Two write-in candidates running for Lock Haven mayor
LOCK HAVEN – There is only one candidate for Lock Haven Mayor — Democrat Joel Long — listed on a ballot in next Tuesday’s primary election. But two Republicans — Rick Conklin and Jeff Brinker — are running write-in campaigns to get their name on the ballot in November and give Long a race. To do so, Conklin and/or Brinker must get 100 write-ins. If both surpass that number, the one who gets the most votes will move on to the General Election.
BRINKER – A STRAIGHT SHOOTER
When it comes to the world of politics he’s a little unknown.
Jeff Brinker, a health and physical education teacher at Central Mountain High School, is one of two Republican candidates running a write-in campaign for Lock Haven City mayor in the May 21 primary.
“As far as politics goes I’m not known,” Brinker said. “I’ve been involved in the community for 24 years as a teacher, as a coach.”
Brinker has been a part of the community since he was a young kid growing up in Mill Hall and playing AYSO soccer at Lock Haven University.
“I’ve always been connected to this city. It’s interesting, I may not be known in the political scene but I’m known in the community as a teacher. I’ve probably taught half the town, taught their kids, either that or coached them,” he said.
Brinker is running for mayor in hopes to bring a fresh new look at various issues.
“I want to bring my teaching aspect into things,” he said. “I think I bring a freshness to the political scene, to our community. Thinking outside the box on different things that we can do.”
“One of the things that you learn as a teacher and a coach is it’s a team effort,” he said.
One of Brinker’s goals is to bring organizations together.
“I think it’s one of the things that we need to do is have a diverse group,” he said. “Whether it’s the university, the school board, different members of the community. I don’t have all the answers and any politician that tells you they have all the answers, that’s not happening.”
Brinker believes his ability to understand people and work with them enables him to help and reach out to everybody involved in government and the community.
Brinker first decided to run for mayor after Councilman Richard Conklin first announced his intent to remove himself from the race.
“Sometimes you need nudged,” he said. “Even my first coaching experience, I wasn’t looking to coach. Then somebody asked me if I’d get into it.”
“I wasn’t looking to be a foster parent,” he continued. “We just got a phone call and we had 10 minutes to decide to change the rest of our lives.”
This isn’t the first time Brinker has been involved in the Republican party. From standing outside polling places to helping at Lincoln Day dinners over the years he’s been a part of the political process.
But this is the first time he’s ever run for a political office, he said.
Currently, he’s president of the West Branch Soccer Club, coached soccer for 24 years and was a past president of Gideon International.
“Leading is not something I shy away from,” he said. “If the need’s there I’ll step up and do that and I’m looking forward to working with the council to get things done. It’s a team effort.”
“Everyone has a part at the table and they’ve been doing a great job and we’re going to continue to build on what we’ve got,” he said.
Brinker feels he’s perfect for the position because he’s good with people.
“I can relate to people very well. Working within education for the last 25 years, I’ve seen a lot of people come and go,” he said. “I think I can understand and work with people. I think that everybody has a position in this world. Everybody has a hope, everybody has a dream and the question is how can I bring the best of that out of each person.”
Voters should feel comfortable giving him their vote because he’s a straight shooter, he said.
“I’m not going to sugar coat things to make them seem better than what they are,” he said. “I’m a realist, my word is what it is. I just believe in people. I think if I can believe in them they can believe in me.”
When it comes to the issues the residents of Lock Haven face, Brinker believes it’s more than that.
“It’s not just (about) the changes,” he said. “What can we do?”
Brinker would like to see everyone working better together to find solutions to the various problems in the city.
If elected as mayor, he would like to network and attempt to connect area nonprofits and showcase the important work many of them are doing.
“As mayor that’s one thing I could do, reaching out to different organizations and bring that awareness to our community,” he said.
He mentioned various programs the city could look into such as a free tutorial service and getting Lock Haven University students more involved in the community.
“There’s a lot of potential here I think we just need to keep tapping into it,” he said.
Brinker’s main goal is to continue to build upon what’s already been done and get things accomplished.
“I think we need common sense,” he said. “I’m so tired of promises that are so out there.”
“I’m not here because I want something to do,” he continued. “I’m here to help (the community) out.”
Brinker would like to bring attention and awareness to the efforts of various organizations from Children and Youth to emergency responders and even high school sports teams.
“One of the things I’d like to see each month is we honor different organizations within the council,” he said.
Brinker is a fiscal conservative but understands that sometimes various things such as road work and other big projects need to take place.
CONKLIN – LOOKS AT THE BIG PICTURE
Lock Haven City Councilman Richard “Rick” Conklin is running a write-in campaign for the Republican nomination for Lock Haven mayor.
“I love the city. I love what I do for the city now,” Conklin said.
If elected mayor he hopes to be a voice for the city residents, which he often feels he already is as a member of council.
