About 1,000 miles separate Stacey Kifolo from the headquarters of East Buffalo Township, the Union County municipality that she manages daily, but she said a typical workday doesn’t feel any different from when she occupied an office in the township’s municipal building.
Kifolo works from her home in Florida. Telecommunications is paramount in completing her tasks and so is her familiarity with the Buffalo Valley. She grew up in the Lewisburg area. Without that experience, in a sense, she’d be working blind.
“If she didn’t know the township like she does, it wouldn’t work,” Jolene Helwig, administrative assistant, said.
Kifolo’s worked as the township manager since 2012. In fact, she’s the township’s first manager. Save for four months when Jamie Shrawder replaced Kifolo before resigning early last year, she’s been the township’s only manager, too.
The last 18 months have seen Kifolo serve as manager in some capacity remotely. She stayed on as an interim manager after relocating south, served as a consultant, of sorts, when Shrawder was hired and, eventually, accepted an offer to return to the position full-time last May.
“I don’t think she’s missed a beat. I don’t think we’ve missed a beat in the transition. For the most part, I don’t think anybody would notice a difference,” Supervisor Char Gray said.
According to Gray, Kifolo remains an effective and prompt communicator with supervisors and staff via email and telephone. Documents are shared, annotated or updated using computer programs.
Helwig said there’s been maybe two instances of citizens visiting the office and asking to speak with Kifolo directly, a request fulfilled with Skype, an online video-chat service.
When Kifolo began her workdays while living in the township, she often started with a drive through the municipality to take a look around. That’s an impossibility now. However, she said the distance between herself and the township has improved her ability to delineate tasks.
“I had to learn better how to delegate,” Kifolo said. “Obviously, it’s been effective because I have good people working in the township.”
“It’s all about trust,” Kifolo said.
Working with vendors or government agents, say from Harrisburg, hasn’t changed much. The communication was and is largely done online or on the phone, Kifolo said. She spoke to grant projects she’s currently working on including a traffic light project. Documents are reviewed online and discussed using telecommunication tools, she said.
Kifolo said she’s in frequent contact with Helwig and Steve Mohr, the public works director. There’s a lot of back and forth with supervisors, too, she said.
“One of the things I miss, and this might surprise them, I do miss seeing the crew,” Kifolo said of township employees she doesn’t have daily interaction with.
Jim Knight has only worked with Kifolo from a supervisor’s standpoint since taking office in early January. He said he’s concerned about the lack of a manager in the office, preferring face-to-face interaction for that position. However, he said his opinion isn’t set in stone.
“My opinion hasn’t changed in that it’s not an ideal situation,” Knight said. “It’s never been a reflection on Stacey or her capabilities. She’s obviously very knowledgeable about how the township works. She’s certainly very capable.”
“I’m open-minded about it. We’ll see where we are in a year or two years,” Knight said.
Schumacher said when Kifolo informed the board last spring that she’d be resigning as manager, he didn’t want to hire someone living beyond the borders of East Buffalo Township let alone hiring someone out of state.
The supervisors twice petitioned for applications. He said nearly 30 candidates were interviewed, some twice. The position was filled. Ultimately, it didn’t work out.
That Kifolo remained working throughout that process showed Schumacher that with current technology, at least in Kifolo’s case, the township could be managed remotely.
“She’s exceptional. I would never want her job. She does so much and knows so much,” Schumacher said.
“Her productivity, her involvement, the product she puts out, the emails, the data, the charts — it’s like she’s still sitting there. The only thing not occurring is that she’s not sitting in the building anymore,” Schumacher said.