Candidates vying for four seats on Oxford Borough Council10/25/2021 10:50PM ● By Steven Hoffman
In Oxford Borough, three incumbents are seeking re-election to Borough Council: Robert Ketcham and Ron Hershey and Amanda Birdwell. With four seats up for the Nov. 2 election, some newcomers have stepped in to run for a seat, including Amanda Woolston and Mary-Laura Buchner Hulse, who are running on the Democratic ticket, and Michael McMurrough and Bill Fitzpatrick on the Republican side.
Ketcham, a longtime resident of Oxford, is in his second term on council. He is chair of the Borough Codes Committee, a member of the Environment and Sidewalk Committee, and a member of the Comprehensive Planning Task Force.
The Comprehensive Plan and establishing a capital budget plan are imperative in Ketchum’s view to ensure the future of a thriving Oxford.
“I’m running again because there are really good people on council now and I’m looking forward to working with them further,” he said. “Things have improved dramatically and the budget is much easier to read. The capital budget is a key part in going forward. We have a new borough manager and I am very excited about that.”
Ketcham added, “I’d like to go further with finance reporting and I’d like to see a recognizable fund in parking that shows us paying off the loan for the parking garage and that it was a good investment.”
Ketcham is focused on continuing work on the borough’s infrastructure, including waterlines, storm sewers, and streets.
“We need a long-term plan to finance those projects,” he said. “I am very optimistic with the way things are moving in the borough.”
Hershey, a registered Democrat, won the primary as a write-in on the Republican side. Hershey has served 16 years on borough council, including six years as council president. Hershey said he brings a lot of experience to the position.
“I have been a part of many infrastructure improvements in the borough within the business district and residential community. Much of what was identified in the first Revitalization Plan has been completed. The experience of going through those improvements is a valuable piece I bring to council,” he said.
Hershey currently serves on the Codes, Finance, and Outreach and Inclusion Committee. He is also a business owner in the borough, and he knows first-hand the importance of a vibrant business district.
“I know the history of the community and I bring continuity,” Hershey explained. “We have a new borough manager coming on board and I’m excited to work with her. I’m concerned we stay on track, and that projects we started will be finished. I’m concerned with the budget, taxes and transparency. The community and businesses need to know what council is doing. I want to continue to build the business district, have a safe community, and make sure we are fiscally responsible.”
Birdwell is serving her second term on council. She is the chair of the Borough Council Finance Committee as well as the Outreach and Inclusion Committee. A mother and registered nurse, she also participates on the Environment and Personnel Committee.
Birdwell said, “During my time on council, I’ve seen a positive movement. I want to make sure council has someone to continue to support them. We have done a lot of outreach to the community and we need to continue to do that.”
She also wants to focus on engaging the younger community and bringing in a more diverse, ethnic population and persons from a different socioeconomic background.
“We have a very diverse population. We need to embrace our diversity and the ethnic cultures that make up this community. We need to listen to everyone in our community. The best way to do that is to reflect that diversity at our council table,” she said.
Mary-Laura Buchner-Hulse has been a borough resident since 2009 and is a mother of two. This is her first attempt at running for political office. She is an active volunteer in the Oxford Educational Foundation, Oxford Silo, Oxford Mainstreet, Inc. (OMI) and the Oxford Arts Alliance. She wants to unite Oxford with open lines of communication, to meet the needs of residents and businesses. She wants to strengthen the town’s growth financially and structurally while preserving Oxford’s historic charm and beauty.
“I’d like to make sure everyone knows what is happening in the borough,” Buchner-Hulse said. “I just feel like a younger mindset would be good going forward. I’d like to see council using social media more and I want to get a younger demographic involved. I will seek advice and input.”
Transparency is important to her as well. “Everyone should know what is going on,” she said. “I want to build relationships with people, and unite us.”
Woolston has lived in Oxford for two decades. She is a young mother of two. Her job as a master social worker provides her with a unique perspective. She has taught social work, sociology and psychology for several colleges. She is politically independent but is currently registered with, and endorsed by, the Democratic Party. She has worked with persons from all walks of life throughout a variety of county services including aging, elementary and higher education, mental health and addiction, poverty and housing.
“I think there is a gap between what residents want, and what government thinks they want,” she said. “I’d like to bridge that gap. I have felt many times that our priorities are not being addressed by council.”
Woolston teaches advance policy at West Chester University. She takes students to Harrisburg and Washington, D.C. and teaches them how to communicate with elected officials. She has helped draft bills for the Pennsylvania Legislature, served as an expert witness for the children and youth community, and worked with Children and Youth Services.
Fitzpatrick is a local educator and coach. He has lived in Oxford since 2018. He is running for office because he wants Oxford to be a strong, safe, and vibrant community. He feels his experience will help him accomplish that.
He will focus on fairness, increased transparency, economic growth and quality of life. Fitzpatrick used to do parking enforcement for the Borough and loved seeing the local restaurants busy. His vision is to have a busy, vibrant downtown with people waiting in line to go to shops and restaurants.
“I’d like to create an environment that would bring more small businesses to town and increase our tax base,” he said.
Fitzpatrick has experience in government.
“I worked as a lobbyist for police. I would like working with the state government to help build our community,” he said. “I’m an organized person and a good listener. I think those skills are needed on council. I am enthusiastic about creating a diverse and vibrant community for businesses and residents and building a strong community.”
McMurrough was approached by local business owners who wanted him to run for borough council. McMurrough has extensive business experience, having been a regional sales manager for the last twenty years.
“It is important to have a strong town with a vibrant business district. That creates opportunity for our population to find employment or for our community to find the goods and services they need locally,” he said.
McMurrough is also focused on encouraging new businesses to come to Oxford.
“I’d like to create a climate here where businesses can thrive and grow. That is beneficial to the entire community,” he said. “I believe my knowledge of business would be an asset to the council. I’m a hard worker and a good listener. That is important when you are representing a community.”
McMurrough is also focused on helping to maintain a safe community. He said, “I think if we focus on the community as a whole, we can help it grow and serve the diverse population that lives here.”