Thompson exits quietly as Harrisburg mayor

Foggy breaths could be seen as people in Harrisburg rang in 2010 on a frosty New Year's Eve – when the strawberry was fiberglass.

Many in the city were hopeful a new era was starting.

Just days later on January 4, Linda Thompson was inaugurated as the capital city's mayor.

Even on Day One, Thompson recognized her task at hand by becoming captain of a sinking ship.

“There's going to be some tough decisions made and some serious sacrifices that we all have to make,” she said.

Ironic that her final public appearance on Dec. 23, 2013 was to announce her bankruptcy-free recovery plan removed $600 million off the city's books.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we welcome you to a debt-free city, a debt-free city,” she stated proudly.

Thompson took the opportunity to reflect on the past four years and noted she accomplished her ultimate goal her way in the face of all her critics.

Bob Philbin spent the better part of the past two years as Thompson's spokesperson, chief of staff, and chief operating officer. On Thursday, he said seeing the Harrisburg Strong recovery plan come to fruition was the highlight of being a part of Thompson's administration.

“To watch that come through and be a part of that is very exciting,” he said.

Philbin said Friday will be the mayor's last day in office.

Thompson has noticeably been unnoticeable recently. She was not present during a few key events such as the 2014 budget presentation or New Year's Eve festivities.

“[Thompson] is filing out the responsibilities of her office as needed,” Philbin said, “and quietly withdrawing from the scene.”

It is a decision many take as a surprise given Thompson's track record during her term. Many recall the dark days when rallies were held outside City Hall for Thompson's early departure.

Video taken by abc27 that day showed Mayor Thompson taunting the people from her office as upset residents hurled snowballs at her window.

Then there were the numerous gaffes over the years. Thompson's infamous “scumbag” comment in March prompted Time magazine to name Harrisburg's mayor to a list of leaders who put a foot in their mouths in 2013.

As many are quick to point out Thompson's faults and administration practices, Harrisburg's one-term mayor did host city-wide cleanups, marches against violence, and helped to develop programs for city youth.

During Thompson's Democratic Primary concession speech in May, the Harrisburg native revealed a softer side: a humbled leader who shed tears and offered nothing but support and positivity for her successor.

Since that day, Thompson did few news conferences and appearances until the recovery plan was approved and subsequently finalized.

For the moment, the city on paper is a financial success with room to grow under the soon-to-be Eric Papenfuse administration. Philbin does not believe Thompson will be present during Monday's changing of the guard ceremony inside City Hall.

So, as Thompson bows out quietly, many want to know what's next for this once-lightening rod of a public figure.

“The mayor is going to take some time to herself, it's been a long and hard four-year run, and then look at what comes next,” Philbin said.


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