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Apollo mayor challenged in re-election bid

| Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Erica Hilliard | Valley News Dispatch
Apollo Borough mayor Karen Kenzevich.

Apollo's mayoral race will provide the borough next month with two distinct choices for office — one of experience and one of promised change.

The Nov. 5 ballot will pit Republican incumbent Karen Kenzevich against the challenging Democrat Jeff Held, a local marketing director with no elective political experience in Apollo.

Kenzevich has held office since October 2012, shifting from council member to mayor following former office holder Rich Dixon's resignation. Her brief term was highlighted with the hiring of two part-time police officers in the wake of former police Chief Paul Breznican Jr.'s arrest.

Held on Monday applauded Kenzevich's efforts to get the police force back on track but said there's still room for improvement.

“We need to get back to community-based policing,” Held said. “Just because there are budget constraints on personnel doesn't mean we can't have our existing guys getting to know people on a first-name basis.

“I also want to exhaust any and all resources to establish a working relationship with the Armstrong County Drug Task Force and any other law enforcement agencies we have access to.”

Kenzevich agrees that the police department needs improvement but believes the best course of action is to revise the enforcement ordinance and pay for new officers and equipment.

Both candidates agree that Apollo's future hinges on the borough's ability to bring in new merchants and better support current businesses. Leasing the riverfront land parcels along the Kiski River for development, they said, is essential to that aim.

“The land's ready to go,” Kenzevich said of the land once occupied by a nuclear fuels processing company. “It's passed all the necessary tests and we need to get something in there to increase our tax base and draw people into the borough.”

She hopes a large commercial retailer will occupy the property but said she'd consider allowing a light industrial producer to move in.

Held believes Apollo's prosperity is contingent on leasing the land as well but said he's not willing to allow development on the property until it undergoes further testing for contamination.

“I want to move forward with it but we need to conduct some final testing to finally put the controversy to rest,” he said. “Once it's determined that the site's been remediated properly, we can look forward to development. I think it will make the land more attractive, too.”

Held unsuccessfully ran for council in 2010 as a write-in candidate. He said he was apathetic to the inner workings of local government until growing “more and more frustrated with what was going on in Apollo.”

“I'm born and raised in Apollo,” he said, “and I felt like I owed it to my town and its people to get involved and take a stand. There's been too much in-fighting and negligence in government and we need to get on track.”

Kenzevich owns Hair It Is Salon on North Warren Avenue. She served two years on borough council before being appointed mayor.

“Apollo has great history and a great past,” she said. “But it has a better future if we keep moving forward and focus on growing our businesses.”

Braden Ashe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4673 or bashe@tribweb.com.

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