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Harmar tax collector challenges incumbent supervisor

| Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013, 12:46 a.m.
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Harmar Supervisor Michael Hillery, a Republican, is being challenged for re-election in 2013 to a six-year term by Democrat Patricia A. Janoski.
Harmar supervisor candidate Patricia Janoski

This year's election for Harmar supervisor features a head-to-head contest between a one-term incumbent and the township's longtime tax collector.

Supervisor Michael Hillery, a Republican, is being challenged for re-election to a six-year term by Democrat Patricia A. Janoski.

Janoski is not seeking re-election as tax collector.

James R. DiPalma, a former supervisor, is the sole candidate for tax collector, appearing on both the Republican and Democratic ballots.

Harmar is governed by five supervisors. Hillery's seat is the only one up for election this year.

Hillery, who has been chairman for three years, said he has worked to bring an end to the “constant bickering and fighting” that had long been a hallmark of politics in Harmar.

“I think the majority of this board, if you look at what we've done in six years, I don't think anyone can argue with it. You're seeing a Harmar Township people don't recognize anymore,” he said.

But Janoski said she sees room for improvement.

“It takes everybody to work together to get the job done,” she said. “You work together and work in harmony and discuss it as mature adults. You get more done that way.”

Hillery, who shuns the label of “politician,” said embarrassing battles between warring factions motivated him to run for supervisor. The supervisors appeared unprofessional and unproductive, he said.

“There had to be something better to offer residents than that,” he said.

Since taking office, he said he and a majority of the supervisors — Linda Slomer and Jerry Chalmers — have made strides in all township departments.

“We all work together now,” he said. “We're running the community with one focus, and that's all the residents in the township and what's best for them.”

Hillery said the township building has been improved after years of neglect, and now features art by Allegheny Valley school students. Office staff are hired for their qualifications, not because of who they know.

He pointed to strides made in the township's police department, including hiring a new chief, and the formation of the new Allegheny Valley Fire Department, resulting from a merger of Harmar and Springdale Township departments.

“That fire department merger has benefited residents tremendously,” he said. “To date, it's been extremely successful.”

The township has worked hand-in-hand with developers to bring employers to the community, such as the new Pitt-Ohio trucking terminal and a new Hampton Inn hotel, Hillery said.

The township has paid off its debt, and is building a reserve to handle road and bridge work, he said.

“We don't borrow money to get by. We fund ourselves through our budget,” he said.

Janoski said the township's debt was due to be paid off anyway, and Hillery was only fortunate to have it happen during his tenure.

As tax collector, Janoski said she has listened to taxpayers for 13 years. Many of them are “disgruntled” about things happening in the township, she said.

“This comes from people from all walks of life. It's from everybody,” she said. “I've listened to them for so many years. It's always the same. You feel that you could maybe help them in some way. I felt this might be the right time to do it.”

Janoski said all the supervisors, not just a majority, need to work together and act professionally.

“Every board member was elected by the people and for the people, and every member should be treated that way,” she said. “The whole board runs the community, not just one or two people. Every board member needs to be treated equally. Whether you like them or don't like them they got elected by the people.”

Janoski said she wants to keep an eye on what could be “needless spending,” such as the recent work on the township building, which she said had been cared for.

“We need to be good stewards of our money,” she said. “It's not my money. It's the taxpayers' money that allows us to do those things.”

Brian C. Rittmeyer is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4701 or brittmeyer@tribweb.com.

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