Ritter challenges Erosenko for Monroeville mayor; Alexander, Harvey vie for Ward 3 seat

| Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

The race for votes in Monroeville has focused on the mayoral seat, as political players on a split, seven-member council face off on the campaign trail.

The election is Nov. 5.

Republican candidate John Ritter, 59, is a newcomer to Monroeville politics and is backed by Republicans and Democrats who hope to see incumbent Democrat Greg Erosenko, 60, unseated.

“My goal is to bring civility to the council meetings so that council can roll up their sleeves and do the good work we need them to do,” Ritter said.

Democrat Janice Olszewski ran against Erosenko in May primary, and she now is donating campaign materials and guidance to Ritter, he said. Because of that, Monroeville Democratic Committee Chairperson Jan Rawson said Tuesday that she has contacted the Allegheny County Democratic Committee seeking permission to remove Olszewski from the committee.

Olszewski could not be reached for comment.

“As a Democratic committee member, she is not permitted to do that (support a Republican),” Rawson said.

Erosenko is backed by Dr. Kotayya Kondaveeti and Pittsburgh attorney Bob Wratcher. They each donated $1,000 to Erosenko's campaign prior to the May primary.

Wratcher said he is longtime friends with Erosenko and some of the mayor's supporters.

The mayor has been at odds with a four-person council majority over many issues in the last year. That majority supported the demotion of former police Chief Doug Cole to sergeant in February.

Wratcher said he is a supporter of Erosenko and four council challengers. He contributed $500 to each of the council challengers before the primary.

“I don't like the people that are running things now, and I think they're engaging in bad government by the moves they've made,” Wratcher said.

Council members Lois Drumheller and Diane Allison were defeated in the primary. Councilman Bernhard Erb — whose term expires this year — has since withdrawn his name from the mayoral race, and Clarence Ramsey is not allowed to seek re-election because of municipal term limits.

Councilman Jim Johns, who is in the middle of serving a four-year term, said he can't wait for what likely will be a new majority on council. On his to-do list is a move to replace municipal manager Lynette McKinney, whose contract was approved with a 4-3 vote in March.

“I strongly believe that for a while, we're going to have a 7-0 council, which is a little different,” Johns said.

Johns might be getting ahead of himself. There is one contested council seat in the general election. Republican Dan Alexander faces Democrat Ron Harvey on the Ward 3 ballot.

Alexander said it's time for real change on council.

“It's the same players over and over and over again,” he said. “We're still going to have the same politics as usual.”

Harvey, who served previously on council for 11 months as an interim appointment, said that if elected he plans to reverse personnel moves made by the current administration and majority of council.

“I am against the firing of (former police chief) Doug Cole,” Harvey said, adding that he is also was against providing severance pay to two former municipal managers who left.

Monroeville resident Linda Gaydos is running unopposed in Ward 1 and has been a regular voice at the podium in recent council meetings.

“People have asked me, ‘Are you crazy?'” Gaydos said. “Someone has to be crazy enough to want to do this. Let's be real. I'm looking forward to the challenges.”

Former Monroeville Mayor James Lomeo, who is on the Monroeville zoning board, said the ironic thing about Monroeville politics as of late is that some of the political players embroiled in debate grew up together and went to school together.

“People who are good friends now are just at odds with each other,” Lomeo said. “Time is the only thing that gets rid of that. And good leadership.”

Kyle Lawson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8755, or klawson@tribweb.com.

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