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FunTimes Magazine

Mayor Thomas Micozzie's Vision To Transform the Township Of Upper Darby

Feb 17, 2019 08:00AM ● By John K. Smarth and Michael Butler

Mayor Thomas N. Micozzie  views his elected position as a chance to be a transformational leader and a conservator of the peace in Upper Darby, Delaware County, PA. He brings a global mindset and cultural intelligence that enable him to harness the multiculturalism of this municipality.

In his two-term tenure in office, Micozzie has transformed a community that outsiders once considered as a not-so-friendly municipality into an engaging place worth visiting. To locals and the immigrant community who refer to this township as home, Upper Darby offers historical sites, trendy stores and a welcoming hospitality.

FunTimes sat down with the mayor of the sixth-most-populous city in Pennsylvania, to explore the elements responsible for the gradual make over of a community consisting of 83,000 inhabitants with diverse backgrounds.

The magazine quickly learned a few of his brilliant leadership qualities that have catapulted him to become an exceptional leader.

Encouraging Multiculturalism

Micozzie understands the problems and possibilities confronting his Township, so his administration prioritizes unity, bringing together diverse cultures and ethnic backgrounds. He perceives the move as a means of encouraging cultural harmony, creativity, and building respect among neighbors.

“I think the biggest accomplishment is going about in the community and finding out that we are indeed one great community that works together,” Micozzie said. I’ve never had any issues in this office over racial tensions. I’ve never had issues with groups of people not getting along with one another. That’s not to say we all do not have little squabbles here and there, but usually, they are more organizationally and politically based, which is universal.”

“I pride myself in having a Multicultural Commission that liaises with all the different groups in the township to reconcile pertinent issues affecting their welfare,” he said with a smile.

A Goal-Oriented Mayor

As a leader with a transformational vision, Micozzie says he is goal oriented and focused. He works to place the interest of his people and township above any personal interest.

His administration focuses more on local development programs and ventures. Born and raised in Upper Darby Township by parents with a strong ancestral connection to Italy, allows him to empathize with both locals and the immigrant population he governs.

“My grandfather came to this country at two years old from Italy. I have his passport. My great grandmother had $1.13 in her pocket with nothing. America welcomed them and [my grandfather] went to school here,” says Micozzie wistfully. So you’ll never see my administration going through somebody’s door dragging them out because they have a different skin color or they were not born here.”

One of the first things the mayor did was to take the pulse of the community on how to effectively communicate with and understand the people’s concerns given the diverse composition of his constituents. “We found the top five languages of our main community including French. So we made up a brochure of their top issues that we could find and we put that out. We also have the brochures in our police cars.”

In addition to Micozzie’s efforts to better understand other cultures, hiring a multicultural consultant would prove effective for the two-term mayor. “We brought in a multicultural consultant to my administration. I made all my administrators, department heads, as well as counsel, to participate in three hour-long sessions,” says Micozzie.

“It wasn’t about racial tension; it was more about cultural [diversity]. Why is it that a Muslim shouldn’t be touched on the head? Why in some communities when you reach out to a woman, they take two steps back and don’t look you in the eyes,” Micozzie said.

To promote his multicultural diversity agenda, the mayor has, over the years, managed to establish fruitful relationships with groups and community leaders. One of such leaders, Micozzie, speaks highly of is Portia Kamara, President of the Multicultural Community Family Services in the municipality and an indigene of the West African nation of Liberia. Micozzie says, “Obviously, the first agenda I had was to reach out to all those communities. Indeed when you reach out to people, bring them in, and listen to their stories, it makes you understand the trials and tribulations they’ve gone through.

Fortunately, I’ve never experienced what most of them have endured. Such interactions and dialogue with the different immigrant groups have enabled me to feel what their passion is like to being in America and in a township like ours. Hearing them share some of their fears about government, and how we can address those fears, prompted the opening of a Welcome Center. I’ve realized over the years that having direct dealings with the community can be beneficial to all.”

Determined to Create a Vibrant Business Hub in Upper Darby

With a clear and convincing vision, Mayor Micozzie has embarked on advancing series of business and connectivity strategies aimed at producing inclusive but resilient economic growth for the locals, the immigrant community, and visitors alike to the township.

“A lot of people have opened businesses here and we do a big education in multiple language brochures to talk about the process. I mean you just can’t come in, rent a storefront, and say I want to sell goods. So how do you get a permit? How do you reach out to our departments to find out about health inspections? How do you make sure your contractors are not just going to take your money and not do your job? So, we have community-based seminars that educate people in such occurrences. We also have a Welcome Center that instructs people on such issues. That’s been really successful in the business community and our businesses have grown exponentially because of such involvement with the community,” Mayor says.

As Mayor is encouraging more business development, he is also initiating policies that will protect renters from unscrupulous landlords. “I want to make sure that our residents in the ethnic community have been taken care of and not working hard and paying their rent only to have [landlords and rental companies] not responding to their concerns. I want to develop some kind of a program to really make sure that doesn’t happen.”

A Mayor of Security

Being a lifelong resident of the Township of Upper Darby who has worked his way up from a low-ranking firefighter to Chief and Chairman of the Volunteer Fire Company Board of Directors, security of his township comes first. With close collaboration with the chief enforcement officer for Delaware County, District Attorney, Katayoun M. Copeland, and police Superintendent Mike Chitwood, the municipality continues to enjoy relative peace and security.

Read More about Mayor Micozzie and Upper Darby:

Tom Micozzie: “The People's Mayor”

Upper Darby International Festival Promotes Diversity

Upper Darby Council President Bonnet Supports Mayor Micozzie's Agenda

Upper Darby Voices Supporting Mayor Micozzie's Agenda 

Terry Tracey Plans To Give Upper Darby an Economic Boost

Thomas J. Judge, Jr. Helps To Build Bridge Between Immigrants and Upper Darby Government 

Portia Kamara Works to Promote Diversity in Upper Darby

Representative Margo L. Davidson is Focused on Improving Her District 

Dr. Carolina Harris: Carving Spaces for Afro-Caribbean Latino Communities in Upper Darby 

Councilwoman Sekela Coles: Celebrating Diversity in the 7th District 

Sheikh Siddique: Upper Darby's First Asian American Councilman

Successful Aging Group

The Philadelphia Sikh Society and Upper Darby 

Upper Darby Businesses