LAUREL RUN — The borough’s newest mayor is also its youngest ever.
Justin Correll, 27, is to be sworn in to his new position this evening.
He joined the Borough Council fresh out of college at age 23, when he was also the youngest councilman in history and later assumed the council president’s role.
One of the county’s smaller boroughs, known for its yearly Giant’s Despair Hill Climb and underground mine fires left over from coal-mining days, Laurel Run has a population of about 500. It’s run by a four-person council, which bears most of the decision-making power.
Correll ran unopposed in the 2013 general election.
Cathy Koulik, borough secretary/treasurer, said she regrets seeing Correll leave his seat as council president, a position in which he had a knack for getting things done.
“I hate to say it, but I’m going to miss him in that position,” Koulik said.
An accountant, Koulik stumbled into the part-time position about 16 years ago at the suggestion of Correll’s grandfather, Edwin Correll. Edwin was Koulik’s neighbor and had served on the Borough Council for more 40 years. Correll’s father, Brian Correll, is also a councilman.
Koulik has watched Correll grow into his local political role.
“He’s definitely a leader. Whenever anybody comes into any position, I’m a little leery, but he was wonderful on council,” Koulik said. “Being president of council, he was responsible for the budget. It seems a lot people back away from that. He tackled that head-on. I was really impressed with that.
“I don’t think in any situation that I’ve seen him in he ever lost composure or foresight.”
Correll acknowledged he won’t have the same decision-making power as when he led the council, but he aspires to build a stronger sense of community in his new role.
“My mission is to support unity among people, embrace different types of diversity and enhance the community,” Correll said.
Correll is an educator by trade. He carries a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in education administration. As of last week, he’s no longer in the classroom, but works as the dean of education at Wilkes-Barre’s Kistler Elementary School, a job where he also works to unite pupils, parents and teachers.
Correll said he wants to help those who stay quiet find their voice. He wants to see more people show up at monthly council meetings, which occur at 6 p.m. every third Thursday, he added.
He said his yearning for public office solidified when he was in high school and college, but started when, as a youngster, his parents urged him to chase his passions.
“I’ve always been boisterous about what my opinions were or fighting for someone who was less fortunate than I was,” Correll said.
As mayor, he said he hopes to shake more hands in Laurel Run. He wants to learn what residents perceive as problems and help innovate new ways to solve them using the borough’s meager $135,000 general-fund budget.
The mayoral chair could prove to be a stepping stone for bigger things. Correll said he plans to run for governor some day.
“I’m blessed with what I have and what I’ve accomplished at 27,” Correll said “I’m looking forward to advancing my career.”