Mayor Sherry Capello believes her record of financial stability has earned her four years at the head of the city’s administration. Capello, with just under a year remaining in her third term as mayor of Lebanon city, has announced her bid for another term.
“My administration has had quite a number of accomplishments,” she told LebTown. “However, I believe my single proudest one has been restoring financial stability and accountability by addressing budget deficits, filing audits on time, eliminating audit findings, improving cash flow, and establishing a capital reserve fund. All of that without raising taxes for the past six years.”
Capello announced her intention to seek reelection in February. The Lebanon County Republican Committee is expected to endorse her candidacy on Thursday. In a statement issued at her announcement in February, Capello noted that the city landscape “was different” when she was first sworn in 11 years ago.
Lebanon city officials “had adopted an unbalanced budget with an $850,000 deficit,” she said in the statement. “There were no reserves.”
Additionally, Capello said, the city “was three years behind in filing audits and there were significant noncompliance findings. Nineteen positions had been eliminated without addressing the challenges from having less manpower.”
There was no plan for replacing the $1 million in cost sharing and subsidization “that was lost when the sewer and water authority split” from the city, she noted.
Since then, she said, the city has addressed the $1 million loss and established a reserve fund of $1.6 million and an excess carryover of $3.5 million.
“Not only did we get caught up with the audits, but we addressed all the findings, and we filed our audits on time ever since,” Capello added. “I am proud of what has been accomplished during my tenure. I am truly fortunate to have a great team by my side and tremendous support from the community. We are on track for continued success.”
In an email to LebTown, Capello said her greatest challenge in office to date was “getting property owners and renters to understand the importance of having properly operating smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in their homes. Please do not remove the batteries and/or please replace the batteries! You would not believe how many times the fire fighters have responded to calls and there is no audible alarm sounding. They really do save lives.”
On the other hand, she said, there have been regrets over the course of her time in office.
“I regret that the Business Improvement District Ordinance got overturned,” she explained. “The BID was the funding mechanism for Downtown Lebanon. Downtown Lebanon was getting some momentum and positive things were happening when the BID was in place. Some businesses had reported their highest week of sales ever when they participated in specific marketing campaigns.”
The BID was officially dissolved at a brief hearing Oct. 8 in a Lebanon County courtroom on Oct. 8, 2019. The order ended more than three years of litigation, which argued that the BID had never been properly formed and therefore could not collect assessments from property owners. Capello said at the time that she hoped to reintroduce the program to Lebanon at a later date.
“I truly believe, if properly managed, Downtown Lebanon could become a destination,” she told LebTown. “Let’s see if moving city operations downtown can provide a spark!”
She has many plans for her next term, she said in an email, “but my primary goal is to continue our journey for long-term fiscal sustainability while ensuring a vibrant downtown, attracting additional private sector investment, facilitating additional job opportunities, and creating an environment that attracts young professionals and families.”
With the ongoing pandemic causing financial turmoil for many residents and business owners, Capello said she hopes for more financial assistance from the state and federal levels.
Lebanon successfully partnered with federal agencies “to offer some financial assistance to our hard hit business community and we are hoping to partner on a local level to assist our landlords/renters with rental assistance,” she said. “We have provided information to the general public as quickly as we received it and waived fees and regulations to help restaurants with outdoor dining and pick up options for parking. We also had suspended meter violations and street sweeping when our County was in a shut-down to help alleviate concerns with shuffling vehicles when the majority of residents were at home.”
“We need to get our residents back to work and our businesses fully open. The City will be available to answer questions and direct our residents and business owners to the proper agencies for assistance.”
Also on her plate for a fourth term is beefing up fire protection in the city.
“The replacement of fire apparatus is daunting,” Capello said. “Volunteer numbers continue to dwindle and I am afraid that some of our volunteer companies may dissolve and that means less grant funding to put towards these major pieces of equipment.”
“You have to recognize the sacrifices and contributions made by our volunteer fire companies over the years. It was been tremendous and life-saving in many ways.”
In her statement, Capello listed additional goals that include reducing barriers for Hispanic businesses in the city, improving home ownership opportunities, continuing the assessment of blighted properties in the city and improving Lebanon’s property maintenance enforcement program, providing more stability for the city’s homeless population, and continuing educational efforts concerning racial equity while supporting law and order.
Endorsement meeting on Thursday
Ed Lynch, chairman of the Lebanon County Republican Committee, said Capello has “formally requested the endorsement of the Lebanon GOP” at its annual endorsement meeting on Thursday.
“At this time, Mayor Capello is the only Republican candidate seeking the endorsement of the Lebanon GOP for the office of Mayor of Lebanon City,” he told LebTown.
Asked to rate her service to the city so far, Lynch said Capello “has performed an outstanding job.”
“Mayor Capello’s strong leadership and vision of a revitalized Downtown Lebanon will be a benefit to the entire County of Lebanon and its residents,” he said in an email to LebTown. “She should be commended for her hard work and determination since her time in public office.”
If reelected, Lynch said, Capello’s biggest challenge ahead “from a party respective would be the voter registration discrepancy between Republican and Democratic voters in the City of Lebanon and how that correlates to future election cycles in the City of Lebanon.”
Dan Sidelnick, chairman of the Lebanon County Democratic Committee, said only he does “not have much to tell you about Capello and what she has done for Lebanon City.”
Sidelnick noted that Cesar B. Liriano has announced his candidacy for mayor on the side of the Democrats.
Capello conceded that divisions exist between Republicans and Democrats in the city, but said she is hopeful they can improve cooperation across the aisle.
“I think we can unite and work together for the common good. We have done it in the past,” she said. “I think there is divide though and it saddens me, because I think everyone suffers for it. I believe in cooperation and agreeing to disagree sometimes. I think with communication common ground can be found and issues important to a community can be amicably resolved.”
Capello has worked in the public sector for 34 years, beginning as a Lebanon County zoning officer in 1987. She was hired as the assistant borough manager in Palmyra in 1997, then became borough manager just four months later. She worked as assistant director of community development in Derry Township until she was elected mayor of Lebanon in 2010.
In 2013, Capello received the Athena Award from the Lebanon Valley Chamber of Commerce, recognizing her efforts to support, develop and honor women leaders in the community.
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