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Legislative staffer appointed as newest member of Harrisburg City Council

Harrisburg City Council. Top row, left to right: Shamaine Daniels, Westburn Majors, Ben Allatt, and Dave Madsen. Bottom row: Ausha Green, Wanda Williams, and newcomer Danielle Bowers.

Danielle Bowers, a lifelong Harrisburg resident and state government staffer, is the newest member of Harrisburg City Council.

Bowers beat out 14 other candidates, including one past council president, to take the seat formerly held by council member Cornelius Johnson. She was appointed at a special council session tonight and will take her seat on Oct. 9.

Bowers currently works as an executive director for the Pennsylvania House of Representatives Tourism and Recreational Development Committee. She previously held researcher roles with the Democratic Policy Office and Legislative Black Caucus, and holds a master’s degree in public administration from Pennsylvania State University.

Her appointment to council creates a vacancy on the Zoning Hearing Board, where she has served for the past three years.

President Wanda Williams said that the board is one of the most prestigious volunteer bodies in the city and that Bowers distinguished herself as a dedicated, meticulous member during her service.

“She’s very precise and does her homework,” Williams said. “She did a yeoman’s job on the zoning board.”

Seventeen candidates applied for the vacant council seat in September — an unusually high number, according to council members. One was eliminated during vetting by the city’s human resources department and another did not appear at tonight’s selection meeting.

The remaining 15 candidates appeared before council tonight to share their qualifications and ask for a chance to serve on the city’s legislative branch. But only four were invited to participate in the interview phase, where sitting council members asked candidates about their skills and goals for public service.

During her interview, Bowers touted her legislative experience and her knowledge of the city’s finances. She said she would like to pass legislation to bolster public safety and hopes to see the city’s Police Bureau return to its full complement of officers.

Bowers entered the interview phase with three nominations from council members – an early show of consensus that Mayor Eric Papenfuse said was unprecedented in council appointments. Council members made their nominations anonymously.

Candidates Josiah Yonker, an IT professional, Gloria Martin-Roberts, a former council president and mayoral candidate, and Airis Smallwood, a healthcare administrator and musician, also received nominations and sat for interviews.

During the voting round, council members Ben Allatt, Shamaine Daniels, Westburn Majors, and Ausha Greene cast votes for Bowers. Dave Madsen and council President Wanda Williams voted for Martin-Roberts.

Papenfuse said that council member appointments usually entail multiple rounds of voting or a tie-breaking vote from the mayor.

“This is the fastest it’s ever happened,” Papenfuse said.

The mayor also praised Bowers’ record on the Zoning Hearing Board and applauded her appointment to city council.

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