Teel honored for 16 years of service on Oxford Borough Council
By Steven Hoffman
For Randy Teel, Oxford has always been home. So during his 16 years on Oxford Borough Council, no matter what issue was in front of him, he always considered how it would impact Oxford residents first.
“My biggest concern, from the day that I went on council, was the residents of the town,” Teel said during an interview in December. “I’m an elected official who always made the residents my number one concern.”
Teel’s final meeting as a council member was Dec. 21. During his 16 years on council, Teel was always one of the more active council members, investing his own time to research the issues or see for himself what residents were concerned about. At one time or another, Teel served on virtually every governmental board or committee that Oxford has. He was selected by his peers to be the council president. He was never shy about being the voice of dissent if he thought council was heading in the wrong direction on a particular issue.
Teel’s contributions to Oxford were honored on Dec. 14 when Oxford Mayor Geoff Henry presented Teel with a Certificate of Appreciation that praised him “for sixteen years of tireless service as a member of Oxford Borough Council and as a past council president. Your leadership, hard work, and dedication to improving the quality of life in Oxford has been truly appreciated.”
Teel is a lifelong resident of the Oxford area. His grandfather owned a 200-acre farm outside of town, and Teel remembers working on the farm as a boy and bringing produce to town in a buckboard wagon to sell to residents. His father, CPL. Curtis R. Teel, served in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II. His father and uncle both built houses near the family farm.
“That’s where I learned to be a worker,” Teel explained.
Teel graduated from Oxford Area High School in 1967. He went to work for Chrysler, and would go on to enjoy a 42-year career in the automotive industry as an electronics instructor and consultant. He started out working on the line at the Chrysler plant in Newark, Del.
“That was the best education that I could have had,” he explained. During his 30 years at Chrysler, he earned a series of promotions. He was elected as an official with the union. He earned a patent for an electrical tester that helped save the company a significant amount of money. He served as part of a team that worked on a Product Quality Improvement Program. His duties as an electronics instructor eventually led to work as a consultant in the automotive industry. His career gave him many opportunities that he wouldn’t have otherwise had.
“I have met people from all around the world,” Teel said, explaining that he even met President Bill Clinton when he was promoting the Buy American Program in 1994.
While he traveled extensively for work, Teel always remained close to his beloved hometown.
He opened RNJ Plaques and Engraving in 2005. According to Teel, running a business in the heart of Oxford’s commercial district allowed him to keep his finger on the pulse of goings-on in the town, and offered him a different perspective on some of the issues that came before council.
Peggy Ann Russell, an Oxford Borough resident who just started her first term on borough council, said that Teel made an invaluable contribution to council during his tenure as an elected official.
“Randy brought to the table a lifetime of lived experiences in the Oxford community,” Russell said. “His many years of business experience crafted his 16 years on council, and he provided insights and wisdom that were invaluable.”
During his stint on council, Teel could always be counted on to provide some historical perspective on an issue. For example, at various times through the years, council has discussed the sidewalk issue—how to pay for sidewalks in all the appropriate areas in town so that Oxford is a walkable community. One night, Teel showed up at a council meeting with a copy of an article that showed just how long Oxford officials had been discussing sidewalks—it was a story about the effort to get sidewalks installed on Market Street in 1866.
He always encourage his colleagues on borough council to inform themselves about issues instead of relying on others to tell them how they should think about a particular issue. His interest in the details of how things work served him well during committee assignments. He served on just about every one at one time or another, including the Local Traffic Advisory Committee, which he said he started with former borough manager Bob Glisson.
“That committee takes care of a lot of issues—problems with the streets and such,” he explained.
Teel enjoyed serving on borough council, and admitted that the decision not to seek a fifth term was a difficult one. He took great pride when residents, both Republicans and Democrats, would tell him that he was the only one who would tell them the whole truth about issues. One illustration that residents appreciated his work on borough council came in 2011, when Teel considered not running for a fourth term on council.
“I stayed on,” Teel explained, “but I didn’t campaign in that election. I was one of the top vote-getters, even without campaigning.”
He always prided himself on being dedicated to borough council, and meetings to handle council business were always a priority for him. His service to Oxford went beyond the twice-a-month council meetings and committee meetings.
“You have to spend a lot of time on borough business,” he explained. “Attendance is important. I know of at least eight years that I had perfect attendance for council meetings.”
Teel estimates that he has spent 24 percent of his life serving on Oxford Borough Council, and about 45 percent of his life serving on various committees.
“And I worked another job for the full 16 years,” he said. “You just have to make a commitment.”
He said that he always tried to come to council meetings with an open mind, and never had a personal agenda.
Except, of course, that part about how he always had to consider Oxford Borough residents first.