The air was full of excitement as people piled into a small room inside the Philadelphia Police First District building. Neighbors eagerly watched as faces showed up at the door, some familiar, some new. West Passyunk Neighbors Association (WPNA) President Jess Gould smiled at the front of the room, welcoming each individual to the organization’s first official elections last month.
WPNA members unanimously voted to approve the organization’s first set of bylaws with one ratification clarifying eligibility to vote. The elections also included unopposed races for the positions of secretary, education committee co-chair, clean committee co-chair, and green committee co-chair.
Members delivered campaign speeches to build support for officer and chair titles. Tom Hawthorne, an active WPNA member, stood and related his passion for making the community more environmentally conscious with activities such as tree plantings.
“It all started with one tree on my block,” Hawthorne said. “There was only one, and I wanted there to be at least one more.”
Other members seemed equally driven to fulfill expectations of their positions. Emily McMillan, the candidate for clean committee co-chair, became involved with WPNA about six months ago. McMillan expressed how excited she was about seeing the organization change the neighborhood.
“I can’t remember if it was the first or second meeting [I went to] that they mentioned this Girard School clean-up,’” said McMillan. “I was like, ‘Okay, let’s do this. It’ll be a weekly commitment. Let’s try this out. We started cleaning things up and after a few weeks I was like, ‘Oh, wow, I’m really making a difference!’”
McMillan was also eager to collaborate with UnLitter Us to designate a “Clean Block” in West Passyunk for neighbors to appreciate the work that goes into cleaning up the area, encouraging more participation in the weekly clean-ups.
After voting, Gould carried forward with the agenda for the meeting, during which neighbors discussed a second set of elections scheduled for January to determine more officer positions and the possibility of fifteen at-large board members for the association.
Gould became president of WPNA in January when the former president of the organization stepped down. Gould, who said the meetings “used to just be the former president and me,” was excited to share the success the organization has met this year with acceptance and recognition in the community.
“It’s been such a great year,” Gould said. “My goal for 2013 was to get people to hear of us. We would go knock on people’s doors for a tree application and they’d be like, ‘You’re who? Who are you with?,’ and now it’s like, ‘Oh, West Passyunk!’ We’re meeting that goal of getting the people around here to at least have heard of us.”
Details of the election results and meeting minutes are available on WPNA’s website here.