Serving in public office can be an incredibly gratifying yet somewhat frustrating experience.
Bob Mulkerin would likely agree with that sentiment.
After four years serving as Old Forge’s mayor, Mulkerin has decided not to seek a second term in office.
The lifelong Old Forge resident came into the job with intentions of helping to make his beloved hometown an even better place to live. As he reflects back on his term, he takes pride in some real, tangible accomplishments, but laments other aspects of the position that were not as satisfying.
The decision not to run again was a tough one, he said, “because there were a few things still left on the table.” However, the responsibilities of being a husband and father of two children, as well as the increasing duties of his job at Prudential, were instrumental in determining his choice.
“I feel like we did get quite a bit done in four years,” he said. “A lot of people think the mayor is the CEO of the town. But with the structure of borough government, the mayor really only oversees the police department. The mayor is almost like a PR person in terms of promoting the borough.”
Mulkerin had a good working relationship with the police department. He and Police Chief Jason Dubernas worked together to upgrade several facets of the operation, from receiving a grant to get tablet computers in all police cars to purchasing new police radios to installing a new reporting system for the department’s computers.
“We definitely brought some of the technology up to speed,” he said.
The mayor is especially proud of his work as one of the coordinators of the popular Snow Forge holiday extravaganza in downtown Old Forge, which has become an annual rite for families looking to get into the Christmas spirit.
“The committee has really worked year-round to make that event so special to the children of the town,” he said. “I’m really proud of the work of the committee and that work is going to continue.”
In his role as borough promoter, Mulkerin has been interviewed by a number of media outlets for stories about the town’s iconic style of pizza. One of the more recent interviews he did is set to appear soon on Vice.com’s “The Pizza Show.”
Another unique facet of being mayor – you get to marry people.
“In four years, I’ve probably done over 60 weddings. And I was fortunate enough to officiate some of my friends’ marriages,” Mulkerin said. “And I never charged for the ceremony. I always said, ‘This is the fun part of the job.’”
Some parts of the job, though, were not so fun. For one thing, he felt like a lot of borough business drags on longer than it should.
“One thing that disappointed me, there’s a lot more negativity in borough business than I anticipated, and that’s counterproductive to getting things done. It’s frustrating,” he said. “It’s such a great town. And we have such great potential. But it was tougher than I anticipated.”
In addition, Mulkerin was incredibly disheartened by the intense wave of vitriol and gossip that took root on social media in the wake of the disappearance of Ghigiarelli’s owner Robert Baron.
“You see so many things, rumors, just non-truths, that were up there. It’s very upsetting,” he said. “I’m hoping people keep the Baron family in their thoughts, and we get some resolution soon.”
Mulkerin plans to make himself completely available to the mayoral candidate that prevails in November’s election, be it Democrat Robert Legg or Republican Michael Komensky. If anything, he said, his term in office has been a huge learning experience, and he plans to put that knowledge to good use when he resumes his status as a private citizen.
“I’m still going to be involved; I was always community oriented,” he said. “And I’m still going to be vocal.”