Bill Godshall spent nearly a decade operating a popular gay bar in Philadelphia before heading out to the suburbs. Now, the out businessman wants to become Hatboro’s next mayor.
Godshall, 70, will take on longtime incumbent Hatboro Mayor Norm Hawkes in the Nov. 5 election. Godshall, a political newcomer, defeated Hawkes in the spring primary, but Hawkes, a Democrat, received enough Republican write-in votes to run on the GOP ticket next month.
Godshall was born in Philadelphia and moved to Hatboro six years ago. He owned and operated gay club Port Blue in Port Richmond from 1994-2002.
After relocating to the suburbs, Godshall launched his own florist company, Rose in Bloom, in New Hope and later moved the business to Hatboro.
He sits on the board of directors of Hatboro’s Chamber of Commerce and is a new member of the Hatboro Rotary Club.
Godshall attended Temple University for architecture and building design and joined the United States Army Reserve in 1965, where he worked his way up to Specialist E5 rank. In 1977, he joined the U.S. Air Force Reserve and served for 25 years before retiring with a rank of Chief Master Sergeant E9.
Godshall said he has considered entering the political realm for some time.
“For a few years I had been kicking the idea around,” he said. “When it came around for someone to run, the Hatboro Democratic Committee called me and asked me to run and I did some serious thinking. I talked with my partner and called my family to see how they felt about it, because there could be some negativity coming out, and they were a strong reinforcement.”
If elected, Godshall would be Pennsylvania’a first openly gay mayor.
He said he was not aware of that when he decided to run, but that he would be honored to hold that title.
“One of the main things going for me is that people know me for who I am and being gay doesn’t seem to be a problem with anybody,” Godshall said. “We live in a fairly straight town and I have a lot of Republicans who are backing me. I get around town a lot. I know a lot of people and people know me on a different level. The acceptance has been amazing.”
Godshall said the only negativity he ever experienced stemmed from Hawkes. In 2010, Hatboro Borough Council successfully approved an LGBT nondiscrimination ordinance, but Hawkes vetoed the bill.
Godshall said he would revisit the nondiscrimination legislation if elected.
He also plans to make Hatboro government more transparent and accessible.
“Hawkes has been mayor for eight years and you’d be surprised the number of people in Hatboro who don’t know who he is,” he said. “I plan on visiting people all the time and walking around town. I would love to get younger people in town involved in the borough.”
Godshall said he also wants to energize the arts and culture scene in the town to enhance tourism and support local businesses.
“My dream would be to have a cultural center or town hall. We have a theater but it is outside of the borough. If we could have it in town, we would have people staying out later, which would be better for local businesses.”
While Godshall said his LGBT identity would not define his tenure as mayor, he hopes it would promote a more positive image of the LGBT community.
“The best thing I can do for the LGBT community is to let them know that I am gay but I am not playing the gay card. I want to do work for all of our residents and when people see us in that light, we become human beings,” he said. “The LGBT community is full of people who have responsible positions in life and have families and work hard and have businesses and want to make a big impact on where they live.”
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