Penn State Alum & Conshohocken Mayor Yaniv Aronson Leading Through Community Engagement

Yaniv Aronson had no interest in getting involved with politics when he was studying at Penn State. However, after getting heavily involved with the community of his home Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, residents took notice of what he was doing, and this set the foundation for him to become mayor of Conshohocken in 2018.

Aronson began his college career in the fall of 2000 at Penn State Abington and then transferred to University Park in his second year due to his film major. He enjoyed his time at University Park and one of his memorable experiences as a student came in 2004 when he was a campaign manager for a presidential candidate running for student government.

In this role, Aronson had to run the campaign, which included tasks of making flyers and shirts, doing interviews, and having the presidential candidate speak to clubs around campus as the campaign tried to get 40,000 votes. Even though it didn’t win, Aronson looked back at his experience with much to be proud of.

“It set the foundation for how to engage people and how to get out there in the community,” Aronson told Onward State. “Being able to lead a team and to do something that affected all students on campus was a huge deal.”

Being part of the Penn State community brought many benefits to Aronson as it allowed him to get used to the huge number of students on campus, all the different ideas that they had, and to become more extroverted.

One of Aronson’s life-changing moments at University Park came on September 11, 2001. As he watched with his classmates at the HUB everything that was happening on that day, Aronson learned a valuable lesson: the importance of a community.

“In that case of mourning as a community, but also doing good as a community [and] celebrating as a community [are] all the things I’m proud to bring to my mayorship,” Aronson said. “I can link back to some of my experiences at a campus as big, varied, and diverse as Penn State’s.”

After graduating from Penn State in May 2004, Aronson moved out to Los Angeles, California, and started working in reality television as a producer and production coordinator. For five years, he worked on Los Angeles-based productions like a travel show called Not Your Average Travel Guide, which was filmed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In this role, he would run back and forth from Los Angeles to Philadelphia to Boston, Massachusets, to take gigs in productions. Even though he enjoyed doing this, Aronson still missed living on the East Coast.

When he was done with the show, Aronson went to graduate schools at Saint Joseph’s and Boston University. After getting his master’s degree at both universities, he permanently moved to Philadelphia and got a teaching job at Northeast High School. Struggling to find a place to live in the area, Aronson moved to neighborhoods like Manayunk and Northern Liberties before settling in Conshohocken in 2012 which he said felt like “home” to him due to the “nice community”.

Conshohocken, a town about 15 miles from Philadelphia, allowed Aronson to get involved in this community. This began when he joined a running club that his best friend from high school started which met every Thursday, had more than 100 people, and where he met his wife, Sarah.

“It became my new friend network,” Aronson said. “As we got more involved, we started doing things like trail cleanups, shoe donation drives, and food drives for our local food pantry. People took notice of what we were doing in town.”

The town’s Rotary Club took notice and wanted Aronson to join. The club did services like clothing drives, making sandwiches for the local food pantry, and many other services that attracted Aronson’s attention. This led him to accept this opportunity and have the role of chair of their evening meetings.

Through this role, residents paid attention to his impact on the Conshohocken community, which led them to convince Aronson that he would be a great fit for mayor because he was doing something unlike the previous mayor: community engagement.

Using his campaign manager experience from Penn State, Aronson ran a huge and intense campaign for nine months. He and his team did everything they could from door-knocking every day, running advertisements on social media platforms, and making phone calls and texts to residents to win. In the end, he won the election and became the mayor of Conshohocken in 2018.

“I saw a need, a younger generation coming to town that was me,” Aronson said. “No website, no social media, [and] not a lot of engagement with the public [of Conshohocken]. All the things that I wanted to change and thought I would be really good at changing.”

Even though Conshohocken’s population has grown since he took over as mayor, Aronson considers his role as mayor to be part-time since the population is less than 30,000 people. In this role, he has council meetings where he and his council talk about matters that involve the town of Conshohocken. On the weekends, Aronson said that he tries to get involved in as many events as possible that are happening in the community since he doesn’t say no to anything.

