Coaldale's new mayor "nervous' but ready for job
January 01, 2002|By CHRIS PARKER Of The Morning Call
First woman elected to borough post plans to spend first year "listening.'

The first woman to be elected mayor of the tiny coal-country borough of Coaldale was sworn in Monday.

Surrounded by her family, the town's new police chief, her parish priest and a councilwoman, Claire Remington took her oath before District Justice Casimir Kosciolek.

"I'm very proud of my wife," said Otis Remington, Claire's husband of almost 25 years. "I knew she had it in her. She has always been a caring person."

Claire Remington, a councilwoman since 1992, shared her new post with John J. Radocha from her 2 p.m. swearing-in until midnight, when Radocha's third term as mayor ended.

Coaldale Police Chief Shawn Nihen was amused by the dual leadership.

"Until midnight, we'll call John," he said with a smile. "At midnight, we'll call Claire. Or maybe we'll call both of them."

For Radocha, who did not attend Remington's ceremony, the transition was bittersweet.

"I served the community for 50 years, and I've had enough," he said. "My daughter says I'm 81 years old and I don't need it anymore. But I'm going to miss it."

He lists among his years of service 12 years as mayor, 12 years as a councilman and eight years as a Schuylkill County constable. He also served on the borough's board of health. "I got a grand total of $10 a year for that," he said.

Remington, a Republican who has two years left to serve on her term on council, will resign that seat to take on her new responsibilities.

She'll supervise the borough's police department, consisting of three full-time and six part-time officers.

"I'm nervous," said the 45-year-old pharmacy technician. "But I'm ready to do my job."

Remington said she plans to spend the first year of her four-year term "just listening."

"I have nothing tremendous to do this first year but listen to the people and the police officers," she said. "I want them to know they have somebody who wants to hear what they have to say."

Among those she will supervise is Nihen, who was appointed police chief on Dec. 22.

Nihen, who will turn 30 on Jan. 11, joined Coaldale's police department as a part-time patrolman in 1992, signing on full time in 1994. He was made a sergeant in 1996.

His salary is $32,300 and will stay at that amount until his one-year probation ends.

Nihen said he's "looking forward to working with Claire -- Mayor Remington. I enjoyed working with John, but I'm sure Claire will do an excellent job."

Remington will "work with the police," Nihen said. "She seems like she's going to be a very involved mayor."

Remington has her family's support.

Her father, Eugene Haspe, celebrated his 70th birthday on Friday -- the same day Remington received her mayoral certificate from Schuylkill County.

"It's fabulous," Haspe said. "I felt numb. I just didn't believe my daughter would grow up to be mayor."

Remington's mother died when Claire was 8, he said.

"She took care of everything," he said. "She took good care of her two little sisters, Jeannie and Elaine. They were just 7 and 1 year old."

Councilwoman Anne Girard, who has known Remington since they were toddlers, was moved to tears by the swearing-in ceremony.

"She really cares about people, she really does," said Girard. "She's a good-hearted person."

Remington's daughters, Lindsey, 16, and Natalie, 22, attended the ceremony.

"I'm not used to something this big," Lindsey Remington said. "Usually, it's just the council thing, but now it's something bigger."

Natalie Remington called her mother's accomplishment "very inspirational. She's just a good, upstanding person."

Otis Remington, who with Haspe held the Bible on which his wife took her oath, is proud and confident.

"In my opinion, she's the most qualified person for this job," he said. "She'll take care of the borough and do what's right for the people of this town."

Reporter Chris Parker