Constance Snyder: A trailblazer in local politics

Housewife, world traveler, writer of local happenings and the top vote-getter for City Council in the 1970 election, Constance M. Snyder had every right to be called a trail-blazer in local politics.

Snyder, of Montoursville, died on May 1, at age 92.

Born the year Amelia Earhart flew solo across the Atlantic Ocean, Snyder graduated from the Pennsylvania State University’s class of 1953. After college, Snyder was a substitute teacher in the Loyalsock Township School District.

Active in the Junior League, having edited and worked on several books about the Williamsport area, Snyder was noted for her cooking and “themed” parties.

An expert quilter, she and her husband traveled the world.

Her foray into local politics, however, began in the spring of 1969, said Bruce Huffman, a local historical investigator.

Huffman was so enamored by what Snyder accomplished at City Hall, he recently briefed City Council about Snyder’s exploits.

Snyder and Daniel F. Knittle, a local attorney, approached council in 1969 to ask that a question be placed on the ballot to study the form of government.

“Having gone through a similar government study process in 1963 and 1964, Council was reluctant to propose another study and denied the request. It said: A charter study will cost the city money, and people who want a study should be willing to sign a petition to say they want the money spent.”

Snyder and Knittle were a tandem that was undeterred.

At the time, the city was operating under a commission form, with five councilmembers each having charge over a specific department in government, such as police and fire.

In 1969, Knittle and Snyder led a group that obtained more than 3,300 signatures, Huffman said.

Snyder was elected on a charter commission, serving as its secretary.

In April of 1970, the Williamsport Branch of the American Association of University Women sponsored a debate on the pluses and detractions of the charter commission’s recommendation of a strong mayor-council, Huffman said.

When voters chose the mayor-council plan, Snyder was named to be on a five-individual transition committee, representing the League of Women Voters.

“This transition committee effectively drafted the framework for the ‘administrative code’ and the organizational structure, which began the foundational basis under which city government would begin to operate, Huffman said.

Instrumental in the Charter Commission study and subsequent referendum that approved to switch to a mayor-council form of government that took effect in 1972, it is fair to say, this “house wife,” as she described herself, was a trail-blazer in city government history.

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