For Danielle Rich, the job opening for Lancaster Township manager was timely.
“I had just finished my master's degree, and we're building a house in Jackson Township, so I thought it was kind of fate that this job opened 10 minutes from my new house and was what I wanted to do,” Rich said.
Rich, who began her job Dec. 14, got her start in municipal government four years ago, working in economic development in Ohio. She returned to school to get her master's in public administration at the urging of her former boss, whom she said inspired her.
Although much of her recent work has been in figuring out the differences between municipal law in Pennsylvania as opposed to Ohio, Rich said she has some goals for her first year in the position. One goal, she said, would be to promote access to information, perhaps by expanding the township's website or by using social media.
“I would further like to promote public participation in our municipality,” Rich said. “We're having some success with our virtual meetings because of COVID, so people who didn't come to the building (for township meetings) before are hopping on to the computer and attending that way.”
While the meetings are held online-only due to the pandemic, Rich said she wants to see some way for residents to join remotely when the meetings return to in-person events.
Public participation can be an asset in many cases, she said, such as in contributing to the township's decade-long comprehensive plan. “Lancaster started the Vision 2030 plan before I came on board,” Rich said. “It was put on hold due to COVID, but we would like to pick up where we left off with public input sessions.”
Although Rich would like to see more public participation, she acknowledged it's already an asset to the community and in its planning for the future.
“I think their strength is the people have a clear consensus on what they want to see. Our strength is that there is public participation and we can work together,” she said. “Everyone works together very well, so we will be able to achieve what people have said in public input sessions already and, hopefully, we'll be able to achieve them sooner rather than later.”
Rich noted she was recently inspired by the career of Cranberry Township manager Jerry Andree, who will retire next week after 30 years in the position. She said Andree's stewardship of the township during its rapid growth — and in its subsequent growing pains — made her want to be, in a similar way, a lodestar of sorts for a municipality.
While Lancaster isn't in the same place as Cranberry three decades ago, and its residents aren't quite as on board with the idea of rapid development, Rich said the potential for township expansion is still there.
“I feel like their strength is that they're growing. They're on the precipice. There's a lot of residential development, a lot of people coming into the area,” she said. “My main goal is just to do my job well and serve my staff and the residents of Lancaster to the best of my ability.”