3 seeking Fallowfield Township supervisor seat have different priorities
After nearly a decade as a Fallowfield Township supervisor and a career of public service that dates back to 1970, Olga Woodward will step down at the end of the year.
Although she voted to dissolve the township's police force in 2010 — a move that has come under fire by residents ever since — two of the three men vying to succeed her — Bruce Smith and Donn Henderson — say restoring police services is not their lone goal, if elected.
The third, Ron Large, could not be reached for comment.
All three are seeking the Democratic nomination for a six-year term as supervisor.
No Republicans filed to be on the ballot.
Smith has served for the past three years as commander of Mon Valley Divers Rescue Search and Recovery Team and formerly as assistant commander. He is a former township emergency management coordinator.
Retired from World Kitchen in 2008, he currently serves as facilities manager at the Mon Valley YMCA.
Smith has attended meetings with the Concerned Citizens of Fallowfield Township, a grassroots organization first formed over the issue of longwall mining in the community but has since advocated re-instating local police services.
Smith acknowledged that many township residents are expecting restoration of police services to top the agenda of the new supervisor.
“I hope people don't think that's my priority automatically,” Smith said. “Whether or not we should have an independent police force or contract with a regional should be a moving target and should be looked upon, based on need and financial considerations.”
Smith said, though, that township residents deserve to learn why the supervisors voted to dissolve the force.
Smith said hopes to continue progress recently made in parks and recreation.
“As one of the newest members of township planning commission, I think the planning commission is finally getting things done,” Smith said.
He added that township growth must be a priority.
“We should be doing things to encourage people to live here, start a small business here,” Smith said. “Once that happens, if you start to grow the township, then the need for additional police services grows. If we are in financial position to do that, we should look at all of the options.”
Smith said he has based his campaign on “integrity and leadership.”
“People should vote for me because I have a good track record of honesty and integrity,” Smith said. “I'm willing to step up and do what needs to be done. I'm not a person to take credit for what other people have done or might do in the future.”
Henderson is not new to township politics, having twice previously served as a township supervisor.
First elected in 1993, Henderson served from 1994 to 2000 and, after stepping down from the board, was re-elected in 2003.
He ran for the same post in 2011, losing by just 17 votes to Wilber D. Caldwell Jr.
Henderson also served for five years as Main Street Manager in Charleroi and four years in a similar capacity in Irwin. He is currently Charleroi's borough manager.
“As borough manager, I deal with government issues every day and am connected to the people that can help us,” Henderson said. “I bring expertise never provided before by a supervisor. I am connected to the programs that can help us.”
Henderson said he is “disappointed” the township is not utilizing the opportunities provided by legalized gambling and Marcellus shale operations.
“There's more money there than they've had in their history and we're not seeing results,” Henderson said.
“I'd like to see that revenues utilized — recreation and roads and some type of police protection.”
“The majority of people want some kind of local police protection. They're looking toward that end and what's best, both practical and financial.
Henderson said, if elected, he would modernize the township operations.
“And I'd look to regionalize services, not just with police but code enforcement, recreation — anything we can do to work with neighboring communities to improve and save money,” Henderson said.
Large is zoning and code enforcement officer as well as head of the street department for the township.
Large did not return numerous messages seeking input on his candidacy.
Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or firstname.lastname@example.org.