Familiar faces squaring off in Phoenixville mayor's race

PHOENIXVILLE — With Leo Scoda’s name absent from the November mayoral ballot for the first time since the 1990s, borough residents will get to chose from two familiar names to replace the longtime mayor.

Michael Speck, who represents the East Ward on borough council won the Democratic primary in the spring and is facing former West Ward Councilman Kendrick Buckwalter, a Republican.

Combined, the two have 16 years of council experience and have served many years with fire services in different fire companies.

Kendrick Buckwalter

Buckwalter, 62, served from 2002 until 2012 on council and also served on multiple committees including the police contract negotiations committee, the ordinance committee, the borough manager search committee and the health, sanitation and utilities committee, among others.

He also served as council’s vice president and fire department liaison.

A business owner for 39 years and a 31-year resident of the borough, Buckwalter also served on West End Fire Company’s public safety board, as chairman of the zoning hearing board member, and is currently a class coordinator and facilitator of Rave Ramsey Financial Peace University.

“I watched as Leo (Scoda) built our police department to be one of the finest in Pennsylvania. Under his guidance and leadership, he started bike patrols in the downtown. He created a full-time position for a school resource officer and established a full-time drug task force,” Buckwalter said. “The bad guys know that Phoenixville means business to keep drugs out of our town.”

“I commit to continuing vigilant oversight to the drug problem,” Buckwalter said. “I also commit to continuing the established programs and introducing new ones to keep our community safe.”

Buckwalter said his decade on council and working with the police contract negotiation committee in two different negotiations as well as his experience as a business owner for nearly 40 years qualify him as mayor.

Over the weekend, Buckwalter picked up an endorsement from state Rep. Warren Kampf (R-157th Dist.).

“Ken Buckwalter has given his time, energy and devotion to Phoenixville as a Council member and volunteer in the community,” Kampf said in a press release provided by Buckwalter. “He’s earned the support of everyone who calls Phoenixville ‘home’ to be their next mayor.”

Chester County Sheriff Carolyn “Bunny” Welsh also endorsed Buckwalter Sunday.

He’d already been endorsed by Chester County Commissioners Ryan Costello and Terence Farrell.

“More growth within the department is absolutely necessary,” Buckwalter answered when 21st Century Media asked.

He advocated bringing the department to 32 officer, up from its 28 current full-timers, “in light of the projected growth of the downtown,” including plans for a new $54 million, 275 unit apartment complex Bridge Street, partly financed by the DeMutis Group.

“A safe community is a thriving community,” he said.

Michael Speck

A 25-year borough resident, Speck has served on council since 2008, getting re-elected twice.

The current vice president of council, Speck said he has not missed a council meeting for his entire tenure. He serves as chairman of the police, personnel and public safety and also on the infrastructure committee.

Speck, 59, a Marine Corps veteran, worked as a communication center coordinator at St. Gabriel’s Hall in Lower Providence. Retired from there, Speck also served as chairman of the Phoenixville Youth Aid Panel, and also is a social member of the VFW, American Legion and the Kiwanis Club of Phoenixville.

“I believe key traits for Phoenixville’s mayor are the personal interactions that I have had and continue to have within our community, along with the integrity I have,” Speck said. “The mayor serves the entire community, a task that I wholeheartedly embrace.”

Scoda, who Speck has described as a mentor, is endorsing the Democrat for mayor. Additionally, state Sen. Andrew Dinniman (D-19th Dist.) is also endorsing Speck.

“Mike has been a hard-working borough councilman representing the East Ward for the past six years,” Scoda said in a statement provided by Speck. “Mike has been very supportive of the Phoenixville Police Department in his tenure on borough council.”

Speck said Phoenixville is “fortunate to have one of the finest police departments in Chester County.”

“As Phoenixville grows, I will ensure the police department continues on its path of emphasizing safety in the community while maintaining respect for individuals,” he said.

Promising to work closely with Police Chief William Mossman and his officers, “updated and ongoing training will be the foundation” of the department, according to Speck, if he is elected.

Emphasizing community relations, Speck said he would focus on the “well-being” of the officers “who work in stressful situations.”

“One of the greatest things about Phoenixville is how we seem to watch out for each other and stand together in times of challenge, (as well as) celebrate our community and history with various events throughout the year that focus on bringing people together,” Speck said. “We’re more than a community. We’re a family.”

Succeeding Leo Scoda

Both candidates recognized Scoda’s influence and will incorporate the outgoing mayor into their transition into office if they are elected.

“I will be asking Mayor Scoda to show me how he has been managing the police department so as to enable a smooth transition,” Buckwalter said.

“I am confident Mayor Scoda will continue to be a positive influence in the Phoenixville community as well as a trusted advisor and friend,” Speck said.

Scoda served as mayor for 16 years and as a councilman before that. His reports at the council’s monthly meetings are full of the town’s goings-on, many of which he’s attended himself.

Additionally, Scoda served as the town’s representative to Harrisburg during recent legislative district re-draws, opposing the plan to split Phoenixville into two different districts.

Buckwalter joking said one of the challenges of replacing Scoda will be hearing, “Hey, that is not how Leo would do it!”

“As I have been saying during my candidacy for mayor, I will be ‘building on the legacy- focusing on the future,’” Buckwalter said.

“A new chapter in Phoenixville’s personality and appeal begins with the next mayor,” Speck said. “Semper fi.”

Thi version has been corrected to reflect that Speck serves as a councilman from the East Ward.

Follow Frank Otto on Twitter @fottojourno.

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