HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — It’s mostly a technicality.
But for what it’s worth, Harrisburg Police Commissioner Thomas Carter is technically acting as mayor until Aug. 16 at 12:01 a.m., when Mayor Wanda Williams plans to reassume her duties after recovering from a medical procedure on Monday.
Why Carter, the city’s appointed head of police, rather than someone else — say, the city’s elected head of city council, Danielle Bowers?
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Turns out that’s actually two separate questions: Why not Bowers? And why Carter?
The answer to the first question is simple.
“[Council president] that is not listed under the state code as a position that the mayor can transfer power to,” said Matt Maisel, the city’s spokesman.
abc27 News verified that. Pennsylvania code for third-class cities such as Harrisburg permits a transfer of power only to department heads or the city clerk.
The answer to the second question, according to Maisel, is nearly as uncomplicated.
“Commissioner Carter was in town,” Maisel said. “Commissioner Carter was physically able to be down at City Hall at 11:45 on Sunday night.”
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Which — Maisel said — wasn’t his only qualification.
Williams “has faith in all her department heads. But that being said, Commissioner Carter was there, and he’s done this before,” including under former Mayor Eric Papenfuse, Maisel said. “So this is old hat for him.”
Maisel said transfers of power are common. Williams, he said, has previously transferred power to Dan Hartman, her chief of staff, when she was out of town. This time, Hartman wasn’t in town when the transfer happened, so Williams couldn’t consider him.
Don’t expect any big policy changes from Acting Mayor Carter.
“Technically, he has all the duties and all the powers of a mayor,” Maisel said. “But he’ll be the first to tell you nothing is going to change over the next two weeks. He might have to sign a few more papers. That’s about it.”
The city hasn’t disclosed the nature of Williams’ medical procedure, other than to say it was a minor outpatient procedure that required anesthesia. Williams said she is feeling well, has spoken with her staff and looks forward to returning to work.