Henry announces that he will not seek another term as mayor of Oxford
By Steven Hoffman
Geoff Henry, who has served as the mayor of Oxford Borough since 2006, announced this week that he will not be seeking a fourth term in the November election. At the end of 2017, he will have completed 12 years in office, tying him for the longest tenure as mayor of Oxford.
Henry, who frequently refers to Oxford as the “Best Small Town in America,” said that he was thankful to serve the town, and that he enjoyed working with so many people who had a desire to improve the quality of life for borough residents through the years.
“I look back at the last 12 years and it’s been a good run,” Henry said. “It was a difficult decision, but after twelve years there’s a time to move on.”
There are no term limits for mayors in Oxford Borough, but Henry supports the concept. He said that it's the right time for someone else to serve as the mayor.
Henry, who has enjoyed a career as an administrator of aging and long-term care facilities, is a long-time public servant in the Oxford area. He grew up in Johnstown, Pa. and moved with his family to Oxford in 1978. Since then, he has been very active in the community, serving on borough council for six and half years, four of which were as president. He was an active member and past president of the Oxford Rotary, served as chair of the Oxford Area Civic Association, chair of the Oxford Area Sports Boosters and until his resignation in December of 2016 he was chairman of the Oxford Area Recreation Authority and the Oxford Borough Planning Commission. He is also an elder of the Oxford Presbyterian Church.
Henry was elected to his first term as mayor in November of 2005, and took office in January of 2006, succeeding Mayor Harold Gray who also served 12 years in office.
The most important duty of a mayor in boroughs like Oxford is to oversee the operations of the police department, and Henry has excelled in this role, thanks in part to his good collaboration with Police Chief John Slauch and the officers in the police department. Slauch has been the only police chief that Henry has worked with during his time in the mayor's office, and many of the full-time officers have also been with the department for a long time.
Henry said that he leaves office proud of the work accomplished by the Oxford Police Department in keeping the community safe.
“We’ve been able to maintain a stable police department, and the officers know the borough. I believe the police have done a good job of being visible in the community,” Henry explained of a department that has a dozen full-time officers and five part-time officers. “I feel good that you can walk down the streets at any time of the day and feel safe in Oxford.”
In addition to his mayoral duties pertaining to the police department, Henry was also an effective advocate for Oxford, working to bring various businesses and organizations and people together for the betterment of the community. He organized town hall meetings to tackle issues like the heroin epidemic. He was a reasoned voice during borough council meetings. He has frequently issued proclamations to raise awareness about different issues.
One of the initiatives that he spearheaded was the introduction, in 2007, of the Citizen Recognition Awards to honor those citizens whose service to the community has helped make Oxford a better place to live and work. The awards have recognized the efforts of dozens of business leaders, borough employees, churches, and non-profit organizations through the years.
Henry established a good working relationship with the various borough council members who have led Oxford since 2006. Borough council has permitted Henry to share his opinions on a wide range of issues, and when a situation called for it, Henry would take a position—even a difficult one.
In the aftermath of several school shootings in 2011 and 2012, mayors across the country were supporting a national effort to crack down on illegal guns. Henry encouraged Oxford Borough Council to join other towns in support of a resolution that called for common-sense solutions to reduce gun violence. He then worked with council member John Thompson on a resolution that was agreeable to everyone on council.
In late 2013, Oxford Borough Council approved a budget for 2014 that necessitated a tax increase of one-half of one mill, from 11.50 mills to 12 mills. Henry felt that the burden on taxpayers was already too great, and after careful consideration, he felt like he had no choice but to veto the budget—even though he knew that council was likely to vote to override the veto.
“I struggled with that long and hard,” Henry said. “I felt strongly enough to stand by my convictions, and I’m not sorry that I did it.”
With the borough facing serious budget constraints, he also donated his mayoral salary of approximately $1,500 back to Oxford, and he continues to do that each year.
The mayor also encouraged borough council to spend more time working on the budget each year to make sure that spending is kept as low as possible, and in the last few years there has been much more public discussion about the spending plan.
Henry established a website and Facebook page for the office of the mayor, and he utilized the website and social media to send out important information to residents and business owners. He helped develop a website for the police department. He was also instrumental in having the Borough register with NIXLE, which is a free service used to make residents aware of events and emergency situations.
“I tried to provide as much information as I could to the public on a wide range of topics,” Henry said.
With nearly a year left in office, Henry hopes to continue to work on helping to resolve the heroin epidemic, which impacts not just Oxford, but communities large and small throughout the U.S. He said that he might organize one or two town hall-style meetings to discuss the drug issue, and to bring the various groups and organizations together so that everyone has a better understanding about the resources that are available.
Even though he is not seeking another term as mayor, Henry will continue to be a tireless advocate for Oxford.
“I do want to take some time off,” he said. “I want to stay active, but in some other capacity.”
He may also endorse a candidate for mayor in the November election if there is a candidate that he thinks would do a good job in office.