The late Frank Denbowski remembered as a dedicated public servant
Finding a more dedicated public servant than Frank Denbowski would have been difficult, city council members and administrators agreed.
Denbowski, the former interim city managing director, died Sunday in his Reading home after a lengthy illness.
He was remembered Monday night at a City Council meeting.
“I don’t think you’d find a person more knowledgeable about the city of Reading,” said William Heim, current managing director and a former Reading police chief. “In Reading’s government, he was certainly the go-to person for the answer to a lot of questions.”
Denbowski was thoroughly dedicated to the city, Heim said.
The 46-year-old Denbowski spent more than 20 years of his professional career working in various city departments and capacities.
He also worked several years for the state government and spent a year as legislative assistant for former state Rep. Thomas R. Caltagirone, a Democrat, who represented the 127th District.
Denbowski was appointed chief of staff to Mayor Eddie Moran in 2020. He stepped in as interim city managing director in February 2022, after the resignation of Abraham Amoros.
Councilman O. Christopher Miller also called Denbowski the go-to person in City Hall.
Before being appointed to council in August, Miller said, he often called Denbowski with issues or questions about the Centre Park Historic District neighborhood.
“He was familiar with the neighborhood,” Miller said of Denbowski, “and he would make sure that we were connected to the right person.”
When area residents began planning a revitalization of the park at the heart of the historic district, Denbowski was the one they reached out to first.
They knew Denbowski would know how to steer the project in the right direction, Miller said.
Because of Denbowski’s involvement in the planning stage, the project is on target for completion later this year, Miller said.
“I’m grateful and I know the rest of the neighborhood is grateful for all the help that Frank gave over the years,” Miller said.
Even as illness ravaged his body and sapped his strength, Denbowski remained dedicated to the city and available as a resource for council, Councilwoman Marcia Goodman-Hinnershitz said.
“His strength was in his mind and his faith and with his love of the family and his love of the city,” she said. “I’ve never seen anyone go through the pain that he’s gone through over the last several years and always be there with a smiling face.”
Even when Denbowski was no longer able to attend meetings in person, he participated via a virtual meeting platform, the councilwoman said.
“He made sure that he was there for us,” she said.
Councilman Christopher Daubert said he spoke with Denbowski several times a week.
“It’s pretty obvious that Frank was a skilled public servant,” the councilman said. “He wore so many different hats here.”
Despite the many different titles Denbowski held while employed by the city, Daubert added, husband and father were the two of which he was proudest.
Denbowski is survived by his widow, Raquel Ruiz-Denbowski, and their children, Nicolette F. Denbowski, a student at Lebanon Valley College and Francisco J. Denbowski, at home.
“He wanted to be remembered as a guy who loves his community, who did his best for his community,” Daubert said, “but mostly as a guy who loved his family.”
Denbowski began working for the city in 1996. He served as chief of staff to former Mayor Tom McMahon, special assistant to former Mayor Vaughn Spencer and held managerial positions in various departments.
After being fired as recycling and solid waste coordinator in 2016, he filed a lawsuit seeking over $1.5 million in damages from the city, former Mayor Wally Scott and former Managing Director W. Glenn Steckman III.
In his suit, Denbowski alleged he was fired in part because he alerted officials to the improper use of city funds. He also alleged Scott made defamatory comments about him.
City Council in 2020 authorized the city solicitor to negotiate a settlement agreement.
Denbowski returned to city employment that year when he accepted the job of chief of staff to Mayor Eddie Moran.
“It really doesn’t even feel real yet even though I kind of knew it was coming,” Daubert said of Denbowski’s death. “It’s just, it’s a really big loss for so many.”