Michael Harakal enters race for mayor
Mayor Michael P. Harakal Jr. has announced his candidacy for election to the office of mayor of Whitehall.
He was appointed to the position in April of 2018 to fill the term of former Mayor Edward D. Hozza Jr. after Hozza resigned to take the position of Lehigh County director of administration.
He mentioned he originally intended only to finish out Hozza’s term but has since changed his intentions.
“I feel the same satisfaction that I had felt as a 34-year-old when I was first elected to do the job of executive, the position now known as mayor. The only difference is that now I can perform weddings, a task that has given me great pleasure,” Harakal said.
He believes real change can be accomplished if the focus remains on a cohesive effort by the entire group — a more focused effort by all accomplishes more results to benefit more people.
Harakal reported he is proud to have been part of the team to design the new emergency services complex for the police department, as well as changes to the municipal building. The redesigned campus will serve Whitehall well for many years and will serve the needs of the residents more efficiently, according to Harakal. He mentioned he is working with state Sen. Lisa Boscola, D-18th; state Rep. Zach Mako, R-183rd; and state Rep. Jeanne McNeill, D-133rd, to hopefully receive a state grant of up to $5,000,000 to help pay for the new building.
He has helped re-establish the township playground board to once again have a group of volunteers working to expand the mission of the playgrounds, to support more programs and to expand the scope to include older students. One plan in the works is to coordinate with Wildlands Conservancy, Lehigh Gap Nature Center and Jacobsburg State Park on a nature summer camp for youths.
Harakal has been working with Commissioner Jeffrey Dutt to create a funding stream to support the senior center at the West Catasauqua Playground. He mentioned there is discussion on expanding the programming to serve active seniors in other areas of the township.
He has also worked with Commissioner Jeffrey Warren to obtain state grants to enhance development of Jordan Greenway. It was noted they are optimistic about a grant to build a pavilion at Whitehall Parkway.
“I will continue the work of past leaders in Whitehall and, along with Deputy Mayor Jack Meyers, continue the hard work of guaranteeing that every dollar spent has a valid purpose,” Harakal said.
He added Hozza left him a balanced budget and that he continues to present a balanced budget to the board.
Harakal reported he has been pleased to work with the township’s board of commissioners.
“All of them serve Whitehall with honor and integrity,” he said.
Before stepping in as mayor, Harakal focused on serving the community. He worked with concerned residents to protect the Helfrich Springs Grist Mill from being sold. As executive, he led the efforts to acquire Whitehall Parkway and Ironton Rail Trail, to develop Schadt Avenue Playground, to extend Campus Drive to Schadt Avenue, to acquire the Peter Grim Homestead and barn and to create Whitehall Heritage Days. He also worked to create the Whitehall Historical Preservation Society and the Whitehall Beautification Club.
“I take a long-range approach to create projects that will be important to current and future residents,” Harakal said.
He is hoping to obtain funding for the development of the Prydun Farm and to integrate it into the Hokendauqua recreation area. He also wants to create a consensus to build a community center.
In working as a member of Lehigh Valley Planning Commission, Harakal said he wants to take advantage of opportunities to obtain park land on the Lehigh River to close the gap in the IRT and complete the Whitehall section of the Delaware and Lehigh Canal Heritage Corridor.