A mayor that cares

Mayor Michelle Arnold says her motivation to make Palmyra a better place is her genuine regard for each and every resident.

If you asked Mayor Michelle Arnold what she’s most proud of, her first answer would undoubtedly be the residents of Palmyra. A close second would likely be her office at the borough building she decorated herself.

In addition to being the first Republican woman to ever be elected as mayor of Palmyra, Arnold is also an interior design connoisseur. Her bold red walls perfectly complement her cherry wood desk, and she has a framed Statue of Liberty poster on the wall that reads “New Jersey’s First Lady.”

When she’s not busy decorating or being the mayor, Arnold is also a full-time Realtor. That doesn’t make her a part-time mayor, though.

“Can I have two full-time jobs? Being the mayor, and especially being new to being the mayor, there’s an awful lot to do,” Arnold said. “Being the new mayor and catching up on things that I wasn’t aware of, and wouldn’t have been because I wasn’t in the position that I needed to be, that has been a little time-consuming but absolutely rewarding.”

Arnold also loves looking for antiques and spending quality time with her family. So how does she balance it all? She takes it one day at a time, and gives 100 percent to each and every responsibility. And it doesn’t feel like a chore, because Arnold truly loves her job.

If there’s one thing Arnold is passionate about, it’s giving every person she encounters her full attention.

“People deserve my full attention. If you call my personal cell phone, that’s what the message says: ‘I’m sorry I can’t answer you right now, but I’m giving somebody else my full attention and I will give you my full attention, too.’ That’s important to me,” Arnold said.

All of the time and attention Arnold puts in is definitely not going to waste. Since becoming mayor, she has fully staffed the Palmyra Public Works Department, the sewer plant has been reconstructed to meet the Department of Environmental Protection guidelines and multiple lawsuits have been settled.

There is finally some momentum going in Palmyra, she said, and Arnold doesn’t want it to stop, so she’s running with it and getting as much done as she possibly can.

Most importantly, Arnold feels the energy of the community has become more positive since she was sworn in as mayor. She wants Palmyra residents to feel comfortable speaking up at council meetings without fear of repercussions.

“I care, and I listen. And it’s pretty much as simple as that. I show up to events and it still amazes me that they say, ‘Oh my gosh, the mayor is here!’ But for me, it’s an honor to be there,” Arnold said.

Arnold always tries to make it out to community events such as contests, church picnics and — most recently — the town-wide yard sale she helped coordinate.

It’s the town and all of the people in it that motivated Arnold to run for mayor.

“My mother always said, ‘If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.’ So, I ran for borough council. My motivation was having a voice and correcting things that I thought were wrong,” Arnold said.

Arnold found that after running for council, she was outnumbered and still couldn’t make the changes she wanted. She wanted to move some programs forward and had lots of ideas, but she didn’t feel like she was being heard. So, she ran for mayor and was welcomed with open arms.

“I think other people were ready for a change, for some fresh ideas, somebody who can invest the time to make things better,” Arnold said.

Although Arnold is putting in a lot of effort to better the town, she believes Palmyra is already wonderful and has been for a long time.

“The biggest thing about Palmyra is our heart. We have so much pride here. If you talk to residents in the area, you’ll find that people grow up here, then they come and raise their families here, and there are generations of people that are living in Palmyra and tend to stay in Palmyra,” Arnold said.

She was also quick to boast about the town being conveniently located close to both Philadelphia and Camden. Arnold loves the family-oriented feel of the town, including the passion for educating the youth. She strives to make each resident feel valued, from the first graders to the seniors.

With the 2016 election quickly approaching, politics are on everyone’s minds. Palmyra won’t have to worry about losing Arnold to the White House any time soon, though. She loves her small town gig, calling it her ultimate dream job.

“I think I can make more of an impact and touch people’s’ lives on a smaller level. Would I ever run for a higher office than mayor? Perhaps. But right now I am extremely happy where I am. I’m not going anywhere.”