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Lower Swatara works hard to address concerns: Todd Truntz

Posted 9/12/18

I read the Press & Journal’s latest critique of the Lower Swatara Board of Commissioners personnel management in its Aug. 29 editorial. As a board member and a resident who has a lot …

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Lower Swatara works hard to address concerns: Todd Truntz

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I read the Press & Journal’s latest critique of the Lower Swatara Board of Commissioners personnel management in its Aug. 29 editorial. As a board member and a resident who has a lot invested in our community, I just can’t sit by and let yet another shot be taken without responding.

I have read the Pennsylvania Economy League report and its recommendations thoroughly. We are fully aware of what the Press & Journal terms a “revolving door” of township managers. This is not just a Lower Swatara Township problem. Just like almost every other business and government entity across the country, not every employee is happy, and we sometimes have workforce issues.

There is an explanation for every employee departure in our township. What’s different about these departure issues is that, unlike most other township businesses, we can’t publicly discuss the details. We could get in legal trouble if we did, but more importantly, we have respect for the privacy of each individual employee.

So it’s real easy to repeatedly criticize the board on matters involving individual privacy that cannot be publicly defended, and to speculate that it’s all the board’s fault. And if someone had an ax to grind when they were interviewed by the Economy League, that just adds fuel to the fire.

Trust me, we’re working on the employee issues. I just wish the solutions were as simple and straightforward as your editorial makes it sound.

I think our new township manager is a great hire. We have a lot of other employees who are second to none. But we’re also in the process of negotiating with a recently unionized workforce.

The township does not have a bottomless well of resources, and every decision we make has to consider costs to our taxpayers. Unfortunately, not all employees are happy with the choices that we are sometimes forced to make. And sadly, none of us have a crystal ball to enable us to foresee how an employee will perform once he or she is on the job. We try our best to make the right choice among the often very limited pool of candidates. Ultimately, we must take a leap of faith.

The Press & Journal should have mentioned, with equal emphasis, the current financial soundness of the township and the suggestions made by the Economy League to maintain this soundness. These suggestions included reducing the costs the township incurs for employee benefits and as well as pension costs. The board will have to decide on these and other difficult issues. We will continue to balance the costs of providing the best services to all township residents with fairly rewarding our employees, while living within our financial means. Our tax dollars are limited and precious. It is not an easy balancing act.

Please remember that the board of commissioners is made up of township residents who are also parents, grandparents, retirees, public sector employees and private sector employees. The board is a good reflection of the Township as a whole.

I’m just a dad who was looking for an opportunity to get involved and serve our community. I’m not in it for the $2,500 salary or as a road to higher office. I never claimed to know everything or be able to make everybody happy. And I don’t have a magic wand or that crystal ball. Like my fellow board members, I’m trying my best to make decisions that are good for everybody.

It’s easy to write a newspaper editorial or Facebook post and tell us all we’re doing wrong, or suggest that something nefarious is happening behind the scenes. What’s not so easy is stepping up to run to serve your community, spending time away from your family and putting up your own money to campaign. If you’re lucky, you become one of the people out front who has to weigh all these issues and make what are sometimes very unpopular decisions, then dodge the rocks that are thrown at you. While I am very proud to be a public servant, I’m not sure if I would recommend it to everyone.

I know it’s the Press & Journal’s job to be the public’s “watchdog.” If wrongdoing were ever discovered, I expect you to shout it from the rooftops.

As a leader in our community, I trust that the Press & Journal wants to see good people in our local governments. However, the people our communities need in leadership positions will not step up to service if they expect to be subject to repeated criticism and attack. I don’t think our residents will like this alternative.

Todd Truntz

Lower Swatara Township board member