REF: Charlie Smithgall is in ‘Cannon Heaven’

An LNP article reports the death of Charlie Smithgall, Lancaster’s long time pharmacist, former mayor, and a unique and unforgettable individual.

I only got to know Charlie during his two attempts for re-election at which time I was a significant funder and a would be political adviser. Upon my arrival at his house, he would be called from his next door pharmacy and we would sit in his living room and discuss his campaign. By the second time around (and his last candidacy) we were on cordial terms and Charlie was his candid self.

I recall opining that Dick Shellenberger and Molly Henderson, county commissioners when the hotel / convention center was being contemplated, were given a raw deal for challenging the financial viability of the proposed downtown project and requesting that the sponsors provide a Feasibility Study from a reputable source.

Charlie exclaimed that there had been a feasibility study!

But it was so negative that he decided to trash it!!

This was vintage Smithgall, the man who legendarily signed state applications on behalf of the city in order to meet a grant deadline for a ballpark stadium even before he had City Council’s approval.

This gave new meaning to what I had been told by S. Dale High prior to the project when I visited him in his office. I asked why he and his hotel partner LNP had not ordered a feasibility study and – to my surprise – he said they had. So I asked if I could have a copy of the report. He said “no”. I then asked if I could review the report in his offices for twenty minutes. And he again told me “no”.

Until Charlie’s volunteered information about the original feasibility study, I had assumed that Dale High had prevaricated. But based on what Charlie much later told me, I realized that Dale had been truthful.

The unnamed “reliable” source for the earlier NewsLanc revelation was no less than the mayor at the time!

What Charlie did about the negative original feasibility study is in part offset by the legend that he had signed a document to the state certifying the approval of the proposed baseball stadium prior to legal action by City Council. Council saved him from his ‘exaggeration’ by approving the stadium application to build Clipper Magazine Stadium a few days later.

Ultimately, the County Commissioners did order a Feasibility Study from PKF, the leading expert at the time. The report was negative and predicted the heavy losses that the Convention Center has run up over the years. The ongoing annual losses required a large later county bail out at county tax payers expense.

Whether right or wrong, like the cannons he collected, Charlie was never undecisive.

The baseball stadium turned out to be very popular. We hope that a tribute will be paid to Charlie by placing at its main entryway a large plaque with his photograph, recognizing him as the stadium’s prime mover. He deserves it!

The less said about his role with the convention center, the better.

“May his memory be for a blessing.”