State College

Harris Township supervisors hit stalemate on vacant seat

Frank Harden interviews for a position on the Harris Township Board of Supervisors at the township building in Boalsburg on Wednesday.
Frank Harden interviews for a position on the Harris Township Board of Supervisors at the township building in Boalsburg on Wednesday. CDT photos

Township supervisors on Wednesday interviewed four prospective candidates to replace former supervisor Christopher Lee, but failed to come to a decision.

Lee was indicted on federal charges of child exploitation and child pornography in October and is incarcerated in Columbia County. He formally resigned Feb. 9.

Township residents Frank Harden, Bruce Lord, Randy Ploog and Karl Colyer were interviewed individually by the board prior to deliberation.

Harden, of Honeysuckle Drive, is a 29-year resident and a member of the Pennsylvania Builders Association board. He ran against Lee in the 2013 election, losing in a 640-604 vote.

Harden said he would seek a seat in the fall election, saying residents should be wary of someone who wants the position but is not willing to be vetted by the electors.

“I feel if I wasn’t here in this position (as supervisor), it would be showing a lot of disrespect to the people that supported me,” he said.

Lord, of East Pine Street, is a 10-year resident and chairman of the township’s Shade Tree Commission. He served as chairman of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee for the township and on the Ad Hoc Open Space Committee.

He said he also would seek a seat in the upcoming election.

“When it became obvious this would happen,” he said, “people asked if I would step forward. I love this township. I wouldn’t be involved in local government if I didn’t.”

Ploog, of West Pine Street, is a 28-year resident and past president of the Boalsburg Village Conservancy and past member of the Boalsburg Heritage Museum board of directors.

He said he was asked to consider a position on the board many years ago, but didn’t feel he was ready at the time. Now that he’s nearing retirement, it’s something he wants to consider.

He said he will seek a seat in the next election.

Colyer, of Beacon Circle, is a 29-year resident and member of the board of trustees of St. Paul’s United Methodist Church and past chairman of the Youth Service Bureau.

Unlike the rest, Colyer said he does not plan to seek a seat in the next election. His interest is helping the township now.

“We have a good group of applicants here,” Chairman Nigel Wilson said. “They bring a wide range of serving and volunteer situations. It’s not really an easy decision to make.”

In his mind, he said, it was a simple decision — someone with prior experience serving the township on committees would be able to keep up with the board and business as usual.

Vice Chairman Dennis Hameister said he was most interested in a short learning curve. There are only 10 months left in the year, he said, and his experience has shown it takes about two years to get up to speed on being a supervisor.

Supervisor Paul Rittenhouse read a letter to the board in support of Harden, saying that because his election loss was so close, it shows the voters of the township had spoken.

“To even consider another candidate would be a slap in the face to those who took the time to vote in the 2013 election,” he read.

Supervisor Bud Graham said a candidate who has no intent to run for a seat has some merit. He said he liked the possibility of having a neutral person who doesn’t enter into political favoritism.

A motion to approve Colyer died on the floor. A vote of 3-1 ended Ploog’s chances.

Motions for Harden and Lord ended in 2-2 ties — for Harden, yes votes from Graham and Rittenhouse; for Lord, yes votes from Hameister and Wilson.

Township Manager Amy Farkas said she will consult with the township solicitor to see if the vacancy board can step in and break the stalemate now or if the board must wait for the 30-day appointment period to end March 9.

“This is not what I expected to happen,” Farkas said.