Gilberton, PA: Too Small to Succeed?

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The smaller the town, the bigger the chance that your police “chief” and mayor are below par. A small town simply doesn’t have the tax base needed to attract qualified people and there are too few qualified people in the borough itself.

Gilberton ranks way below the Pennsylvania average in pretty much everything, like income, house values and education. It definitely has a very low tax base. And how big is the pool Gilberton has to fish in for its government employees?

According to this website, Gilberton Borough had a population of 769 in 2011. This website doesn’t break down the population into age groups, but the Wikipedia page about Gilberton mentions that 21.8% were under 18 in the 2000 census, when the town still had 867 people. 19.5% were 65 and over at that time. So let’s just use those percentages on the more recent count of 769 residents, and that leaves 451 people of working age who might conceivably fill the town positions such as mayor, councilmen, police officers, etc. Okay, so some older people, above 65, might run or apply for those positions. But my guess is that more people have left in the past two years, so it evens out.

24.1% of the population has no high school degree, 53.1 only has a high school degree, 3.9% has a bachelor’s degree (and you know what I think that’s worth), and only 1.62% has a master’s degree or higher. I don’t know for sure that these numbers are only for adults, so the quarter of the population that doesn’t have even a high school diploma could include kids currently working on that.

But let me be generous and say those with a bachelor’s degree and up might conceivably have the skills and general personal development necessary to run a town, even if they have absolutely no knowledge or experience in the field of government. That makes 5.55% of the 52% of the population that, according to Wikipedia, is between 24 and 65 years. So that would be about 20 people to choose from for positions of mayor, councilmen/women and law enforcement. If they’ve set the bar that high in Gilberton, that is. If the minimum requirement for those jobs is high school, then they can choose between 240 potential applicants. I’m assuming that, considering the negative growth of Gilberton, applicants are probably all local.

So, what can Gilberton pay its employees?

The borough of Gilberton has a personnel budget of about $65,000, about $30,500 of which is reserved for local government officials other than the police. My guess is, that’s the mayor and the five councilmen.

I can’t find anything very specific about how much local government officials in Gilberton get paid. However, I did find this article from 2011, which discusses a request to the county to reduce the number of councilmen for Gilberton from seven to five because that would save the borough $1,800 a year.  So by now there should be five councilmen, who apparently each get paid about $900 a year for their work.

The borough has about about $30,500 per year for a mayor, a secretary and five councilmen who each get about $900 per year. That means there’s about $26,500 for the mayor and the secretary, if there’s nobody else.

There is about $30,500 per year available for full time police and safety, which probably includes police officer Kessler and the fire marshall. Of the $6,000 or so for part time staff, about a third is allocated for part time police. That’s as much as I’ve been able to figure out about their finances.

With numbers like that, in a poor, undereducated town like that, in general you are going to get what you pay for.

I’ve already written about the actions and words of Gilberton’s local cop Mark Kessler and his boss, Mayor Mary Lou Hannon here and here.

Michael McGinley, one of the seven councilmen in 2011 couldn’t continue in his position on account of heading to prison for 20 months for methamphetamine trafficking conspiracy. To be fair, the person to replace this criminal, Eric Boxer, is an improvement, because he has been actively working to get Kessler removed from his job.

In 2011, another councilman, Robert Wagner, was arrested and strip-searched by Kessler at the orders of the mayor because said councilman had called her and used some swear words over the phone. The irony is so thick you could cut it with a knife. Wagner sued the borough and got $15,000.

Now, the reason Wagner gave for calling the mayor and using profanities is that he was frustrated because his neighbors were constantly complaining to him, as councilman, about the youth riding their quads and dirt bikes late at night. Apparently he had complained to Kessler about it several times, but he never showed up. Wagner felt that more officers should be hired if Kessler couldn’t handle it.

So, despite what all Kessler’s supporters claim, Kessler does not always “show up right away”, either because he can’t handle 769 people by himself (the average for Pennsylvania is actually 2 officers per 1000 residents) or because “libtards” can “go fuck themselves” and “take it in the ass”, as far as he’s concerned. Libtards being everyone who disagrees with him. Also, Councilman Wagner must have absolutely no insight into the borough finances, because it can’t afford to simply hire more cops. Especially not after he gobbled up at least $15,000 of the budget.

