When Bellefonte council president Frank Halderman strikes the gavel it barely makes a peep.
The soft blow has signaled the beginning and end of Bellefonte council meetings for years. He has on very rare occasions used it more forcefully, or even raised his voice, to quiet the room from people talking over one another.
Halderman will take a few last swings Monday, the end of a 36-year run debating policy, making motions and calling for roll call votes. The beginning of his council years started over a traffic ticket.
He will step down to make way for Joanne Tosti-Vasey, who won in a race over Halderman by 29 votes.
“I would be lying if I didn’t say that I thought about not running,” Halderman said. “I talked to the borough manager and some other people about it. I decided I’d try to stick around for some ongoing projects to keep continuity between the council and some authorities to keep everyone on the same page.”
Even with Halderman’s departure from council he will see through his terms on the borough and industrial development authority.
“I’ll fulfill those terms,” he said. “I especially want to stay on to the Waterfront project developed there. Plus, we’re working on the armory. We’re looking forward to developing that.”
He’s also proud of other ongoing developments, no matter how controversial.
Developer Ara Kervandjian launched the Bellefonte Mews project and in doing so sparked debate over the preservation of historical buildings. Halderman was the deciding vote that allowed Kervandjian’s plans to move forward.
“The demolition of the Garman and Do De were big issues, and some people blame me for the swing vote,” Halderman said. “I have no regrets. I felt it was the right thing to do for Bellefonte. I didn’t want it sitting there for 10 more years. It was a tough decision, but I wanted to do what I thought was right for Bellefonte.”
There will be more time off for Halderman than some may realize.
He spends time almost every other day in the municipal building. He’ll spend one extra day there for a 2 to 4 p.m. Tuesday open house in his honor.
“Buddy (as he is usually called) has always exemplified the spirit of democracy in that when he goes into council chambers, he argues and fights for what he believes to be in the best interest of Bellefonte even if he stands alone on an issue,” borough manager Ralph Stewart. “When he walks out of council chambers he sees everyone as friends. Citizens do not realize how much time it really takes for a member of council to stay up on issues and to be in a leadership position. To do this for 36 years is truly exceptional.”
Halderman, happy with what he has done as a council member, said he will put his attention elsewhere.
Some of it will be spent at home where he won’t sporadically leave anymore for meetings. He also has three grandchildren, two little girls and a boy, and he wants to visit them more in Philadelphia.
“I’ve learned a lot and met a lot of good people on council,” he said. “It’s been a good experience for me, and I want to say the people on council now are one of the best groups I’ve been a part of.”
He’ll still keep tabs on council, too.
Admittedly not much of a speech-maker, he offered advice for the new council members stepping up to serve the borough.
“The one thing I always tell someone new to council is they should always put Bellefonte first,” he said. “No matter the situation, make the right decision for Bellefonte.”