Photo of Professor Dicklitch-Nelson posing with a yard sign advertising her campaign for West Hempfield Supervisor, Facebook, September 2021.
Appalled by the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, Professor of Government Susan Dicklitch-Nelson threw her hat in the local political ring in 2021. She ran for West Hempfield supervisor against David Dumeyer, who had been in office for more than a quarter of a century. Dicklitch-Nelson was his first competitor in 18 years. She lost by 804 votes.
Now, two years later, Dicklitch-Nelson is trying again.
“I wasn’t intending on running, but no one on the Democratic ticket had submitted their name,” said Dicklitch-Nelson. “And to me, that is a travesty of democracy right there.”
According to the professor, democracy cannot survive without healthy competition. Constituents need options on the ballot to avoid falling into a one-party state problem. As an educator on government, Dicklitch-Nelson could not simultaneously teach students about democracy and neglect the void of Hempfield’s political diversity, the art of becoming “an armchair philosopher.” She felt she had to step into the fray.
“I’m not running because I need to win,” said Dicklitch-Nelson. “I’m running because I need to give constituents in West Hempfield Township competition and choice.”
Running locally has given Dicklitch-Nelson the chance to find out what West Hempfield voters really want. “Walking around different neighborhoods, talking to different neighbors, and really feeling the passion that a lot of people have and the frustration” has opened doors to explore policies for her potential future in the supervisor slot, consulting the people most impacted.
The movement of people from Lancaster City to surrounding townships and boroughs has gradually purpled Hempfield, a slight move away from the blatant conservatism that often paints Lancaster’s rural communities. Dicklitch-Nelson shared that political labels shouldn’t matter in local politics, anyway, as “it’s more about addressing the needs of the constituents in that area.”
Supervisors are responsible for the “general governance” of their respective townships, with duties including fiscal management, hiring of township employees, regulating construction and maintenance of roads, and other significant legislative, executive and administrative powers according to state law.
If elected, Dicklitch-Nelson plans to focus on furthering transparency and accountability, advocating for term limits in local government, and curbing overdevelopment hurting “some of the most prime agricultural land in the United States.”
“[A lack of term limits] creates stagnation. It doesn’t allow for innovation or creative thought,” Dicklitch-Nelson said.
To further transparency, she plans to make the board minutes more accessible to the general public, releasing them quickly and accurately. As for the protection of farmland, she called building warehouses over Hempfield agricultural spaces “sinful,” referring to past rezoning debates that all but one supervisor voted to support.
On Thursday, Dicklitch-Nelson will compete for one of two seats against incumbent Republican Robert Munro, newcomer Democrat Alison Hutchinson, and secretary of West Hempfield’s Planning Commission Republican Barry Carter. Alison Hutchinson works at the Registrar’s Office at Millersville University.
“Local politics matter,” said Dicklitch-Nelson. “The only way that this democracy is going to work is if people exercise their right to vote. If they don’t, then you’re going to get an autocracy. You’re going to get a situation where you’re going to be sorry that you didn’t vote, but it’s going to be too late.”
To check your polling location, click here. While most F&M students will vote at the Lancaster Theological Seminary, those with non-school addresses may vote elsewhere.
Senior Sarah Nicell is the Editor-in-Chief of The College Reporter. Their email is firstname.lastname@example.org.