Haddonfield's mayor decides she won't run again

Letitia "Tish" Colombi. The Texas native's term expires in May.
Letitia "Tish" Colombi. The Texas native's term expires in May.
Posted: January 23, 2013

After 28 years in office, Letitia "Tish" Colombi, the only woman ever elected to the Haddonfield Board of Commissioners and the only female mayor in the borough's history, has decided not to run again. Her term expires in May.

Colombi was first elected a commissioner in 1985 and became mayor in 2001. She has been reelected twice since.

She will turn 68 next month, and would have been 72 by the end of her next term had she been elected once more.

"At 72, am I going to have the same energy I do now? Probably not," she said. "And I want to spend more time with my husband and my family."

Commissioners serve part time for about $5,500 a year. For Colombi, being commissioner and mayor "has been my full-time job. That's how I wanted to do it," she said. "And the benefit has been all mine. I've had many fabulous experiences as the mayor."

Colombi has rendered great service, said fellow Commissioner Ed Borden. "To have someone with such great talents devote herself wholeheartedly to Haddonfield has been a great benefit to the borough," he said. "It was truly something done out of love, and it shows."

Borden added: "She's also fearless in her willingness to take stands on issues that may be unpopular," including her recent support for the proposed purchase of the Bancroft school by the Board of Education, an issue that has sharply divided residents. "She has not hesitated to take the position that was right and best for the town."

Colombi is a Republican and Borden a Democrat, but that has not adversely affected their ability to work together, he said. "We run individually for office, then, when elected, put the politics away and run the government until the next election."

Colombi agreed.

"Haddonfield is a nonpartisan town. I've never been involved in partisan politics and never will be," she said.

Colombi is from Odessa, Texas, "the Friday Night Lights town," she noted proudly, referring to its passion for high school football.

She met her husband-to-be, Dan Colombi, a young doctor and Philadelphia native, when he was stationed at an Air Force base near her home. They married and, after a year in the Philippines, moved to the Philadelphia area.

A partner in her husband's medical practice lived in Haddonfield. "He told us, 'This is where you need to raise your family,' the best advice I've ever gotten," Colombi said. That was 45 years ago.

For her, Colombi said, Haddonfield is a special place. "It's a town of goodness. . . . If something needs to be fixed, we get busy and fix it. Everybody gets it - you have to be willing to give whatever you have to make it a good community."

She cited the community's mobilization to address teen drinking after two alcohol-related deaths in 2007. "That galvanized the town in doing what we could to save our children," she said. "Any time we can affect the lives of our children for the better, it's huge - the community came together."

The mayor said she was pleased to be "leaving on the 300th anniversary of a town that was founded by a woman," Elizabeth Haddon. She said she hoped that her departure will encourage another woman to run for borough office: "I think the commission is better served with a female member."

Borden, who has two daughters, said: "It has been a wonderful thing for my kids to have lived in a town where the mayor is a woman. That's not too common. They really have looked up to her. She's really a treasure."

Contact Dan Hardy

at 856-779-3858 or dhardy@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @DanInq.

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