The Richland Township Board of Supervisors appointed Jeff Wingard to fill a board seat vacated by his father, Melvyn Wingard, who retired in early April with nearly 53 years serving as a township supervisor. 

Wingard was approved Monday in a unanimous 4-0 vote and is set to complete the remaining 20 months of his father’s term that ends in December 2021, board Vice President Robert Heffelfinger said.

Wingard was one of five candidates who applied to fill in for the unpaid, volunteer position: Fred Morello, Mark Rychak, Ron Gallucci and David Strushensky also submitted resumes.

But before the board agreed to appoint Wingard, Supervisor Brian Lehman made a failed motion to appoint Rychak. 

Monday marked the township’s second, regular monthly meeting conducted via phone conference to comply with the state government’s guidelines for social distancing.  

Wingard was not among the callers participating in the meeting, but Marsha Strushensky, David Strushensky’s wife, asked the board – “Is Jeff Wingard Mel Wingard’s son?”

Heffelfinger confirmed the relationship. 

“Uh-uh,” she said. 

Morello also called into the meeting and expressed feelings about the board’s selection. 

“I’m disappointed about the appointment. I had great interest. I had ran in previous elections. I wanted to let it be known that I had the interest, but I never got a call for (interview) questions or anything,” he said.  

Heffelfinger said the board has no formal policy regarding interviewing board appointees. In this case, he said, the choice was made based on resumes and letters submitted by candidates.

“I was appointed to fill a board vacancy in 2005 without an interview,” Heffelfinger said. 

Heffelfinger said he expected Wingard’s appointment to raise eyebrows.

“Jeff has spent most of his life as a township supervisor’s son. I realize there may be folks uncomfortable with our decision,” he said.

But he said Jeff Wingard’s own 40 years of community involvement won him the appointment. Wingard is a member of the Richland Volunteer Fire Department and has helped to coordinate the Richland Community Days parade, Heffelfinger said. 

“Jeff has put forth a tremendous amount of his time and passion toward the effort of Richland Township,” he said. 

“I was not going to overlook that.”

Russ O'Reilly is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter @RussellOReilly.

 

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