Charleroi team strives to restore the 'Magic'
During the late 1980s, the Charleroi Chamber of Commerce coined a phrase that still rings true for John Mollenauer – its executive director at the time – every day there's a reason to visit Charleroi.
On Tuesday, Mollenauer was among a group of Restore Charleroi candidates swept into office. When they announced their team slate, the group vowed to restore Charleroi to its glory days. Now Mayor-elect Mollenauer and council members Larry Celaschi, Paul Pivovarnik, Terry Newstrom and Debbie Kruell Buck will get their chance.
“I think together we can restore Charleroi,” Kruell Buck said. “I believe in what we're going for. Things are looking brighter in Charleroi.”
Mollenauer, incumbents Newstrom and Pivovarnik, and newcomer Celaschi were elected Tuesday. Each won Democratic and Republican nominations in the primary.
Kruell Buck, who narrowly lost the fourth Democratic nod to former Councilman Ed Bryner, won a Republican nomination in a write-in campaign. She withdrew from the election after being appointed to a council vacancy left by the resignation of longtime Councilman Harry Reis.
“I know Charleroi has issues, but everyone has issues,” Kruell Buck said. “Someone has to try.
“We'd like to change Charleroi's image, to make it a more positive image. I know it's going to take time.”
Born and raised in Charleroi, Mollenauer remembers when it was “The Magic City.”
Mollenauer said that during a recent class reunion he told former classmates they were lucky to have grown up in a close-knit community.
“My philosophy – our team's philosophy – will stress communication that has been lacking,” Mollenauer said. “I'd like to coordinate unity within the community. I think the council, my office, the school board, the trustees, the ministerial association, the Coyle efforts, local industry, retailers should all be on the same page.
“We must form a partnership.”
Mollenauer said the mayor must be a great communicator, helping coordinate efforts within the community.
Pivovarnik said the borough will start the new year on solid ground, with the already-seated council members and newcomers on the same page and with a strong agenda.
Pivovarnik, chairman of the Charleroi Regional Police Force board, said “In the next four years, I hope to clean up the blight to attract more businesses.”
He said another goal is to eliminate illicit drug trafficking, “although I think we've got a handle on that.”
Newstrom has the dual perspective of serving on council and returning as a member of the Restore Charleroi team. Newstrom said he is energized about the new direction of borough government.
“That is not to say that the old council did not do anything,” Newstrom said. “With the new council coming in, especially with John and Larry, we have a lot of new contacts and ideas coming in.”
Newstrom said that during the campaign, he knocked on doors, encouraging people to not only vote, but come out to council meetings and give their input.
“We're only eight people,” Newstrom said of council and the mayor.
“You're only as good as the rest of your people. Hopefully, the people will come out to the meetings.”
“This is going to be a fun year,” Celaschi added. “This is going to be magic. Our expectations are so high that anything less than total success will not be accepted.”
Celaschi said council must develop Trustees Park and the former Charleroi Stadium to provide family recreational opportunities.
“We have to show people this team – we're not all words,” Celaschi said.
Celaschi said he, too, wants to eliminate blighted properties.
Mollenauer said borough government must tackle code enforcement, drugs and clean up the community.
“Unless we do those things, who's going to invest in our town?” Mollenauer said. “I think we have a good team with council and the borough manager.
“This is my town. I want the people to care.”
Celaschi said he is committed to bringing new businesses downtown, using the combined contacts of the team.
“We need to be salesmen – we need to sell this town,” Celaschi said.
“We can't expect anyone but us to do so. We're from Charleroi. We're proud of it.
“That's where the magic begins.”
Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or firstname.lastname@example.org.