Beyond the Byline: West Hazleton’s outgoing mayor shined in office

Beyond the Byline - Michael Reich | January 1st, 2018 6:35 pm - updated: 7:42 pm.

West Hazleton is about to lose a fine public servant. The kind of guy who really would give you the shirt off his back. (We know that expression is used way too much. But trust me, it applies in this instance.)

Frank Schmidt’s term as mayor officially ends Tuesday at the borough’s annual reorganizational meeting.

Frank and I worked together before my days at the Times Leader and I got to know him pretty well.

That’s why I have not been surprised to see the accolades sent his way now that his eight years in West Hazleton’s top office are coming to an end. (Frank, 78, chose not to run for a third term.)

When he started, the borough was still in Act 47 financially distressed status and its police department was in shambles. Its roughly 4,500 residents had to rely almost exclusively on State Police for protection.

Today, West Hazleton is on solid financial footing, has fully renovated municipal buildings, and its police force boasts a complement of 12 full- and part-time officers.

In his final days as mayor, the borough and its residents have showered Frank with praise. They even felt it appropriate to name a new Broad Street park in his honor.

But if you know Frank, you know his achievements go far beyond what you could list in a newspaper column.

I’ve been around him when he immediately stopped whatever he was doing to answer a call from the office or to address a citizen’s question.

He was determined to attend every meeting he could to fulfill his duties. He also felt compelled to represent West Hazleton whenever called — everything from ribbon cuttings to kicking off the Little League season.

He sought no glory. He only wanted to help, like he’s done his whole life. (I can’t tell you how many times he’s thrown a snow blower on the back of a truck on a cold morning to go clear sidewalks for some older folks.)

If all people in public office had the same attitude, this county and whole country would be in outstanding shape.

Anyone thinking of running for a local elected post would be served well by chatting with Frank for a few minutes and trying to follow his example.

Here’s hoping he enjoys his retirement. But I know Frank way too well to believe he will be resting on his laurels.


Beyond the Byline

Michael Reich