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Carter runs for a second mayoral term

| Thursday, May 16, 2013, 8:00 p.m.
Kristie Linden | The Jeannette Spirit
Mayor Robert Carter is running a write-in campaign for re-election in the general election Tuesday.

Mayor Robert Carter has lived most of his life in Jeannette and been part of city government for nearly 13 years.

Carter, 54, first ran for office in 2000 when he was elected to city council. He held that position for two terms but was not elected in his third campaign. In 2009, he ran for mayor and is now in the final year of that term. He is opposed in Tuesday's primary by fellow Democrat Richard Jacobelli. There is no Republican candidate.

Over the years Carter has worked at Westinghouse, at Disney World, as a full-time Jeannette fire captain and at Beckwith Machinery. These days he is self employed as a personal assistant and driver for the Beckwith family. Sometimes he commutes back and forth from Florida, where the Beckwith family has a second home.

“I'm 100 percent in communication with the city by email, cell phone and so forth,” said Carter. “There is nothing I can't do (while out of town) other than be here physically.”

Carter is running for re-election because “We've done a lot of positive things and done a lot of good, but there is a lot more that can happen. Jeannette still has a positive future.”

While pointing to the positives in the city, Carter acknowledges that the city's financial situation is the biggest concern for council in the immediate and long-term future.

“I didn't create this mess, but my main objective and goal is to fix it. It comes from years and years of living in the moment and not planning for the future. My job here is to straighten out the finances but we still need to plan for the future so the city survives.”

In the next four years, Carter said, the city has to bring in new businesses that bring new jobs with them. He said the city has several businesses that have manufacturing jobs open now and Jeannette is a good place for new industries to locate.

The only way to bring in new industry is to “create new land and to do that we need to get the Jeannette Glass site cleaned up into usable land. We need to get Monsour Hospital cleaned up. We're trying to get the Jeannette Hospital property developed into something new. We have 3.3 square miles and we're landlocked. These are three huge parcels of land that need to be developed.”

Carter said his ability to maintain relationships with county, state and federal agencies along with private industry helps to form partnerships that will get those parcels developed.

While he knows that more budget cuts will likely be necessary, Carter is concerned about maintaining services for city residents and business owners.

“Any cuts that have to be made we will have to look at the impact (on residents).”

One example Carter pointed to was the idea of eliminating the city's paid fire department and leaning on an all-volunteer fire department. Carter said the response times will increase which will lead to increased insurance rates for residential and commercial property owners.

“It's easy to say ‘get rid of the fire department,' but what are the impacts? It brings in revenue with occupancy inspections. If we get rid of the fire department, we have to pay someone else to do those inspections. Closing a department has repercussions. There is no clean off switch for any of these things.”

Outsourcing the garbage department is often discussed and the process is being put out to bid this month, but Carter said that is not a clear cut either. If it is eliminated there are potential repercussions related to a recycling grant the city received years ago, which might need to be repaid.

Carter said the answer might be reorganizing all city departments to make them more efficient rather than eliminating any one department. Carter is not in favor of reducing the number of policeman in the city and said that while the ratio of officers to residents may be high, so is the call volume for the city station.

The mayor would like to see the property on Chambers Avenue owned by Abe Zion (who also owns the former Jeannette Glass site) turned into a venue for arts and music. He envisions an amphitheater like those in Irwin and Greensburg.

“If we could foster the arts we could bring back the pride of the community. A lot of people have a lot of faith in what Jeannette is and that is a town with a lot of pride.”

Carter would also like to bring a grocery store to town. He said he's been in contact with management for Bottom Dollar and Kroger stores, in addition to other chains.

“We need to show them a plot of land and that goes back to needing to create ‘new land.'”

Additionally, Carter said the city needs to promote itself to try to bring in more businesses and jobs.

“The financial (issues) are in the forefront, but we are not dying as much as people want to push and say that we are. Declaring bankruptcy is not the answer. The big answer is to bring in jobs on those parcels of land and bring in property taxes. That's our main focus, it has to happen,” Carter said. “We need to bring in new dollars. Cutting all of our services is such a hard thing to do. How do you promote and bring things into town if you're cutting services? It's a juggling act.”

If he is given another four years, Carter said he expects to make significant strides in correcting the financial struggles in the city. He warns there is no immediate fix that will bring taxpayers immediate gratification.

“There are a lot of good things happening in this town. I hope the people will continue to support us while we change the wrongs and make them right.”

Carter is married to Shirley Carter, a homemaker, and the couple has no children.

Kristie Linden is an editor for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at klinden@tribweb.com or 724-838-5154.

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