Jeffrey Stonehill is the Manager of the Borough of Chambersburg, the Commonwealth’s only municipality to run its own natural gas and electricity utilities.
“Five Questions with …” is a regular Keystone Crossroads feature where we seek to glean wisdom and ideas from some of Pennsylvania’s top urban thinkers and doers. Jeffrey Stonehill is the Manager of the Borough of Chambersburg. He’s also Director of Utilities in Chambersburg, the Commonwealth’s only municipality to run its own natural gas and electricity utilities.
Q: Tell us about an amenity or service that you’ve seen in your travels to other places that you wish you could bring back to your community.
A: I wish that Chambersburg could provide Wi-Fi, internet and broadband services to our residents and business community. A wired community would give Chambersburg, already unique for providing residents with municipally-owned, operated and delivered electricity and natural gas, additional economic development vitality. Unfortunately, under Pennsylvania law, we cannot provide those services.
Q: What’s one urban improvement idea that you could categorize as “nice try but didn’t work”?
A: Too many communities try to replicate other communities’ successes instead of capitalizing on their own history, unique assets and demographics. We might all love visiting New Hope, Bucks County, for its antiques and shopping, or Gettysburg for its history. But no other town can be New Hope or Gettysburg. Every community cannot merely replicate other communities’ successes.
Q: Describe a person in your community who is a “spark” — someone who seems to get things done and inspire people.
A: My community has been very blessed to have among its many volunteers and citizens, Mr. Paul Cullinane. Mr. Cullinane serves on the Board of the PA Downtown Center. He is the former director of our Downtown Chambersburg Inc., currently on the Board of our Capital Theater and remains active in many redevelopment and community activities. Paul is an amazing person and has dedicated his life to public service.
Q: What flaw or habit does your city/community have that you would like to see it change?
A: The greater Chambersburg area is too provincial. We have four or five amazing municipalities with greater leaders and great traditions, but we do not do enough – as is common in Pennsylvania – to work together with one unified strategy, one set of goals, in a regional manner. Together, we would be as diverse and successful as any municipality in the Commonwealth.
Q: Tell us about a movie or book that depicts, in a way that grabbed your attention, how a city can thrive or fail.
A: “A Crack in the Edge of the World: America and the Great California Earthquake of 1906” by Simon Winchester. Though his focus is San Francisco, Simon Winchester covers more than the disaster and how it led to greater scientific study in an attempt to understand the movements of the earth. He also conveys the role of famous Mayor Eugene Schmitz and his attempts to stop the cataclysmic fire and cover the evidence of the earthquake – a fine example of a civic leader pushed to nearly destroy his own city in order to save it.
Editor’s note: Some responses may have been edited for length or clarity.
Is there someone you know who thinks hard about cities and knows how to get things done? Someone whom Keystone Crossroads should spend “Five Questions with …” Please let us know in the comment sections below or via Facebook or Twitter @Pacrossroads.