New township manager pointing London Grove toward its future
02/28/2017 10:01AM ● Published by Richard Gaw
As a young boy growing up in a fire fighting family in Caln Township, Ken Battin jumped on fire trucks and equipment at the Thorndale Fire Department, the same items he would later use when he first became a volunteer firefighter there in 1977.
Fire fighting was, in many ways, the Battin family business. His cousins served. So did his grandfather, and in fact, his great grandfather even helped build the station where the Thorndale Fire Department is located.
“The first apparatus I ever drove at the department was an antique 1937 Chevy, which all of my family members touched at some point,” Battin said.
So it was to no one's surprise that soon after he began as the township manager for London Grove Township on Jan. 17, Battin joined the West Grove Fire Company as a volunteer.
For 24 years, Battin served as East Whiteland Township, where he was the director of the codes and life safety departments, which encompassed supervising the building department, emergency management services, the codes department and the fire services staff, for the township.
During his more than two decades on the job, Battin oversaw tremendous growth in the township. When he began, Battin was one of just a handful of employees for the township. By the time he left, he had hired 25 firefighters, three assistant fire marshals, and numerous other people.
Understanding what drew Battin to express interest in joining London Grove Township begins and ends with his experience in the fire department.
“I was very apprehensive about leaving East Whiteland, because I loved my job, and to move to London Grove Township was a big change, but I welcomed it,” Battin said. “I think a lot of why I looked forward to coming to the township stems back to my volunteer fire service, because as a fire fighter, we are adrenaline junkies. We like a challenge. We like to make things better. That's my whole goal here, to make London Grove Township better.”
With a little more than one month at the township in the books, Battin has already compiled a punch list of priorities, with what he calls “identifying the human capital” chief among them.
“Too many organizations overlook the talents that the people have with the organization,” he said. “We need to make sure that the skills that our employees have outside of their immediate job are identified. For instance, if someone has an interest in summer programs or recreational programs, we can help steer that person into the areas of their specialty.”
The need to find multi-taskers is also crucial to conserving taxpayer dollars, he said. Battin said that Public Works director Shane Kinsey recently saved money by recognizing – and using – the ancillary skills of several public works staff on several township projects.
He would also like to boost the township's volunteer base. The township is currently soliciting for openings on boards and commissions on its website.
“We are looking more at a volunteer's interest than in his or her background,” Battin said. “There is an open-door offer from our boards, for those who have an interest in becoming a part of the township. It's just a matter of steering them, and their talents and aspirations, in the right direction.”
Battin is also looking tighten up the township's codes and ordinances – including its fire codes, which will include the eventual hiring of a fire marshal.
Ask any township or municipality manager to lay out the aspirations of the job description and they will likely say that while he or she aspires to be a visionary, more time and energy is devoted to serving as a gatekeeper. For Battin, it's a clean, 50-50 division of labor, with a lot of hurdles to climb in between.
He said that the three most important issues currently facing the township is the discussion surrounding whether or not to build a sidewalk along State Road; determining rules and regulations about on-street parking; and reaching a decision on whether or not the township should begin contracting with the newly-formed Southern Chester County Regional Police Department for part-time police coverage in the township.
For Battin, he plans to work on all issues, “one issue at a time.”
“I'm a believer in face to face relationships, no matter what the issue is,” Battin said. “I want to come out and meet with residents, and not just be someone behind a desk who takes phone calls. I am encouraging the township staff to go the extra mile and build those relationships. If we build that bond, we may be able to then work out problems and get all sides together and work out the problem with it going too far.”
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
The London Grove Township Board of Supervisors are seeking motivated individuals who would like to give back to the community, by serving on various boards and committees, including the Board of Auditors, Board of Appeals, the Planning Commission, the Environmental Advisory Committee, the Historical Committee and the Open Space Committee. For those who are interested, they are asked to send a letter of interest to Ken Battin, Township Manger, at email@example.com, or 372 Rose Hill Road, Suite 100, West Grove, Pa. 19390.