Mayors Proclaim Human Touch

Posted: May 02, 1999

Whereas, there are many noteworthy residents in most towns,

And whereas, national months or weeks recognizing something or another are proliferating rapidly,

Now, therefore, mayors do quite a bit of proclaiming these days.

An official proclamation by a town's mayor is a throwback - evoking images of burly officials with monocles glinting in the sun as they declare 1878 the Year of Westward Expansion, or something along those lines. Or of the Mayor of Munchkin City formally welcoming Dorothy and celebrating the death of the Wicked Witch of the East in The Wizard of Oz.

With glowing, florid language, proclamations take note of a citizen who has done something out of the ordinary, or whose ordinary contributions over a lifetime add up to something special. They bring a human touch to municipal business that can otherwise get bogged down in traffic ordinances and bid packets.

``That's just one of the absolute highlights of me being mayor,'' said Pennsauken Mayor Bob Cummings, who issued eight proclamations at last week's Township Committee meeting. ``It's just a real honor and a pleasure.''

Most proclamations originate with somebody's phone call to town hall, Cummings said. In a town the size of Pennsauken, with nearly 40,000 residents, too many requests for commemoration come in each month for each one to be granted - he could easily issue more than 10 each meeting - or meetings would consist of nothing but hours of endless proclaiming, he said.

So Cummings and the township administration sort through the requests to try to decide which ones truly merit special recognition with a formal proclamation.

``There are just so many people deserving of the spotlight, and there are so many people deserving of the thanks, but we do our best and we try to cover as many bases as possible,'' he said.

Last week, Cummings declared April the ``Month of the Young Child'' in Pennsauken. He also honored residents Joseph Callahan, Maureen Kelly, Anthony Pasquarelli, Rocco Parisi and Bernie Kofoet for their years of service on the Community Dispute Resolution Committee.

``Whereas the future of our Community, our State and our Nation depends upon the type of young people we rear to handle the affairs of tomorrow,'' read the Young Child proclamation, ``now, therefore, I, Bob Cummings, Mayor of the Township of Pennsauken, do hereby proclaim the month of April as Month of the Young Child and do hereby urge the citizens of the township of Pennsauken to join in saluting the young children of our community.''

Some mayors are choosier than Cummings. In Merchantville, for example, Mayor Pat Brennan typically issues a proclamation only to take official notice of an event or an organization - rarely an individual, said Clerk Sue Walker.

At a meeting Monday, Brennan proclaimed May 17-23 ``Emergency Medical Squad Week'' in the borough. Several weeks before, he declared April 30 the borough's Arbor Day.

In her five years as clerk, Walker could recall only three proclamations about people: one honoring a longtime borough employee who had retired; one naming a park for former Mayor John F. Morrissey; and one marking the 100th birthday of a borough resident.

Like Cummings, Pine Hill Mayor Curt Noe said honoring residents or groups in town through a proclamation was one of the highlights of the job.

``It's a lot of fun,'' Noe said. ``I like to draft it myself, word it on my own, and then I e-mail it to [Borough Clerk] Joan Schneebele, who has an artistic flair, and she plays around with it - changes the fonts on it and lays it out so that it's really appealing to the eye. Then she'll print it out on parchment and she has these wooden frames with glass surfaces.

``She has these fancy blue ribbons with seals, so I'll sign it in blue and then she'll put a seal with ribbons on it, and then put a glass plate over it and fasten it to the wooden backing and it really looks sharp,'' Noe said.

To avoid diluting the significance of proclamations, Noe issues only two or three each year, down from about 10 annually, he said.

``When someone gets a proclamation,'' he said, ``it's something that means something.''

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