NEWTOWN SQUARE–After 27 years serving of serving as an elected official in Newtown Township, former Supervisor Linda Houldin tells Marple Newtown Patch she's moved on from politics.
Houldin clears the air on rumors about her relationship with Newtown Township Police Chief Dennis Anderson and former Township Manager Jim Sheldrake, her son's application for a position on the Newtown Police Department, and more with Marple Newtown Patch.
Read below for the exclusive interview.
What are your thoughts on not getting re-elected at the last primaries against, then challenger, Ed Partridge?
I’m really not bitter of losing the election. I’m not sad. I’ve had my chances. I think I did make a difference and made a lot of things happen at each chance I was an elected official (school board member, tax collector and, lastly, supervisor). It was time for me to move on and to be more with my family and friends, and take on this wonderful cause [Houldin currently serves as Executive Director of the Delaware County Historical Society]. I really thank the residents and citizens for allowing me to be an elected official for the last 27 years. I’ve worked very hard and have accepted that they wanted somebody new.
What are you doing now?
My new job, as executive director of the Delaware County Historical Society, has taken many, many hours of my time. I love my job. I love what I do. It really takes a lot of time and commitment. We have really little staff here, so we really have team effort.
Are you still involved in politics in town/Newtown Republican Committee?
Not at all involved—I think I’ve just moved on. I’m a republican. I’ve always been a republican and I’ll die as a republican. I think it’s time to move on. I’m ready to make this [Delaware County Historical Society] successful. The preservation of history is very important to me. It always has been. And hopefully I will make a difference here.
What is your relationship like with Newtown Township Police Chief Dennis Anderson?
I never knew either one of them [former Township Manager Jim Sheldrake and Police Chief Dennis Anderson] before they came to Newtown. Chief Anderson and I never talked–hardly ever. If I saw him in the hallway, we'd say 'hi.' Or once or twice to lunch about a weekly police report he gave us. It would strictly be about that issue. I never tried to run his department. That wasn’t our job. And it takes the majority of the board to make a decision. Is it because I’m a woman on the board? I don’t know. I definitely did not know this man. I did not try to run this man. I did not have control over this man.
When it was time to find a new police chief in town, how did the process work?
[Supervisors Chairman] Joe Catania and [Supervisors Vice Chair] Ross Lambert were actually on the interviewing committee for the Board of Supervisors then. I had no idea who Dennis Anderson was.
When they [interviewing committee] brought the list of candidates to the Board of Supervisors, they brought it down to 4-5 people, as I recollect, they were Lt. Mike Savitski, Lt. Chris Lunn, two other officers, and Dennis Anderson. We interviewed them, they were recommended from the committee. And I remember during the interviewing process I stated, 'Don’t we want to pick from someone within?'
It was recommended by the committee that Dennis Anderson was the most qualified, that he had the most experience, he had great ideas and recommendations and at this time that’s who they would recommend. The board unanimously voted to put in Dennis Anderson. But it was a unanimous vote. Linda Houldin did not know these people before they came to Newtown Township for an interview.
What are your thoughts on the current status of the police chief and the rumors of his suspension?
During the election, we all heard that Dennis Anderson was going to be replaced. I questioned it and, of course, they all said, 'No, he’s doing a wonderful job.' I didn’t know if there was a deal going on but I was suspicious back then.
I heard nothing but praises from his work. I really think someone should ask, 'How long ago was this brought up and was it during election time?' All of a sudden, this man was a good man and now he’s not a good man. I mean, why?
This man was well qualified. He did tell us publicly the things he accomplished. He updated the police manual, I know that he got grants (I know that he got grants for computers). He updated the police manual–it hasn’t been touched since the 60s and 70s. He also updated the armory–the weapons were in disarray. He promoted the police to go to the schools to get more educated. He brought the dogs here. I was against the dogs at first but I was proved wrong. He convinced a majority of the board. I was looking at more of a liability issue. But the dogs helped protecting the men and protecting our township. I publicly said I support these dogs 150 percent and that I was proven wrong. Can someone change their minds? Yes. And Dennis was the one.
He was very supportive and all the other supervisors–I never once heard he was a bad police chief or any of these negative things that I’m hearing today. I really think if the Board felt like he wasn't doing the right thing then it should've been brought up. And it’s sad. I think we’re at an era that if you really want to get rid of someone you can.
What was your relationship like with former Township Manger Jim Sheldrake?
As far as I know, he was friendly with all supervisors. It was difficult at the time because we had a board that didn’t agree on a lot of things. Sheldrake got bonuses every year except his last year. That last year was because Catania, Lambert and I felt it was because of the economy. I was never told by any other board member that he was doing a bad job. The only thing I heard was that he needs to be more aggressive. But if you’re giving a manager a bonus every year, it’s not saying that he’s doing a bad job. If the Board felt otherwise they should’ve spoken up.
Them thinking that he was in my pocket? No. Linda Houldin did the newsletters and worked very hard at questioning issues or things that I wanted answers to. Was I there more than the average board member? Maybe. But I did not control any of these men. It amazes me to think that people really believe I had this power as one board member.
What happened when your son applied to be a Newtown police officer?
People say that I retaliated against [Magisterial District Judge] Lee Hunter because my son did not get the police position. Lee hunter first came to me when I was a tax collector in my office and said he should apply. I was not supervisor when my son applied for this job. I was a tax collector. I did not know that my son wrote a letter to Hunter. He was a marine. He wrote a letter in 1997 stating that his personal goal is to become a member of the Newtown Township Police Department.
He worked at the park police for the county. My son moved on. My son wasn’t bitter, he moved on. I even said to Lee Hunter, if my son got a job here, I wouldn’t run for supervisor because I felt like it was a conflict of interest. I wouldn’t have ran for supervisor if he became a Newtown police officer. Lee and I went door-to-door campaigning together. There’s no bitterness between us and there never has been. I don’t think it’s right to bring my son into it when he’s a good kid. He’s served this country.
How do you feel about the township under the direction of the new Board of Supervisors?
I don’t like the direction it’s going. That’s probably why I’m not there today. I think that what disappointed me the most is the Dennis Anderson issue and not because I’m a friend of Dennis Anderson now but I think because they’re hurting a good person and a good man.
And the other disappointment for me is the township manager raise. When you’re on a trial period, you get paid a certain amount of money to be in that trial period. To go back and to raise his salary now when it wasn’t budgeted...to me, I don’t care anyone in that position, I would’ve never supported that. It bothered me as a resident when you have people not getting raises in the township that have sacrificed their second year not getting a raise, medical benefits going up, economy is doing poorly, etc. How can they say they don’t have money but they found this money?
I’m not happy as a resident. It took Jim Sheldrake 11 years to get to $100K. I’m not saying someone isn’t worth that kind of money but why would you go back when you’re in a trial period. I’d like to know where they found that money. I would like to know short- and long-term plans. They have a right to have their own opinions, and make their decisions and that’s just the way it is. And I just see it differently and that’s how I see it. I’m way more conservative than they are.