By Steven Hoffman
When Kennett Square Borough Council recently removed the “interim” tag and named Joe Scalise as the new borough manager, they were hiring someone that they knew well. And Scalise was becoming the top administrator for a town that he knows well—he has either lived or worked in Kennett Square his entire life.
Scalise grew up in Kennett Square going to the pool on summer days, playing Little League on local baseball fields, and attending classes at Mary D. Lang Elementary School or the middle school when it was still in town. He graduated from Kennett High School. His parents still live in the same house that he grew up in. So, for Scalise, the Kennett Square roots run deep.
When he was old enough to start working, one of his first jobs was as a borough employee. David Myers, his best friend growing up, helped him get a part-time job for the borough.
“I would come in to wash police cars for some extra spending money,” Scalise explained. He made a good impression and before long he was working part-time in the wastewater treatment plant.
Scalise grew up playing sports and briefly considered becoming a physical education teacher when he was attending classes at West Chester University. He liked working for the wastewater treatment plant so he decided to take the necessary courses to become licensed in wastewater management. On Jan. 1, 1995, he officially became Kennett Square's wastewater plant operator. He stayed in that position for nine years until he was promoted to the position of director of public works, where he managed a department of ten people.
Scalise said that the most challenging aspects of his job as director of public works was keeping up with the continually changing regulations and the 24/7 nature of the position. He had to be constantly on-call when it snowed, rained heavily, or when there were infrastructure issues.
“It's fun, but it's challenging,” Scalise said of his duties with public works. “You're on-call 24/7 for things like water main breaks or snowfall.”
As the experienced leader of one of the major departments in the borough, Scalise was an asset to Kennett Square borough manager Brant Kucera during his six years in that position. When Kucera left in the fall of 2014 to take a city manager position with Cannon Beach, Oregon, he recommended that borough council utilize Scalise as the interim borough manager while a national search was conducted.
Scalise agreed, uncertain if we would even like the job. It soon became apparent to him that, with his knowledge of Kennett Square and his familiarity with so many residents and business owners, that he enjoyed the new duties.
“Within a month or so,” Scalise said, “I started to enjoy it.”
After conducting a search and evaluating different candidates, borough council ultimately decided that the best person for the borough manager duties was already a borough employee. They officially selected Scalise to be the new borough manager in April.
Scalise said that one of the biggest challenges moving forward will be to fund the services that residents have come to rely on without having to raise taxes. He also wants to make sure that Kennett Square remains a desirable place to live and work.
“I think we all want to keep to keep going in the direction that we are going,” he explained.
For Scalise, it was an easy decision to serve the residents of his hometown in the new role. He said that he considers the people of Kennett Square to be the best thing about the town. He explained that he enjoys the duties of the borough manager, even the most challenging aspects, like working through the process of putting together an annual budget. He also likes working with residents or business owners to solve any issues that they might be having.
“I enjoy talking to people,” Scalise explained. “So I welcome it when people come in and want to talk about what their concerns are. I've been here a long time. I know how [the borough of Kennett Square] operates. I love it here. I'm invested here.”
To contact Staff Writer Steven Hoffman, email email@example.com.