,” he said. “They should be engaged, vote, air their grievances on issues that impact them to council, and I would encourage that.”
Madrid said the face of the borough should be “always positive and engaging” and, because the mayor represents the entire borough, he or she should know the issues facing it and be able to articulate those in order to answer resident questions.
“You’re a cheerleader, you’re an advocate, you’re a positive influence in the community and you want to engage everyone in the conversation,” he said. “I’m focused on not bringing a political agenda to the position. No matter how noble the cause, it may tend to be divisive. We don’t need to be divisive; we need to be coming together.”
Madrid said maintaining the borough’s quality of life is a key issue, involving public safety, public services and financial health.