Eras worth remembering


If you’ve ever met her, you know her smile is contagious. She can light up a room and is one of the most genuinely kind and authentic people you’ve ever met. She has served her community as a township trustee since 2012. Prior to her service, her late husband served as township trustee for 22 years. I guess you could say public service was a foundation for their marriage. I first met her while participating in Leadership Delaware several years ago. She was one of the public officials who invited our class to her township hall where we were joined with other public officials and learned about their roles as public servants. We also learned about how the role of a Radnor Township trustee may look different than say a more suburban township like Liberty township — but ultimately each trustee serves the same purpose: to help their constituents.

If you haven’t figured out who I am talking about yet, let me introduce you to Radnor Township Trustee Teresa Watkins. Teresa is handing off the reigns of trustee at the end of this year — marking the end of a truly honorable era of service for both Teresa and her late husband Mike Watkins.

I’d be remiss though if I didn’t mention what an esteemed, female public figure Teresa is for other women looking to serve their community. So often in our careers, we are told to behave a certain way or to look a certain way, and — if you’ve been in the public sector business long enough — you know that you can spot a fake a mile away! But not Teresa, she is the real deal. She speaks with authority and a smile. She has institutional knowledge, and career and life perspectives that could overshadow anyone — but she doesn’t flaunt that to get her way. She doesn’t have to. Teresa has built a reputation in the community of a dedicated and knowledgeable public servant, who many, including myself, look to for inspiration and an example of leadership. I hope you will join me in congratulating Teresa and thanking her for her faithful service to the people of Radnor Township.

Serving as legal counsel to our townships in Delaware County is one of the many responsibilities of our civil division. Generally speaking, townships don’t make the front page of the paper like a criminal case might (or at least we sure hope they don’t as their legal counsel), but the work our township officials do every day (and every week) form and directly impact the future of Delaware County (and its residents) in major ways. Our civil division consists of six attorneys whose statutory job is to represent the board of township trustees and fiscal officers. This service is provided at no cost to individual townships. Township trustees (who are elected by the people of their township) serve alongside an elected fiscal officer to govern their township. Items that could come across their plates include new developments of property, the maintenance of cemeteries and roads, and employing and overseeing important first responders like fire departments and police officers. Just a few weeks ago our office hosted a training for township officials at no cost to them.

The election in November marked the end of important eras for several township public officials — and they too deserve our thanks and recognition. I’m only going to mention two, but all deserve to be recognized and thanked for their service! Berlin Fiscal Officer Claudia Smith did not seek reelection and will be ending her service to Berlin Township at the end of this year. Also, an icon in Harlem Township, Trustee Jerry Paul, is saying goodbye to his life of service to Harlem Township at the end of this year. He has served as a Harlem Township trustee since 1984! Thank you to Jerry and Claudia — and may you enjoy wherever life takes you next.

This marks my last column for 2023. May God Bless you all — and I’ll see you in 2024.

Melissa A. Schiffel is the Delaware County prosecutor.

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