AMP Seven Hats Winner Dedicated to Improving His Community7 min read
By Zachary Hoffman, Manager of Communications and Publications
Hailing from Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley, Harold Pudliner spent 28 years working his way up the private sector. In that time, he served as Corporate Manager of Store Planning and Design for a major retailer, as well as serving as a consultant for companies building retail stores and sub-divisions for housing. Having developed an impressive career in management, Pudliner was well positioned to continue his climb.
Yet, he had also spent much of his earlier life dedicated to service. He spent for four years in the Air Force, including two tours of duty in Vietnam and South East Asia, and later served as a borough council member in the Lehigh Valley region. While the private sector may have been lucrative, it left him longing for the meaning that he had experience in these roles.
A job posting for the Borough Manager of Weatherly piqued his interest, and Pudliner applied and moved back into a career of public service. He has been Borough Manager since 1997.
“I was pretty high up on the corporate ladder, and I wanted to get away from that,” Pudliner said. “When you come to a small community, you’re here to help the people. Helping people is more rewarding than anything you could do with a corporation because corporate is money driven. This isn’t. This is all about people.”
Pudliner’s passion for people has continued to be his driving motivation in the years since, and it is a large reason why he was named the recipient of the 2023 AMP Seven Hats Award. The AMP Seven Hats Award — modeled after the American Public Power Association’s national Seven Hats Award — was initiated in 1984 to recognize utility managers who serve smaller communities of less than 2,500 meters, and whose management duties extend well beyond the scope of a manager in a larger system. Award winners show skill in seven areas: planning and design, administration, public relations, field supervision, accounting, personnel or employee direction, and community leadership.
As the demographics of Weatherly have changed, so too has the way that Pudliner serves.
Younger families are moving into what was once a mostly elderly community, and annual community events are bringing the rural borough closer together. These changes have helped to instill a sense of growth and renewal that can be felt throughout the community and bring with them the inherent need for continual improvement.
In recent years, Pudliner has addressed this need by helping the borough secure more than $8 million in grant funding to pay for a number of major projects. Notable recent projects include the construction of a new Borough of Weatherly Municipal Building, development of a new trailhead for the Lehigh Gorge and installation of electric vehicle charging stations.
Pudliner has placed an emphasis on applying for grants, with the borough currently administering five grants while awaiting the results of two additional applications. He has even shifted one borough employee’s focus to working entirely on grant administration, in recognition of the important role that these funding opportunities play in the community.
“We definitely put a lot of work into securing grant funding,” Pudliner said. “I have worked hard to refine my grant-writing skills and it has gone a long way in improving the community. We need more economic development, and these projects help to bring more business and employment opportunities to the community.”
While Pudliner’s corporate background left him well positioned to handle the borough’s $6 million annual budget, grant writing was new territory for him. But through trial and error, Pudliner eventually came to understand the process. He believes that for many small communities, the trick is to simply see things through a different perspective.
“The people who are giving out these grants have a mission of their own,” Pudliner said. “The secret to successful grant writing is understanding their mission and fitting it into yours. If you can do that, you’ll find success. Then all you need to do is set up a network and make sure you are informed about grant opportunities.”
While Pudliner does spend a great deal of time seeking out funding opportunities for the Borough of Weatherly, his job expands well beyond that role. As Borough Manager, he oversees numerous borough departments, including water and sewer, street, police and electric. He serves as a member of the Board of Directors of the Northeastern Pennsylvania Alliance, Chair of the Carbon County Redevelopment Authority and as a member of the Carbon County Planning Commission.
At Pudliner’s direction, the Weatherly Electric Department recently completed an upgrade to the Weatherly Substation, replacing the station’s switch gear, wiring and insulators. These upgrades have greatly improved Weatherly’s electric system reliability. Additionally, the department installed new generators at each of the borough’s three well systems and sewage plants, ensuring that these facilities can continue operations, even in the event of an extended electric outage.
Pudliner views the Weatherly Electric Department as a major asset for the community.
“The Electric Department constantly contributes toward improving life in the borough,” Pudliner said. “Their response to downtime is minimal — I mean, they’re out within half an hour or less of an outage. In my entire career, we have only had one occasion, during the remnant of a hurricane, where only a few residents were out of power for 24 hours. You don’t get that kind of service just anywhere.”
While Pudliner recognizes that a municipally owned electric utility can be beneficial in and of itself, it is the collective nature of public power that he points to as its true strength. Weatherly’s active participation with AMP serves as a clear example of this.
The Weatherly Electric Department takes part in AMP’s Pennsylvania and RTO peaking projects, serving as a host community for one of the behind-the-meter generation sites. Participation in these projects and the installation itself help to provide the borough with the means of lowering its transmission and capacity costs in the future, while also providing the community with emergency backup generation.
“AMP has been kind of like the glue that pulls everything together,” Pudliner said. “They provide us with power projections and other information that is extremely helpful as I’m planning and looking at costs. Plus, the information that they give us on grants can help to prevent opportunities from slipping by.”
Pudliner’s service to the Borough of Weatherly and strong support of public power led to his being named the AMP Seven Hats Award recipient, but he is hesitant to accept the praise. Instead, he credited his team of employees and offered advice to younger managers just beginning their careers in public power.
“To all those budding young managers out there that are just starting out, don’t go looking for glory,” Pudliner said. “Face the challenges, meet the challenges, stay the course and be persistent. Recognition is the result of hard work — don’t think about awards or anything else; it’s about doing the job.”
The Borough of Weatherly is a small community located in eastern Pennsylvania, near the Appalachian Trail. The Borough has a population of about 2,600 and serves 1,187 electric customers.