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Gallaudet alumnus Neil McDevitt, ’96, elected mayor of North Wales, PA

November 12, 2021

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Neil J. McDevitt, ’96, was elected mayor of the borough of North Wales, Pennsylvania in balloting conducted last week. He is believed to be the first deaf person to be elected mayor of a municipality anywhere in the United States in modern times. 

Fred H. Begole served as mayor of Marquette, Michigan from 1914 to 1919. It is not clear from news reports or online sources whether he was elected or appointed to this position. Amanda Folendorf, E-’08, was elected to the city council of Angels Camp, California in 2014, and appointed to a two-year term as mayor by her fellow council members in 2018. 

Other deaf people have been elected to city councils, including Kevin J. Nolan (Northampton, Massachusetts) and Gallaudet professor emeritus Bruce A. White (University Park, Maryland and Ocean View, Delaware). In addition, two deaf people, Robb Dooling and Matthew Sampson, have been elected Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners in the District of Columbia. 

McDevitt defeated a two-term incumbent in their second head-to-head match. The incumbent, Gregory D’Angelo, won by just five votes in 2017. In a Facebook post, McDevitt noted that 998 people voted this year, 111 more than four years ago. 

McDevitt said that his top priority as mayor will be to rebuild the borough’s police department, which has seen considerable attrition in recent years.

North Wales, incorporated in 1869, is a suburb of Philadelphia, located in the North Penn Valley in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. It occupies 0.59 square miles of land, and its population was estimated as 3,265 in 2019. The borough has a council-manager form of government. McDevitt will serve a four-year term.

McDevitt, originally from New Jersey, is executive director of Deaf-Hearing Communication Centre in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania. Earlier in his career, he was involved in emergency management, and served as a volunteer firefighter in North Wales. A government major at Gallaudet, he was Student Body Government president in 1994-1995. He is married and has two teenage sons.

Congratulations, Neil, and best wishes in your new role! 

12 November 2021

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