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Damascus axes Keesler

March 24, 2011

Damascus supervisor Joe Canfield wanted to remove resident Dolores Keesler as the Damascus representative on the Upper Delaware Council (UDC). The other two supervisors agreed and they voted for her ouster at the Damascus Township meeting on March 21.

Keesler is currently serving as UDC chair, a position that is circulated through the membership every year.
Canfield would not answer several questions put to him as to his reasons for the action. “Just say that she doesn’t represent the whole township, that’s all.” He had no further comment.

It was a reasonable conclusion, judging from the heated discussion that followed and the speculation that Keesler was being taken off the council because of her position on gas drilling. The discussion went on between activist resident Bob Gross, Ernie Matern, the chairman of the planning commission, and Bernie Handler, an avowed drilling opponent who attends every township meeting.

Changing the subject slightly, Gross said, “I object that the township has selected planning commission members who support drilling. There should be a cross section of opinions. You have slanted the board with all pro gas drillers. Whether you were born here or just arrived yesterday, we are a part of this community. Only a third of the people have signed leases and yet you are totally pro-drilling.”

Matern supported the selection of members of the planning commission. “We have an excellent group of people on the commission—level-headed people,” he said. “Come to a meeting and you will see.”

Getting back to the subject of UDC representation, Jeff Dexter, the chairman of the township council, said that there was at least one resident who could be tapped to take Keesler’s place, but he would not name him/her.

Dexter was asked, if Keesler was rejected because of her stand on gas drilling, what criteria would be used to appoint a successor? Must the replacement support gas drilling?
Dexter did not reply directly but said that it would be ideal if they could find someone who is neutral about drilling. “That’s going to be hard,” he said.

Handler staunchly supported Keesler, stating that she was open to other people’s positions on gas drilling.
“She has not been outspoken,” Handler said. “She asks other people to speak and never expresses scorn. There are a lot of differing opinions on the council and she accepted that.”
Keesler could not immediately be reached for comment.

Bill Douglass, the executive director of the UDC, said the vice chairperson, Nadia Rajsz, will step in as chair until the board addresses the vacancy at the meeting on April 7.