‘A great hire for the Township.’ Harris Township hires longtime planner as new manager

Harris Township’s elected decision-makers tapped a longtime planner to be the township’s next manager, the top administrative position in the municipality of about 6,000 people.

Mark Boeckel is set to oversee a budget of about $4 million and a government that employs about nine people. The vote Wednesday among the five-member board of supervisors was unanimous, Chairman Frank Harden said Friday.

“I really enjoy working with the community and I know that as a municipal manager you get to be involved with residents and elected and appointed officials. You really get to work on projects that have a direct impact to people and the quality of life that they want to see in their community,” Boeckel said Friday. “That was one of the things for me — having worked with the previous manager and having worked here in the township — I already had a connection to this place and really a desire to want to continue to serve this community. It was kind of a no-brainer for me. This is a great opportunity to be here full-time and invest my time and energy into helping keep Harris Township a wonderful place to live.”

He is expected to start in mid-to-late September once he leaves his position as principal planner at the Centre Region Council of Governments’ planning agency. Harden declined to release the terms of Boeckel’s contract.

Planning Director Jim May — who hired Boeckel and worked with him for more than a decade — described Boeckel as a “servant leader.”

“He has a strong understanding of the rural nature of the community,” May said. “... He’s got a lot of good relationship built already in the township.”

Boeckel was the township’s principal planner for 12 years. The 42-year-old said he does not view the manager’s position as a “steppingstone.” He said he hopes to remain in Harris Township for “a long time.”

“We had three really good candidates. It was a tough decision,” Harden said. “... What I think put Mark over the top to be quite honest — and it’s an advantage he had from the beginning, which there’s no way you can take it away from him — he’s been our planner for 12 years. So when we would ask questions pertaining to the township and what it was doing, it was like we were talking. He’s heard us so much, he’s worked with us so much he kind of knows us that well. I think that came out, plus his professionalism. He was very, very professional in the whole thing. Those two things, I think, is really what put him over the top.”

Boeckel is set to succeed Amy Farkas, who left the post earlier this year to become Patton Township’s manager. She served as Harris Township manager for 17 years. Peter Marshall served as interim manager.

“I think Mark is a great hire for the Township,” Farkas wrote in a text message Friday. “He knows the Township well and understands its needs.”

The York County native is an alumnus of Brigham Young University. He said he hopes to ensure the township’s services are provided effectively and efficiently, as well as make sure the township’s residents feel like they have a voice in their community.

“People value the sense of place that’s here and they don’t want to see that get eroded by unplanned growth or projects that are taking place that might somehow affect their community in a negative way,” Boeckel said. “My goal long-term is to keep the citizen engagement and to work with the community.”

Harden said the township received about 30 applications for the job. Three finalists were interviewed by the board of supervisors last week, he said.

The list was whittled down with the help of a citizens committee made up of nine township residents.

“Our previous manager had been there for 17 years and did a fabulous job, kind of spoiled us. But one of the things we all realize is that every once in a while you need to look at your system,” Harden said. “... I think that we’re going to look at it also for an opportunity to improve anything we can improve.”