What kind of people insist on being their own separate town or borough rather than being part of a larger community when that would make so much more sense? People who want to be able to do whatever the hell they want, without anyone curbing their idiocy, like in Colorado City, Arizona, where Warren Jeffs and his Fundamentalist Mormon brothers were marrying thirteen-year-olds. And people who want to create jobs for themselves far away from scrutiny, like in the crossroads where I was a school librarian for a while.

People like that will mismanage their small town, so more people will leave, which will make it even smaller, until it has to admit failure and be incorporated into a larger community anyway. But in the meantime all the residents will have suffered unnecessarily in one way or another.

That’s my opinion, anyway. Let me know what you think.

10 responses to “Gilberton, PA: Too Small to Succeed?

  1. Brilliant! It is fascinating — but not uncommon — that this “conservative” is a public employee. In his case, though he is against government spending for others, he is soaking up much of the public money in his own town.

    Small towns simply should not have governments. Counties are a much more appropriate scale for administering services.


    • Hey James, fancy meeting you here! Yes, and he also claims not to want the government in his life and in his town’s life, and he claims to be for freedom of speech, but he arrested a councilman for swearing at the mayor and now he’s complaining about another councilman who’s campaigning to have him removed.


  2. Again I think you should stick to taking pictures of bats. Why the fixation on Gilberton. These uneducated hicks are clearly below you.


    • I thought the reason I wrote this post is perfectly clear. The police “chief” has put himself and his borough in the spotlight. What’s fascinating about him is that he behaves exactly like the fictional tyrannical government he claims to want to protect people against, and I thought I’d try and deduce from the town’s statistics and budget how it’s possible that someone like that could be in such a position of power. I hope that answers your question.


  3. Mike Ignatowski

    Putting aside the commentary on political views for the moment, I’ve also often wondered about the economic viability of small towns. Many of them have historical reasons for existing that are no longer valid today. For example, they started as the supply depot for the local farming community in 1870, etc… At that time, such a farming community could be close to being self sufficient. That is no longer even close to being true today. I used to live in a small town in upstate NY. The high school students were all leaving as soon as they graduated with no plans to ever come back – there were no reasonable job opportunities compared to larger cities. I don’t see how small towns can be economically viable anymore, and sadly I expect them to slowely fade away.


    • Exactly. And I know of at least one small town in the Rio Grande Valley that relies for jobs almost completely on the school. They insisted on having their own school at some point, and since it’s a really poor community, it’s all paid for by the state and possible by federal money. But they are able to fly under the radar to some degree–at least they did when I worked there–so the kids get jipped while the locals create jobs for themselves.


  4. I believe you are all idiots. There. How is that?


  5. I’m a Gilberton borough resident and have been for all my life . While I don’t know the exact numbers the percentages mentioned do appear to be accurate . it’s also correct that the pool of individuals willing to fill governme r positions here in Gilberton borough is very limited . most positions are uncontested , only the incumbent runs , so our election choices are also limited . to further reduce the quoted percentages , it should be noted that Gilberton borough is composed of 4 towns , all of which are under the umbrella of Gilberton borough. These towns are Maizeville , Cirktown ,the town of Til set in , and Mahanoy Plane. all residents of these towns can run for any public office in Gilberton borough.2 other Kessler facts that should be stated are yes he aS police chief but he was the only member of the police force therefore he was the police chief of a 1 man police force, not quite as important sounding of polo echoed , add of a 1man polo a force and itcanbeseen that wE not as important as he thought he aS or that he wa,ted others to believe he was . next fact is that in addition to his position in Gilberton borough , he was also a member of the North Schuylkill school district biRd of directors , an elected position in a much bigger town of Frackville , PA.gun


    • Hi Anonymous, thanks for your comment and the added information. Yes, I think it’s hilarious that the only cop in a town would call himself the police chief. In that way, I’ve been the director of a library four times!


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