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Neugebauer, Cagle bid farewell to council

As a retired elementary school teacher, Bill Neugebauer would have grown accustomed to looking back reflectively when it was time to say goodbye to a group with whom he’d shared a year’s experience.

So it was predictable that Neugebauer, who, like fellow Councilman Erik Cagle, didn’t run for re-election this year, looked back and took stock upon the ending of his 10 years as a councilman at the close of his final council meeting Wednesday.

“Oh yeah,” Neugebauer said, when asked by Mayor Matt Pacifico if he had anything to say when the time came for council comments. “You might figure I would.”

The precursor for his decade was actually inauspicious: When he told his mother, who’d retired after 40 years as a City Hall employee, that he was planning to run for council, she discouraged him, saying it wouldn’t pay to “be associated with those people.”

The actuality of those associations proved his mother wrong, Neugebauer indicated, expressing his appreciation for fellow council members past and present, the city managers who worked during his time, the department heads, the solicitors and “two special people,” City Clerk Linda Rickens Schellhammer and executive assistant-deputy clerk Kim Carrieri.

The most significant of the city government events during his tenure included Altoona’s entry into the state’s Act 47 distressed municipalities program — before its budget was in full crisis — and its speedy exit from the program, in accordance with the law and in contrast to the many years spent in the program by other Pennsylvania cities, Neugebauer said.

It also included the city’s take-back of the water and sewer systems, followed by the lease of those systems to the Altoona Water Authority, guaranteeing the city the legal right to pump millions of dollars in annual revenues from system operations to benefit the city’s general fund, according to Neugebauer.

“It’s been a good ride,” Neugebauer said.

Cagle’s 12 years on council have been “one of the joys of my life,” Cagle said.

When he started that tenure, there were observers “outside of our family here” who regarded the city’s future as “bleak,” he said.

Now, there’s reason “to be excited about the future,” he said.

He predicted Altoona will grow — reversing decadeslong trends — and become a “destination city in Pennsylvania.”

Meanwhile, the city’s fire department is “top of the heap,” its police are “the bravest” and its public works is the manager of “a huge task,” Cagle said.

The staff has proven itself over and over, he said.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.

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