Saxonburg council hopefuls focus on business
Among the five candidates vying for four seats on Saxonburg Council are two freshman councilmen and two borough business owners.
Council president William Gillespie Jr. is seeking his fifth term on council in the November 5 election.
Candidates say one of the main issues in the borough is revitalizing the business district. They also want to see the second phase of the Main Street project finished to match the recently completed historic restoration between Rebecca and Pittsburgh streets.
Saxonburg businessmen Josh Novotny and Jim Stanek both say one of their goals is to fill vacant storefronts with retail stores.
“That is what's going to help bring new people into town,” said Novotny, 32, who runs Novotny's Pizza.
He said he wants council to have an open dialogue with citizens and businesses so the borough can better serve their needs, adding that residents and business owners need to understand council's motivation behind its decisions.
“It's a matter of being able to push your own ego aside and reach out to the people in town,” Novotny said. “I'm a member of this community, and I'd like to be part of the machine that moves people forward.”
Stanek said he wants to work in conjunction with the Saxonburg Business Association, of which he and Novotny are members, to coordinate with landlords who have vacant properties.
“When someone is first starting out — I've been there — it's tough and you're trying to get up and running,” said Stanek, 50, who co-owns the Mainstay at Saxonburg bed-and-breakfast. “I want to see whether we can lower rent or give them a six-month reprieve or something.”
He said one of the challenges that existing businesses face, which are mainly restaurants or places to stay, is finding local retail establishments for visitors.
“When you bring people in for weddings and family get-togethers, it's like ‘Oh what is there to do?' ” he said. “There are two stores to shop in.”
Councilman Don Crawford, 36, a city of Butler firefighter, said he would like to remain on council to ensure the renovated portion of Main Street is properly maintained and to help get the next phase started.
He said he thinks that now that the project is completed, businesses will be attracted to the area.
“A couple businesses coming in were delayed because of the Main Street project,” he said. “I'm hoping to get more small businesses in that fit the town, like antique shops or smaller businesses.”
Fellow councilman Gillespie said maintaining the borough finances is his main focus because it will help ensure the long-term future of the town.
He said the experience he brings to the table allows him to make informed decisions and avoid past mistakes.
“It helps to have the experience in knowing where we might run into issues as far as a budget standpoint,” said Gillespie, 65, a self-employed construction management consultant. “I like working with the budget issues and making sure we don't get out of control and spend too much money.”
As the sole Democrat running, incumbent Councilman David Felsing, 59, said he doesn't mind competition.
He said he's pleased to see more people interested in serving on council.
“I'm the second-youngest on council,” he said. “It's good to see the younger people wanting to get involved in our town, because that's the future of our town.”
He said he wants to be re-elected because he's willing to offer and support new and creative ideas and work with newcomers.
“Anybody that runs for council, I applaud it because there's been years that we didn't have enough to run for council.”
Jodi Weigand is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4702 or firstname.lastname@example.org.