In 1979, I was at family gathering at my sister’s house in Bristol Borough. My brother in law was praising the candidacy of Ronald Reagan in the Republican primary. “I’ll cancel your vote,” I said. The next day I registered as a Republican and voted for John Anderson in the primary. It’s interesting how such a small action can influence decades. Anderson lost; Reagan won the primary and the general election; and I was a registered Republican.
Before I changed my registration back to Independent or Democrat, I got a call from the Yardley Republican club. The parent of an HGP student, Fred Kurtz, invited me to a meeting for candidates for Borough Council. Months before, I had volunteered to serve on a Borough committee — denied planning or zoning — I had became a member of the cable TV commission, pretty important. Now I was being offered the opportunity to run for Yardley Borough Council. But as a Republican.
Around this time, I was organizing a chapter of the Sierra Club in Bucks County. I called Philadelphia. “Should I run as as a Republican?” The answer I got cemented my party registration for years. “Go for it,” the Sierra voice said, “we need environmental activists in the Republican Party. ” In the Yardley Republican meeting, I got along extremely well with one of my potential running mates, Susan Taylor — a fiscal Republican but very liberal on many issues. We ran together and won.
In all honesty, many Bucks County Republican, office holders in the 1980s, were moderate and I didn’t have a lot of issues with them — in fact I could support People like Jim Greenwood and Dave Heckler. Once elected to Council, Susan and I forged a fairly liberal thinking group of Yardley Republicans. Some were Democrats who changed registration once elected to Republican (supported by Taylor-Profy). For many of us “all politics was local;” we didn’t support national Repulicans.
Once on Council, we dealt with a variety of interesting issues. The designation of a Historic District in much of the downtown area; increased attention to planning and zoning issues — Orchard Hill ( just being developed today), Nickerson developments at Yardley Commons and the Train Station (threats of a trailer park) and directly behind me on Morgan Avenue, Canal View or later the Big House project.
In the early years, I remember thinking that one big difference between being on Council and my life up to that time was Council’s dependence on a solicitor. Constantly we asked, “Was it legal?” Some issues were major — the State was requiring an Emengency Management Plan. I went to workshops in Lambertville. There were minor floods that provoked a lot of citizen response. Downtown parking (cooperation) was an issue. And tax hikes — my “R” friend Susan looked at the budget with with a microscope — did the borough need to spend that much on stamps?
Some of the issues we dealt with during the 1980s were a sign of the times — the closing of the the Yardley Pharmacy Luncheonette ( and eventually the entire store) — and some more were complex and serious. For years the Borough struggled with updating of it’s police force. In 1989, a police chief search led to the arrest (and immediate acquittal) of Council President Taylor. A sad but real incident in small town politics.
In my organizational and clean up mode, I found several scrapbooks of articles from my eight years on Council. They document the many issues we faced –historic zoning, emergency management, a new mayor, a new comprehensive plan, new police chief and the first borough manager. The scrapbooks contain articles and campaign literature. They document a decade of my life as a Republican (yes, a Republican) local office holder. Interesting and a bit confusing, but as SusanTayor always said, “If it’s not fun, we shouldn’t be doing it.” The scrapbooks are destined to be donated to the Yardley Historical Association; the memories are for ever.