At its annual reorganization meeting Monday night the Cheltenham Township Board of Commissioners selected veteran board member Mickey Simon to take the reins as board president. Simon, representing Ward 6, was voted in unanimously by the new board.
Newly elected board members Irv Brockington (Ward 7) and Brad Pransky (Ward 3) joined incumbent victors Drew Sharkey (Ward 1), Baron Holland (Ward 2) and Dan Norris (Ward 5) for the swearing-in ceremonies administered by Court of Common Pleas Judge Steven Tolliver.
The two new faces on the board, Democrats Brockington and Pransky, each defeated a board member with a long history of service as commissioners. Brockington upended Republican Charlie McKeown in November after some 20 years on the board by a razor-thin margin, while Pransky unseated 28-year incumbent Harvey Portner in a decisive win in the May Democratic primary.
Pransky and Brockington have extensive
histories of community service. Pransky, a sales and marketing professional for computer technology through his own companies, was a member of the township’s Economic Development Task Force for more than 15 years and a founder of the local non-profit community development corporation, among other activities. Brockington, a mortgage loan officer, has served on the Township Planning Committee and as a member of the Cheltenham School District Foundation, board member of Cheltenham Sports and president of the Cheltenham Little League.
Just about a week ago the Brockington family coupled political success with the tragic loss of wife and mother Theresa Brockington, once an employee of the Cheltenham School District.
Portner and McKeown were honored at the December board meeting packed by family and friends. Both received proclamations from Congressman Brendan Boyle and citations by the PA Senate read personally by state Sen. – and former Cheltenham Ward 2 Comr. – Art Haywood. An aide to state Rep. Steve McCarter (D-154 and also a Cheltenham resident), Jeanne Sorg, read a statement from McCarter honoring Portner and McKeown for dedication to their community. (Sorg has since moved on to hold the office of county Recorder of Deeds by way of her countywide win in the November election.)
Despite mostly good natured rumblings of concern that Simon’s board presidency might turn already long meetings into slumber parties, given his penchant for obsessive public review of legal documents and other items before the board, the commissioner of 14 years had no formal opposition to his one-year appointment. During that period he has held the position of president and vice president.
Simon, who grew up and attended public schools here, noted that what makes the township special beyond any and all of its physical attributes is its people. He cited the community efforts in his own ward to enhance the Elkins Park East business district, the Environmental Advisory Council and people sitting on other township bodies and and fellow-Democrat local public officials and legislators such as Haywood, McCarter and county Register of Wills D. Bruce Hanes (yet another Cheltenham resident in the ranks of officialdom) “fighting the good fight” for a fair state budget and marriage equality. “All of these people could have lived anywhere, but chose Cheltenham,” said Simon.
For the second meeting in a row, the board was heaped with unqualified praise by one of its own members – this time by Simon – for being unsurpassed across the state as an effective governing body. Simon quoted Sharkey, who is familiar with the workings of many boards as the president of the PA State Association of Township Commissioners, from the December meeting saying he doubted that there was any board better than Cheltenham’s. This time Simon raised the bar a notch, saying “I know” there is no board better in the commonwealth, yet he said he expects it to further improve in the year ahead. In that vein, Simon did admit there was “a lot of work to do,” including sewer and flood management capital improvements to be made, major zoning revisions, economic development work and upcoming negotiations to be resolved with the township’s three labor unions.
Ward 5 Comr. Dan Norris, now entering his second term, was unanimously elected board vice president. There is considerable speculation that Simon will not run again in 2017.