Twenty-four-year-old John Campbell was recently elected as the city of Harrisburg’s new treasurer. Campbell was elected in November 2011 and sworn into office in January 2012. Campbell now faces a huge task: tackling the city’s $317 million debt crisis. With only a $53 million annual budget with which work with, Campbell is motivated to work as hard as he can to help make positive changes for Harrisburg.
When asked how his interest in pursuing a career within the government occurred, Campbell discussed his family. Growing up with four siblings and a single mom, he understood the meaning of hard work and dedication. He stated that he knew that there was a need for money and support. Campbell noted his involvement in politics since age 18. He helped run campaigns for political candidates for the past six years. When he saw that the incumbent for treasurer was not running again in Harrisburg, Campbell looked at the open seat as an opportunity to inject new ideas into the old political process.
Campbell ran against a 58-year-old with 28 years of experience in government. However, Campbell managed to defeat his opponent with 56 percent of the vote. Receiving 1,800 votes, it was a resounding victory for the 24-year-old college student.
“It was really great to see everything come together and have everyone out to show support even when I had an opponent running against me,” Campbell said. He continued to explain how he now has a voice with authority that will allow him to address the problems and priorities of the city. “I am just really excited to deliver all my campaign promises,” Campbell said.
In regards to the city’s debt problem, Campbell understands the financial crisis. Much of the city’s debt has accrued due to the failed trash incinerator. The city attempted to file for bankruptcy, but was later denied by the courts; Harrisburg mayor Linda Thompson did not support the decision. Now, the governor has appointed a receiver to take over the fiscal decisions of the city. The receiver will be proposing a new plan that could cut more expenses and work toward ways to reduce expenses to our debt holders. According to Campbell’s Facebook page, he supports the receiver’s recent plan.
Campbell hopes to sell the city’s incinerator and to propose a commuter tax within Harrisburg. The city’s population doubles daily due to commuters. Campbell argues that, with a commuter tax, the city would profit and take in more revenue.
“The exact same thing is happening to Alabama,” Campbell said. “An entire county has actually filed for bankruptcy of over a billion dollars. Their state is really stepping in to help take care of their debt crisis. We, however, are still struggling to gain much support from our state.”
Campbell is a full-time student at Lebanon Valley College where he is majoring in economics and accounting.
He works hard to juggle his schoolwork and his new position as treasurer. Campbell is also very passionate about the Historic Harrisburg Association (HHA), a non-profit organization where he serves as an executive member.
“I really enjoy what I do. I do not look at my work as a job. I find it fun to go into the office every day and make my day worthwhile,” Campbell explained. “I learned everyone’s names at my office … I want to be able to help serve them [anyway] I can, even if it’s taking out the trash.”
When asked about his free time, Campbell commented, “I don’t have too much downtime, but I do catch up with my best friends during lunch breaks. We usually go out to lunch. They understand the position I’m in. They are all politically involved.
We enjoy discussing our work and what we are doing. It’s really great having people I can connect with and relate to.”
Campbell also mentioned that he and his friends sometimes play strategic board games. When asked about the future, Campbell said, “I am very excited about the next four years. I can’t wait to see where life takes me.”