Do not be fooled by his name. When Bob Lark, a Slippery Rock College graduate, became president of West Middlesex Borough Council this year, he did not take the post on a lark.
Set to turn 75 on April 12, this retired history teacher has goals he wants to accomplish while on council. His ideas include constructing a new borough building. The borough offices share a building with the West Middlesex Volunteer Fire Department.
“The building we have now was built in the 1960s that was built in different sections,’’ he said. “And most of it’s basically geared for the fire department, with borough stuff stored everywhere,’’ Lark said.
Along with a new borough building he wants it to have a community meeting room.
“We need to have a little building where people can come and meet, like the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and Kiwanis,’’ he said.
A new municipal building is only an idea now, he said. There are no plans, cost estimates or funding sources, such as a combination of local money and state grants. But he said a one-story structure would do the job.
“You definitely would want it to be a low-maintenance building,’’ he said. “And I want people to know I’m not in favor of doing this just to have my name erected on it. That’s not my goal.’’
With a naturally booming voice, he easily is heard by all at council meetings. Recently while talking to a fellow patron at a local restaurant, the manager thought he was embroiled in an argument and asked him to quiet down.
Lark has an encyclopedic knowledge of the town and of Mercer County history – he’s also president of the county historical society – and he can trace his family roots in West Middlesex back to 1798, making his family among the first settlers.
Graduating from West Middlesex High School in 1962, he went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in history from Slippery Rock College. Lark taught history to eighth-, ninth- and 10th-graders in Butler for four decades.
“I lived in Butler for 15 years,’’ Lark said. “But I moved back to West Middlesex to care for my mother and father for the last 25 years while I was a teacher. It was a 90-mile commute every day.’’
Elected to a four-year term on borough council three years ago, this was not his first dip into the political arena. A staunch Democrat, in 1972 Lark was elected as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in Miami, FL.
By a landslide Sen. George McGovern of South Dakota won the nod to run as the party’s presidential candidate over Sen. Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota.
“I voted for Humphrey because I liked him,’’ Lark said with a smile.
In 1974 he was picked to serve on a bipartisan committee to draft a home-rule charter for Mercer County government. If it had been adopted, the charter would have redefined responsibilities of those holding offices along with other county employees.
“It was overwhelmingly defeated because all the elected officials campaigned against it because they thought they were going to lose their jobs,’’ Lark said.
Lark was named chairman of Mercer County Democrat Party in 1988 and served in that post until 2010. That experience has helped him come up with more ideas for his hometown, he said.
With a population under 900, that puts West Middlesex about 200 higher than neighboring Wheatland, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.
“I don’t think we have a long-term plan for West Middlesex,’’ Lark said. “I think we need a long-term plan.’’
Past councils, he said, were tight-fisted with borough funds, which created both positive and negative results.
The town’s general fund has a surplus of $200,000, he noted.
“And we have $500,000 pocketed in our sewer fund. I credit my predecessors for that,’’ Lark said. “That may not be a lot of money in some communities, but that’s a lot of money for West Middlesex.’’
But he said the lack of spending has hurt areas such as the town’s streets.
“We haven’t blacktopped a single street in 20 years,’’ he said. “That’s indefensible.’’
Earlier this year he took a driving tour of the town’s streets.
“I couldn’t believe how bad some of these streets were. They had really bad potholes,’’ he said. “If I lived on a couple of these streets, I would have complained. But none of these residents complained.’’
An annual paving plan will be created, he said.
“That should help reduce some of these pothole problems,’’ Lark said.
With next year being the 155th anniversary of the town’s incorporation, Lark said he would like to see some type of celebration. And signage would do the town a lot of good.
“We have no sign that tells people, ‘Welcome to West Middlesex,’’’ he said. “I would like to see two or three of those signs in town that people can see.’’
Upgrading the town’s park with such things as spiffy benches is also on his list.
The grand plan, Lark said, is to make the town better.
“I just want to improve the town,’’ he said. “When you’re a leader, you need to lead,’’ Lark said. “If you’re not throwing ideas out there, you can’t call yourself a leader.’’