How long do you have to live somewhere to be considered a local? In the recent Cecil Township supervisors race, some strange and sometimes angry fault lines emerged. Intertwining interests of culture, longevity and economics intersected in this little country township to create anger and hard feelings over diverging views of what Cecil will be in the future, and who will run it.
My wife and I built our house nine years ago. Our daughter was born here. Our pets lived and died here. This is our home. In the years since we moved in, we’ve made almost $150,000 in mortgage and tax payments, not to mention physical improvements to our home. We have invested heavily in our life in Cecil Township, and so have our neighbors.
In this week’s election, Cindy Fisher, a relatively recent arrival who, like my family, lives in a newer subdivision, ran against Frank Egizio, a 51-year resident of Muse. Fisher’s effort to become the first supervisor from one of the new residential neighborhoods created tensions that I’d not witnessed in the decade since I moved here. She, and by extension all of the newer residents, were denigrated as “plastic house people.” At a meet-the-candidate event in a local park, another resident confronted us over a plate of cookies that she claimed was not allowed. Pictures were taken of our group, I suppose, as evidence of the transgression. The police had to intervene. In a separate incident, a local man was arrested for threatening Fisher with physical harm in a voicemail message.
We live in Mayberry. This is ridiculous.
Intersecting economic and cultural issues caused friction. Zoning to protect residential areas, particularly with respect to the gas industry, has come into conflict with longtime landowners who are understandably seeking the economic benefits of the gas boom. Unfortunately, with agitation from a few individuals, the race became a proxy war between longtime residents and new ones for the future direction of Cecil Township, and it got pretty ugly. From there it seemed to become an argument about control over township institutions and whether or not the newcomers are welcome to the decision-making process that guides life in Cecil.
After living in Cecil for the better part of a decade, I would have thought that my family and my neighbors would have been accepted into the fabric of township life. To some extent we have – Fisher won her race, but it was disheartening to find such animosity in the community. Whether it was control, or fear, or economic self-interest that drove the debate, I was disappointed to learn that there are still people who think of us, the newer residents, as outsiders. We’re not. We live here and we’re staying here, and over time, as development continues, we’ll have more say in township affairs, not less. We’re not here to deprive existing residents of anything, but we do expect our significant investment in Cecil Township to be protected. That’s not too much to ask.