“People see me as the voice of moderation on council,” he said.
This is in part because he is willing to listen to both sides of an argument and base his vote on the information provided to him, he said.
“People have to be able to respect each other’s views,” he said.
“If people get to know me and sit down and talk to me, we may disagree significantly. To some people that’s adversarial, but to me we’re just coming from a different angle,” he said.
Conklin feels that all groups in the political spectrum need to get along in an effort to make the city a better place for everyone.
“We have to understand, it’s a joint venture,” he said.
There are many changes he would like to see in the city but he understands it all can’t happen overnight. Long term goals are something he likes to plan for, he said.
“You can’t throw a switch and make all the bad things better for everybody,” he said. “But you can look at the long term and say ‘okay so where do we want to be five years from now?’ or ‘where do we want to be 10 years from now?'”
Although Conklin may not be involved in city government in the capacity of mayor or even a councilman in 10 years he still would prefer to look at the big picture and make steps that the next generation can follow.
“You can look at what you’re going to do next year but that’s the small picture,” he said. “You’ve got to ask the questions ‘what are we doing next year that matters five years from now?'”
“People who know me, know that’s how I look at things,” he continued. “I look at the big picture and how it affects everybody… not a specific group of people.”
The changes Conklin would like to see in the city range from a streets plan to giving back to the youth of the community and better connecting Lock Haven University students with the area.
“From the city standpoint I would like to see a 20-year streets plan,” he said. “There might be some alleys and small streets that only need done every 30 years. But there are some that need done every seven to 12 years.”
Conklin understands that a streets plan of that magnitude would require a large amount of planning as well as a tax increase but feels it could help the city’s infrastructure.
He also would like to see the city become a little more aggressive with rental inspections.
Currently the city requires rental properties be inspected every five years, he said.
“Five years is too long for deterioration to take place,” he said.
A solution would be to look into hiring an inspector who can look into area homes as well as rental properties on a three year or so basis.
“I think we need to look at a three-year inspection plan because I think it protects people,” he said. “It improves the quality of life.”
Contracting out the inspection service would also give council the power to terminate the service if it isn’t up to their standards, he said.
“That way, we look at the company every three years or whatever the length of the contract is. (Council) can go back and say ‘I think you were a little too lenient in many of the houses. I think we’re going to look for another company.’ So you have some control there,” he explained.
Keeping tabs on the inspectors could also help avoid possible favoritism as well, he said.
Signage is another issue Conklin feels needs to be addressed.
“I think we need to get better signage in the community,” he said. “We should have a couple of locations, near parking lots most likely, that actually have a (map) so you can see where the shopping is.”
The signage would have to be dynamic so it can be easily updated as well, he added.
“You never want to have those kinds of things in the community that don’t get updates,” he said. “It’s like having a really bad website.”
This additional signage also ties in with his hope to connect the students of Lock Haven University with the community.
“I’ve talked for years about at the beginning of the year placing signs in yards that say ‘Welcome Lock Haven University students,'”he said.
He believes this could be one way to help the students feel welcome.
A bike path or sidewalk that leads from downtown Lock Haven to the university is also something Conklin would like to see, although he understands it would take time to prepare, he said.
“We (council) run a tight budget,” he said. “We’ve always run a tight budget.”
The goal for a sidewalk or bike path is to bring more foot traffic from the university into the downtown area, he said.
The single most important issue the city faces right now is how it’s treating its youth, he said.
“I still think the single most important issue in the city right now is appreciating young people,” he said. “Giving them options to keep them out of trouble.”
Currently both himself and Councilman Bill Mincer are overseeing a committee that would like to begin a recreation program for area youth.
“We want a place for kids to be able to congregate where they will learn to treat each other well,” he said. “They will have access to tutoring, they will have access to recreation. They will have access to things that aren’t being taught in schools.”
That may include skills such as how to change a car’s oil or do local or state taxes, he said.
“Anything you can imagine is the type of things we need to do for young people to encourage them to be better citizens,” he said. “They’re going to be citizens whether they like it or not so why not be good citizens?”
Conklin hopes, if the program does take off, it will help teach social skills to kids that they’ll use for the rest of their lives.
“We need to teach social skills to kids, especially kids that come from tough house holds,” he said. “I think we need to communicate with young people better and make sure they know that it’s their city too.”
“We should be giving them opportunities and not complaining about what the young people are doing,” he continued.
He hopes the parks programs, such as the summer recreation program, can also continue to provide a safe learning environment for young people.
“The fact of the matter is the kids are still turning out in droves,” he said. “The kids are still hungry for that social time together.”
Continuing to build upon the things the city has done so far to help kids is what Conklin hopes to do.
“Helping somebody’s children who maybe has to work two jobs to make enough money to support the family… whether that be one parent or two parents… helping their children be safe and be confident and be good citizens is just one of the things we can do for them,” he said.