Marie Sykes (firstname.lastname@example.org)
With Collegeville’s mayoral election on November 2, now is the perfect time to meet the candidates, current mayor, Dr. Aidsand F. Wright-Riggins III, and retired Collegeville police sergeant and Ursinus alumnus, Bruce Penuel ’74. The following all are their quoted answers to the questions.
Why Did You Decide to Run for Office?
WR: I initially chose to run for office in 2017 because I felt the need to be a role model for my oldest granddaughter whom I adopted and who lives with me and her “Mimi”. At the time, she was depressed by the political landscape which seemed to exclude and otherize so many people; from race, to gender, to religion to sexuality and even to politics. Division and dis-enfranchisement in our society ate at her young soul. I ran for office to demonstrate to her that we each need to be the change we hope to see in the world. I also ran because I wanted my grandchildren… to feel as positively about growing up in Collegeville as I did in [my hometown]. I ran to help make Collegeville feel like a great place to come home to.
P: has chosen to run for mayor because he feels that he is the best qualified candidate for the position based on his education, training, and experience and his interest in the community
How do you see the relationship between Ursinus and the [community]? Is there anything you would like to change?
WR: [the] Collegeville Borough benefits when we prioritize placing Ursinus College as central to the future of Collegeville. Ursinus is the College in the ‘Ville! To me that means not only working with the college, businesses, and residents to help make Ursinus the college of choice for students, but also to help make Collegeville itself an attractive destination point for its students, their parents, and the college’s faculty and staff. For the last four years I have worked hand in glove with the college’s administration to do just that. We are actively working on Main Street and its vicinity to make it more college student friendly. I meet regularly with the administration and students toward these ends.
If re-elected I will work to fulfill a promise that I made this past summer. That promise is to work with our Council to appoint an Ursinus student as a Junior Council Member, so we have student input regularly at our borough meetings.
P: I could write [pages] about my relationship with the Ursinus College Campus Safety Department. As a student and volunteer firefighter I was present when the campus had its first campus safety officer (who was a true gentleman). As the Campus Safety Department grew I found that the officers were members of our community who I knew and respected… former police officers and firefighters [I worked with]… They were not only professional colleagues but personal friends as well. How many of your friends can you say that you celebrated New Year’s Eve together while working, [repairing] an electrical problem at your house, and [working together] to apprehend a thief who stole college computers? The interaction with these officers has been beneficial to me as a police officer, a friend, and a member of the community.
What are your top three priorities when becoming mayor?
WR: My mayoral mantra is to continue to work to keep Collegeville safe, vibrant, diverse, and sustainable. I know that is four rather than three priorities! Specifically, for Ursinus College, student safety is my number one priority. In Pennsylvania, the mayor is the person who provides oversight and accountability for the police department. An effective mayor is not a police officer but helps creates a culture for their work and holds the police department accountable for maintaining that culture. I want students to feel as though they are protected and served by our police officers and that our policies and practices help create community.
Over the next few years, we expect transition in the leadership and staffing of the Collegeville Police Department. As mayor, I want that evolving department to have a positive and constructive relationship with the college and its students. To me, it is critically important that we continue to promote community policing policies and practices along with civilian-led oversight of the police.
P: Regarding my priorities upon becoming mayor… The police department is about to undergo some big changes in the next four years. The Chief of Police will retire as will two other officers. Considering my education, training, experience, and interest in the community I believe that I could help with the transition. I have always been available to the officers to answer questions and to provide the benefits of my experiences. I have always approached public safety as trying to prevent problems from occurring and then to solve problems when they do occur. The police department has always been focused on problem solving and helping the citizens as opposed to unhinged enforcement. I see a need for someone to maintain the street signs and traffic signals by observing defects and reporting them to the persons who do the actual maintenance. Traffic rules can be properly enforced and traffic can move in an orderly fashion.
Is there anything else you would like to share with the Ursinus student body?
WR: One of the great honors for me was being awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity Degree from Ursinus College [in] 2019 for my community service and commitment to human rights. I am proud to be an Ursinus College Bear.P: Note that two of my brothers also attended Ursinus College: Steve Penuel UC1975 and Jeff Penuel UC1978.