EXETER — Denise Adams has officially been the borough mayor for a few weeks, but she’s still getting used to being called “mayor.”
The lifelong Exeter resident has been a face in the community her entire life, doing hair and being a hostess at Valenti’s Restaurant, so the transition is still taking time.
“Some people, their vision of the mayor is like ‘the mayor’ and that’s not me,” she said. “I’m me. I’m the one who buses tables at Valenti’s Restaurant.”
Adams was sworn in as the borough mayor on Jan. 2 after she defeated incumbent candidate Herman Castellani in the general election this past November.
She recalled the night she was announced as the winner and said she was in disbelief.
“Part of me was like ‘Oh my, what did I do?’” she said with a laugh. “But, I like to be around people. I like to promote people and encourage those to do the best that they can do.”
Adams graduated from Exeter High School in 1964 and immediately enrolled in Empire Beauty School in Wilkes-Barre.
She stayed in cosmetology and currently works at Beauty FX Salon in Kingston.
“I just always liked it,” she said of the business.
In addition to her work in cosmetology, she is a hostess at Valenti’s Restaurant.
“It was my uncle (Gene Pepe’s) place, and then it was bought from my uncle,” Adams said. “I was a server and when I worked for my uncle. I was also a bartender.”
Adams also volunteered as the Director of Religious Education at St. Anthony’s Parish, now St. Barbara’s Parish, for 20 years. She still teaches classes there to second-grade students.
Her decision to run for mayor was made because she wanted to make changes in the town she’s called home her entire life.
“I love this town,” she said. “I wanted to have a full-time police department. I want protection for our elderly, safety for our children. I had a friend that died from a drug overdose that we were heartbroken over. The town is changing, and I’ve been here a long time and seen different changes and we have to adapt. Nothing is the same as it used to be.”
The topic of police coverage has been an ongoing issue in Exeter Borough, as there are currently no full-time officers.
Len Galli, the last full-time police officer in the borough, was fired last year during Castellani’s regime.
Currently, the borough is protected by part-time police officers.
“Right now, we’re staffed by only part-time officers that work very hard, but they’re also working neighboring towns,” said borough councilman John Morgan. “There hasn’t been a full-time officer hired in the last six years.”
Adams said she wants to bring in at least three full-time police officers and a strong backup of part-time officers to offer around-the-clock coverage for borough residents.
She wants to have a good working relationship with the police department.
“I want to have their back,” she said. “I want them to feel like they can come to me with anything and I will do my best to help them out. When I was on council before and I was chairman, I saw things that went on and I just feel that they need somebody to speak for them.”
Having served on council for 12 years, two as chairperson, Adams feels that experience will help her in her tenure as mayor.
“I’m a lot smarter than I was,” she said.
Adams knows the public wants more police coverage as residents have voiced their concerns at multiple council meetings.
She wants to bring in more officers “as soon as possible” but mutual agreements have to be made by herself, council and the police committee.
Morgan supports Adams’ desire for more police.
“She had a lot of supporters and ran as an independent,” he said. “She knocked out an incumbent mayor who showed up on both the Democratic and Republican side. The residents of this borough want police, and they want full-time police.
“The mayor has certain powers in the borough code, and she’s going to exercise those powers. Whether certain committee are picked and they don’t like it — she is the mayor. She’s going to be the mayor for the next four years, so people better get used to it. She has good ideas, is very outgoing and she’s very community-oriented, especially with children and senior citizens. I have a personal relationship with her and she’s going to do great things for this borough.”
Reach Jimmy Fisher at 570-704-3972 or on Twitter @SD_JimmyFisher