As mayor, Aronson has a lot of priorities, but his biggest concern involves the public safety of Conshohocken and being more available and transparent with the town due to the booming population in the town.

“We just hired from a nationwide search a police chief, [which was] one of my priorities,” Aronson said. “I wanted to make sure we had the best possible police chief in the country in Conshohocken who had a vision for safety, but also understood the challenges of diversity in a rapidly changing population, work with community groups, and would be excited to go to events.”

To keep the residents of Conshohocken engaged with everything that is happening in the town, Aronson has a monthly newsletter, commits himself to posting once a day on his six social media platforms about events or things that are happening in the community, has in-person office hours, and a public cell phone number that anybody can call at any time.

Aronson said he wants to make sure inclusivity and diversity are promoted in Conshohocken. He does this by doing measures such as having a member of the LGBTQ+ community in his council, a non-discrimination ordinance, and making sure that the elected officials match what the residents of Conshohocken are looking for and their expectations.

“Every June, we raise the pride flag and have it up for the entire month,” Aronson said. “It sends a clear signal that we are inclusive and committed to being welcoming to everyone.”

During Aronson’s mayorship, he had to overcome one of the biggest challenges that affected the entire world: the COVID-19 pandemic.

Due to Conshohocken being a small town, the town was heavily affected by the pandemic as most of the businesses were small and everything had to close. To combat the pandemic, Aronson and his wife started a campaign called Conshy Strong to help small businesses and local restaurants.

In this campaign, Aronson and his wife made yard signs that said “Conshy Strong” and sold them for ten dollars each. These proceeds went to small businesses or helped buy food for the local food pantry. Aronson and his wife also hosted events like bingo where they gave out gift cards to local restaurants to encourage residents to go back out to eat. Due to its overall success, all the businesses in Conshohocken are open once again and the town’s population is booming.

Aronson and his wife also created a nonprofit organization called Destination Conshohocken where they do most of their charitable work. The organization is committed to “charity, volunteer services, community engagement, and promotion of the arts.”

Aronson won reelection in 2021. The following year, he was awarded the Governor’s Award for Community Engagement. This award recognizes communities that do a good job with community engagement and building community ties. However, Aronson’s biggest accomplishment came last year when he was named Pennsylvania’s Mayor of the Year.

Aronson said that mayors from all over the state of Pennsylvania came to Conshohocken for the award ceremony. He received a proclamation from the state representatives, senators, and country commissioners and said getting his plaque felt awesome for him.

“To be recognized for [all of the positive work] was amazing and still feels surreal because who expects to win something like that,” Aronson said.

Not only does Aronson have the role of mayor, but he also has the role of professor teaching film and video at the Montgomery County Community College.

“I do classes with some of the lessons I learned back in the day,” Aronson said. “Even some of the assignments that I did on Penn State’s campus, I modified [them] and brought it to [the community college].”

Aronson tries to make sure that his students learn whatever they need from him. So, he teaches them anything from intro production to advanced production, screenwriting, and mass media.

Aronson is not only a professor at the community college but also the head of the mass media department. In this role, he said that he’s had the opportunity to restructure the program a little bit, change some things, and develop things the way he saw them being developed as he went through film school.

As Aronson looked back on his journey, he said learned the value of community involvement and tries to send that message forward to everyone he can.

“I encourage everyone to get involved, especially locally,” Aronson said. “You’re serving your community, friends, neighbors, and your family. There’s no better feeling in the world.”

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About the Author

Fernando Martinez

Fernando is a sophomore who is majoring in broadcast journalism with the intention of minoring in Spanish and Sports Studies. Born in Mexico City and now lives in Paoli, PA, he is a big fan of pretty much every sport. His favorite teams are FC Barcelona, the Cowboys, and the Phillies which involves a lot of suffering for him. You can follow him on Instagram at fernando9015 or email him at [email protected] if you have questions on why he is a Cowboys and Phillies fan.

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