In the book “The Story of Kennett” Joan Holiday and I had a fascinating interview with the Mayor, Matt Fetick in April 2016. Here is what he said;
“Chester County has been my home since I was 4 years old. I’m a graduate of Downingtown schools. Following high school, I became an EMT and eventually went to the Police Academy upon my appointment as a police officer in West Chester where I served for 7 years. After leaving the police department I began a career in real estate that now spans Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware and London England; and currently lead a nationally ranked and recognized real estate brokerage. My partner, David and I have a new son, Oliver. My role as the mayor of Kennett Square is to assure public safety through overseeing the Kennett police department and to be a voice of the people. As the elected executive, my responsibility is to sign or veto the legislation that the borough council proposes. When community concerns are not being addressed, I bring them to the table and become an arbitrator of discord. I also participate in and foster activities that enhance the economic, social and environmental well-being of the town and residents. When people need help accessing government services, I help direct them to the right point of contact. Kennett Square has over thirty nonprofits and many community-wide festivals and events.
Many hours of my volunteer role as mayor are spent attending community affairs and fundraisers. As the official spokesperson for Kennett, it is my role to endorse and validate the resources that these events bring to the community. The nonprofits are providing services that the government doesn’t cover, and the community events are bringing pride and revenue into the town. These organizations appreciate the validation of support from the mayor’s office, and I make it a priority to be available whenever possible. After I became mayor, I was invited to a Historic Kennett Square meeting and was asked what my vision was for the town. I told them I did not come with an agenda; rather my aim was to help them achieve their vision.
Kennett Square is the ideal small town USA. We do so many things right. We have an efficiently run government with a balanced budget. Also, our strength is in our diversity expressed socially, culturally and economically. We have homes for high income families within blocks of low income neighborhoods. We have the opportunity to share resources and have a visible reason for volunteerism. There is a culture of community service in Kennett Square. Many of our residents serve in different organizations from The Garage Community and Youth Center to the Kennett Senior Center. There is an opportunity for anyone who wants to get involved. On the History Channel, I have been watching The Men Who Built America, which recently has highlighted how large corporations have been an important element of a healthy economic community. Historically, the mushroom industry has done a great job in providing resources for the community. With the growth of other businesses such as Genesis Healthcare and Chatham Financial, we are seeing corporate involvement in the community continuing to grow. These industries have invested in the town financially big time, and this helps build a strong economic base. Our town would suffer if large businesses left.
As for our present challenges; the town currently has three major properties that could bring in high density housing, for both rental and ownership. We could be reaching a tipping point of having to expand our water, sewage, and underground pipelines and infrastructure. An increase of restaurants with liquor licenses may require hiring another police officer.
Property taxes continue to be a point of concern for residents. Many of the new residents support the idea of moderate tax increases to support infrastructure and services. However, longtime residents are concerned about being taxed out of their homes. Finding this balance between investing in our town and not pricing residents out is a challenge that we will continue to face.
We are very fortunate to have an excellent working relationship with Kennett Township. We are able to share resources in times of emergency and with planning. Our police and fire departments work together as well as our municipal managers. As mayor, I don’t establish benchmarks per se, but I do engage in an annual reflection process about how Kennett Square is doing. The information I want to understand and assess at the end of the year is who is being served, what is being done, and how is “the serving” being accomplished by the agencies.”
I talked to Matt yesterday to ask how things had changed since our interview last year. The big news is Oliver has twin sister and brother to compete with and the three of them have the great experience of growing up in Kennett Square in front of them. And then Matt went on and said that Kennett continues to thrive and he believes a big part of that is the culture of volunteerism. He still feels this nurtures the organizations like La Comunidad Hispana (LCH), the Food Cupboard (KACS) and The Garage which helps make Kennett such a healthy, fun and safe place to live. The Police Department and School District partnered to add a Resource Officer at the high school to enhance the community policing that contributes to our safety. Matt also keeps the seniors in mind to ensure that Kennett helps them to age in place. The results of all this is pressure on the community and Borough Council to expand in a sustainable way as developers push for growth. But then, these are good problems to have.
Books may be purchased on Amazon and at the Mushroom Cap or Resale Book Shoppe in Kennett. You can contact Bob at firstname.lastname@example.org.