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Harrisburg mayor sets busy agenda

Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse reflected last week on his first 100 days in office. - (Photo / Amy Spangler)

Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse, who stepped into the role following major asset deals under the city’s debt recovery plan, wrapped up his first 100 days in office last week.

“I think it’s fair to say the pace is even faster than I would have expected,” he said. “The intensity of the job is really remarkable. I’m up for it, but it’s 12-hour days consistently and you really always have to be on whenever you are out in public as mayor.”

The city business owner sat down with the Business Journal to reflect on his new life as a public figure, what he has accomplished so far and what he intends to focus on over the next 100 days.

Investors take note: The plan is heavy on comprehensive plan updates and tools to entice development and grow the local tax base.

Papenfuse also hopes to get City Council on the same page.

“I haven’t found that City Council has shared my sense of urgency with regard to a lot of the problems facing the city,” Papenfuse said.

Q: Has the pace been fast enough for you, and what has been the biggest takeaway so far?

A: It really is physically a demanding job. At the same time, I’ve had to step into the role of operations manager for the city as well. A large part of what we’ve been doing over the course of the first 100 days is bringing the city up to capacity, bringing in new department heads and leaders and really trying to inspire the workforce.

What is the biggest difference between running a city and running a business?

The size and scale and need to bounce between public works and the police department and economic development, HR questions and then a housing question, all within the course of the same hour sometimes. It really requires a lot of nimbleness. You have to be ready for the unexpected but also the juxtaposition of entirely different issues coming at you at the same time.

What is the most pressing issue or issues you hope to address over the next 100 days?

One of them is the relaunching of the sanitation privatization (request for proposals) process, which didn’t work well last year. We had to get the public works move accomplished within the first 100 days, which was a major accomplishment and a lot of work.

The next issue is to examine the future of the public works department and that really requires determining what we’re going to do on sanitation.

How do you see the comprehensive planning process playing out? How will that help you do your job better, and what might it mean for businesses in this city?

We sent the comprehensive planning resolution down to (City Council) well over a month ago. We still haven’t had a hearing on it.

We’ve also appointed new members to the planning commission and we’re really trying to beef that up. We’ve hired a new director of planning and we are ready to go from the city’s standpoint.

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