Chris Rosenblum | Port Matilda residents heed call to run for mayor

Bobbie Jo Hamer’s husband thought she was kidding.

But she couldn’t have been more serious. She wanted to run for mayor of Port Matilda as a write-in candidate.

The opening was there.

Bob Wiser, the current mayor running unopposed, lost his desire to serve again but didn’t remove his name from the ballot in time. In a new twist to campaigning, he began asking people not to vote for him in Tuesday’s election.

Bill Hamer fully supports his wife now, helping her deliver campaign flyers door to door, but he was skeptical at first.

“He says, ‘Are you sure you want to get involved?’ ” she recalled.

Yes, she said.

Neighbors also raised their eyebrows.

More than a few times she heard: “You know there’s no power in this.”

Yes, she said again.

“I don’t want power in this town,” she said. “Absolutely not. I don’t feel anybody should have personal power in this town. It should be a community.”

At 38, she said, she has more time to be a voice for her hometown of 19 years.

Her daughter studies nursing at Penn State Altoona. Her son attends Bald Eagle Area High School, her alma mater.

Twice a day, she drives a school bus for the Bald Eagle Area School District. But, she said, that leaves her home a lot.

After 18 years behind the wheel, she’s ready for a second job.

“As your mayor, I would like to be more involved in the town’s issues and help with solutions to better our town,” she wrote in her campaign statement.

“While working closely with Borough Council, I am hoping for the opportunity to give back to my community as a longtime resident here of the borough.”

She has competition for the office.

Ida Lively, a process analyst at AccuWeather, a borough resident since 1998 and a volunteer for the local Boy Scouts and Port Matilda Fire Company, also has declared her intent to serve Port Matilda as mayor.

“I pledge to be a passionate spokesperson for this town that is my home, and to offer strong leadership so our Borough Council and citizens together can create a vision and action plan for Port Matilda’s future,” Lively wrote in her campaign statement.

“Our town has potential to be a showcase of what is right about small town America. It takes many heads, hands, and hearts to preserve the Port Matilda we love while shaping the Port Matilda we envision.”

Like Lively, Hamer takes pride in the borough. As mayor, she said, she would make sure the local cemetery is maintained. She also wants to work with the fire company to bring back its annual carnival, an event she thinks brought the community together.

But otherwise, Hamer said, she doesn’t have wholesale changes in mind.

“I don’t know if there’s much missing, because it’s a pretty good self-sufficient small town,” she said. “I’d just like to see people come together and be more neighborly.”

Some of her inspiration comes from the guy who wants to step down. Wiser, she said, “did a wonderful job.”

“He always had a positive attitude,” Hamer said. “He was always just a wonderful guy to deal with. He was never negative about anything.”

After announcing his change of heart, Wiser said he hoped caring residents would throw their hats in the ring to replace him.

He got his wish — twice over.

Regardless of how the election turns out, Hamer said, she wants Port Matilda to have the advocate it deserves.

“Sure I’ll be disappointed (if I lose),” she said. “But as long as the next person steps up and does an amazing job like Bob, the town will be fine.”